Friday, 22 August 2008

Summer of Sonic

A Guest Article by Master Hunter
Remember the nineties? When Gaming really started to take off and icons were born. When online gaming was only a dream and we didn't need achievements to enjoy our games. There are so many things that happened during this decade; the birth of the Playstation, the golden age of the SNES and Mega Drive, analogue sticks and 3D gaming started to become commonplace.

The age was defined by the mascots as in June 1991 Sega answered Nintendo by creating a much loved character to counter Mario. A new mascot designed to be the anti-Mario. Someone fresh, new, exciting and would take the gaming world by storm. In 1991 Sega created Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now this isn't yet another discussion on how the games have been seemingly getting worse and worse, or how the game series does not work in 3D. That has been done to death. You see despite Sonic's clear decline in quality the fan community is still as strong as ever.

Thousands still have faith in the 'blue blur' and that faith was rewarded in the first ever Sonic-only convention, Summer of Sonic ( Masterminded by The Sonic Stadium's ( Dreadknux, it was intended to be a free for all, small gathering of Sonic fans to celebrate the hedgehog's 17th birthday.

Held a little later than the official date of Sonic's birthday (23rd June), on 9th August 2008, in Dragon's Hall Community Centre in the heart of London, a tiny non air conditioned room was packed with hundreds of Sonic fans. Two of these fans are TGN regulars, Siriku who was helping out as staff and myself. So here's my account of the day:

I gave myself plenty of time to find the place, checking out of my hotel an hour or so earlier than the estimated start time. I arrived 30 minutes before it was due to start and found only one person (two if you include his dad) queuing to get in. I wanted to experience everything, planning to be there from start to finish.

The queue started to get big near the planned start time of 10am. It took a little longer for the event to get started, at around 10:30am the doors opened. As soon as the first person walked through the large double doors the music started as the Sonic 1 title theme blasted out of the speakers.

The first thing anyone noticed, I'm sure, was how small the room was. Dreadknux had seriously underestimated the support this event got. The website alone had enough confirmations to pass the safety limit for the building and you couldn't help but wonder how everyone was going to fit.

Everyone received a goody bag with a T-shirt, a couple of SEGA branded pens, a SEGA sticker, a SEGA branded neck strap and a SEGA key ring, as well as getting their hand stamped with the SEGA logo.

To the right was a Wii with Sonic 3 on the go. Next to that was the Guinness World Record table where you could try for the fastest time on Emerald Hill zone Act 1. Beyond that was a Wii pod with Sonic and the Secret Rings available to play, and a DS pod with Sonic Chronicles ready to play. Next to that on the far wall was a glass cabinet holding all sorts of cool rare merchandise. Left of that was the comics stand with numerous Archie and Fleetway comics available to read.

To the left on the far wall was a collection of websites printed out, showing various creations from the Sonic fan community. In front of that in the far left corner was the art corner where attendees were encouraged to draw anything they liked for the art contest. Finally next to that was the main stage where more or less everything happened.

After a couple of games of Sonic 3 and an attempt at the Emerald Hill record, I made my way over to Sonic Chronicles. First off all, if you're expecting a Sonic game, DON'T. It is nothing like traditional Sonic. It's about as fast as any other JRPG, maybe just a little faster than Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The over world controls very much like Phantom Hourglass being more or less entirely stylus controlled. Monsters are in plain sight so no random encounters thank god. Sections like giant loops are done by simply tapping a button.

Combat is fairly simple, again all stylus controlled. Special moves all have an Elite Beat Agents quality to them, as you tap and slide your stylus across the screen for added effect. This goes for defence as well as offence. Sometimes the enemy will run and you'll have to chase them, taking you for an on-rails running section, where you tap the screen to jump over boxes.

It was a bit confusing on where to go, but I found the first boss (I think) and defeated him fairly easily as his attacks were deadly but often missed. I left it for someone else at this point and, while I found it enjoyable, I don't think the short play I had of it was enough to give judgement. It just feels like a pretty solid traditional-style JRPG to me.

It didn't take long to look at everything available and by the time I got through everything, the room was starting to get really full. I had played Sonic Chronicles, did the Emerald Hill challenge (31 secs) and won a few rounds of Sonic 3. But this wasn't what Summer of Sonic was all about.

Sonic himself made his appearance just before midday. He's bigger in real life you know, as he was always portrayed as being pretty short compared to your average human being. What's going on SEGA?

Anyway, up until the performance from the three music talents and the appearance of Nigel Kitching (man behind the Fleetway Sonic the Comic), the rest of the event was filled with competitions, from the art contest to the quiz, each one with a Nintendo DS as the prize.

But you don't want to know about that. You want to know about the performances from Lee Brotherton, T J Davis and Richard Jacques don't you? This was definitely the highlight of the event. First up was the music master himself Richard Jacques performing an incredible Sonic 1 medley, followed by some Sonic 3D Blast tracks and ending with an insane Outrun medley.

If that wasn't enough, T J Davis joined Richard on stage to perform, "Can you feel the Sunshine?", and, "Diamond in the Sky", from Sonic R.

Lee Brotherton (also known as Bentley Jones) came on as T J Davis left and performed the song he was notorious for (by his own admission), "Dreams of an Absolution" (Silver's theme from Sonic 2006 if you didn't know). He didn't perform the version from the game, or the awesome LB vs JS Remix however, he played the version from his album - confirmed to appear sometime within the next few months - so look out for it!

Lee also played a track that would become the theme of Summer of Sonic. Another version of "His World" called "Blue World Prelude". This is available to download from the Summer of Sonic website, and - like all the tracks performed on the day - is absolutely awesome.

Such an awesome performance deserved an awesome finale and we weren't disappointed. A track that took everyone by surprise. All three performed "Dreams Dreams", the ending theme to cult classic NiGHTS into Dreams. Yes we know it's not Sonic but we couldn't care less. Besides Sonic gave birth to Sonic Team so technically anything Sonic Team should be allowed.

There are videos on
Youtube; MP3's freely available if you look hard enough. Basically you owe it to your ears to listen to these tracks and see the performance. If only to see Richard's awesome "To sound this good takes AGES" T-shirt.

By now time was against us. We still had the raffle, the Q&A with the three music talents and a special live showing of The Sonic Show. All to fit into an hour and unfortunately a lot had to be cut, including the Q&A. Attendees could still get things signed and I personally managed to get Several Wills (Sonic 2006 vocal track CD) signed by Lee Brotherton, and my copy of Sonic R signed by both TJ Davis and Richard Jacques.

All that was left was the raffle where a truck load of prizes were being given away. I'm not kidding - check out the Sonic City Blog ( Everything there was broken down into theme packs.

I won one of the cameo packs which contained a Phantasy Star Universe strategy guide, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games: 'team Mario' T-shirt (which sadly I already own, but managed to give away), Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for the PC (which I own for the Gamecube), Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity for the PS2 (which I own for the Wii), and the apparently rare NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams Official Soundtrack (which again I already own). (I don't mean to sound ungrateful, a win is a win after all, and everything was free).

As 5pm approached (the agreed end time) the event was finished with the presentation of the cake (which was amazing! There are pictures on the website if you want to see for youself), and oddly a rendition of the DK Rap. There's a story there somewhere, something to do with a karaoke competition and a forfeit.

As I got on the train home I had time to reflect on the last seven hours and couldn't help but admire the organisers for all their hard work. What had started as a mini meet-up between Sonic fans suddenly exploded into such a big event, but they seemed to handle it effectively and ended up being very successful.
At the end of the day though it wasn't the games or the comics that made Summer of Sonic such a fantastic event, nor was it the challenges, prizes, or even the music performance. It was the atmosphere. Let's face it, the Sonic fan community is one of the most bitchiest communities out there, and with our hero's fall from grace being so apparent, spirits are at fairly low down. However, after Summer of Sonic I don't think there was a single attendee that didn't have a smile on their face.
If games do only one thing right, it's that they unite people, and I believe Summer of Sonic to be a prime example of that. I'm sure they're doing another next year - hopefully bigger and better. Who knows? Maybe there may even by a Winter of Tails in honour of the young fox's sweet sixteenth in November, though I'm sure the organisers have pulled off enough miracles for one year.

Competition Time!
So if you were paying attention then you will know I have a spare copy of the NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams Soundtrack (the full thing, not the sampler). It wouldn't feel right to sell it, so to make things interesting here is the first TGN Blog Competition. Designed to get you all checking out my work, the sites I want to promote and Summer of Sonic itself.

The prize is a copy of the NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams Soundtrack, still sealed.
For a chance of winning just answer the five questions below correctly. Send your screen name and answers to All the correct answers will be entered in the prize draw. No runners-up prizes sadly (unless someone wants to donate some). Competition ends Friday 19th September 2008.

  1. SOS: Richard Jacques, T J Davis and Lee Brotherton all performed at Summer of Sonic. Which Song did they all perform together?
  2. TGN: One of the two communities I represented at Summer of Sonic is obviously TGN where I am a forum regular. What is my custom title on the forums?
  3. RadioSEGA: I was also representing RadioSEGA. Who created RadioSEGA? (Real name please, first and surname)
  4. MH: Bit of shameless self promotion here. What do my latest DeviantART submission (not the desktop screenshot the one before it) and my last updated fanfic on have in common? (Wrong answers: Sonic, Based on games, Me)
  5. NiGHTS: Finally as this is for an OST of NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, what are the names of the two new 'visitors'?

More Terms and Conditions. There's no need to give me your address unless you win. The winner will be E-mailed to get further details. I will only use your details purely for this contest. Anyone can enter, whether you're a TGN member or not, including TGN admins (I am the only one who knows the answers and I will not be showing any bias). If you're under 18 it would be a good idea to discuss this with a parent or guardian before you submit personal information.