SONIC THE HEDGEHOG MEGAMIX / Team Megamix / Sega CD
I've expressed distaste for Sonic in these pages a number of times. And not just the newer 3D ones that everyone hates. I've thought the series was overrated from the first game and largely bouyed now by childhood nostalgia and manic furries. Yet, every couple of years or so, I get the urge to give the little blue bastard another chance. So many others love the old 16-bit games, and they're from the Classic Sega which I generally love from this period (outside of their Sonic games, that is), so I keep thinking I just have to be missing something here.
Whatever I try, however, I'm always disappointed. It's right back to the cheap hits, sudden stops just as you're having fun whipping along (or even better, a plunger or spikes to the face), sluggish jumps and terrible bonus levels that are mandatory for the "real" ending. So my hopes weren't high for this years go-round, Sonic the Hedgehog Megamix. Yet, somehow, it was the first time (possibly ever) that I've enjoyed a Sonic game and wanted to play it to completion.
About the project - this is a technically impressive, fan-made, freely-distributed disassembly remake of first Sonic game, but released as a Sega CD image to take advantage of Moar Power. Aside from enhanced graphics and sound, it adds all sorts of things - the ability to play as five different Sonic characters, new abilities, new power-ups, re-arranged level layouts and even all-new boss battles.
I don't mean to talk the game up just because it's freeware, fan-made and made with love and GUTS. And though the levels have been tweaked quite a bit from their original designs, there's still no shortage of cheap hits from just off the screen and all that. They've also retained the awful pinball bonus levels that are mandatory to get the Emeralds and thus not have a shit ending where Robotnik taunts you creepily after the credits.
It's amazing how much the new additions really change the game, however. The simple addition of Sonic's Air Dash (launching into a powered spin while jumping) negates a fair amount of my complaints about the original game, giving you a means of escaping some rough situations that the ungainly controls originally weren't really suited for. Aside from also looking a lot sharper, there's new music galore with a unique song for each act of each zone now. I really don't know if these songs are ripped from later Sonic games, other games or just really well-done original creations, but whatever the case they are well selected and have that unique Sonic sound. Also, music from Moonwalker sneaks into one of the City acts, which is fantastic.
I'd imagine playing as the different characters also helps out quite a bit, with their unique abilities, and I can see how the levels have been re-structured to accomodate different approaches. I was pretty sure I downloaded the latest version of this from the official distribution site, yet as far as I could see I could only play as Sonic ... either I missed something non-obvious re: character switching or I had a earlier version than I thought. But there's videos of people on Youtube playing the game with Shadow, Mighty and Tails, so I assume that's possible somehow.
The game is apparently not finished, at least according to the team's Youtube, where they have been releasing videos of new gameplay and levels. What's done here is fun, however, and I can only see it getting better based on what's here already.
* Developer channel - ongoing updated videos