Pigs Fly, Sonic Fan Remix Shines

There's a question that often gets asked whenever any particular series has a rabid fanbase that produces their own fan games. How long will it be until that fanbase is capable of producing games that are on par with, or even better then what the actual studio produces? For many styles of games, it's not often that this would ever be the case, most fan groups are just not dedicated enough to sit down and try to outdo their favored dev team at producing a game. However, there are the few that are dedicated to match, or even exceed the content of the original creators. Enter Sonic Fan Remix.

Sonic fangames seem to have existed almost as long as the internet has. I can remember the first time I stumbled across a Sonic fangame site and was floored by the dozens and dozens of fangames presented there. Honestly, most sucked pretty badly, with poor graphics, controls and gameplay, but the intent was there, and many of these fangame creators didn't give up. Well, I should specify, they didn't stop trying. Many a fan-game ended up becoming nothing more then a single level demo as the crew moved on to bigger, more extravagant ideas. to date however, there have been several high quality Sonic fangames released, such as Sonic: Time Attacked. Even now I'm eagerly awaiting Sonic Nexus, a brilliant and incredible fan title that replicates flawlessly the brilliant platforming and gameplay of the older titles with new levels and enemies.

And then pictures from Sonic Fan Remix hit the internet, and my jaw dropped. While many Sonic fan games try to recreate the classic experience, aiming for near 32-bit sprites and classic sounds, Sonic Fan Remix is a successful attempt by its creator to pull 2-D Sonic into the HD age. But wait, you may say, didn't Sega just release Sonic 4? Well, yes, they did, but lets compare the two. Here's Sonic 4:

Here's Sonic Fan Remix, going right off the side of the blog:

Are you seeing a slight difference here? Yes, Sonic Fan Remix looks absolutely amazing. Jaw dropping. And even though it's in Beta right now (it still has a few bugs and glitches) it plays great, only a few seconds in and I was already resorting to classic momentum based tricks that I hadn't used in a while. What we have here is a close competitor for the first official fangame to beat Sega at it's own game, ie make a better Sonic title then Sega.

The only reason it hasn't yet is simply because as of yet, Sonic Fan Remix is still uncomplete. The demo only gives us the first three acts of the game, with no results screen and no boss battle. However, the game has gone from screenshots to playable in only a few short months, so it's quite possible the entire game could be completed very quickly at the rate it's team is working on it.

I got my hands on the demo late yesterday afternoon and gave it several playthroughs, and the game stays very true to it's roots. The creator is intending it to be a modern reimagination of one of the franchises favorites, the famous Sonic 2, and of the three acts, 2 are clearly variants of the opening acts of that title, although extended and modified slightly. The second act is however, entirely new, and while it feels a little short, it carries plenty of alternate routes (enough that on my 4th or 5th playthrough I was still finding new locations) and feels only slightly different in design from the classic stages.

Sonic Fan Remix nails the physics pretty well too. Even though I found several bugs (Sonic sticking on ramps and losing momentum when in a ball comes to mind) the physics were for the most part almost spot on to the movement of the original titles, giving you a tight feeling of control. The only real complaint I had was that it seems to take too long for Sonic to roll into a ball when you duck while running. Maybe I'm just a little to finicky, but I found myself loosing rings to those darn motobugs more then once because Sonic didn't tuck into his roll fast enough.

Obviously, one of the standout portions of the game is the incredible graphics, delivered using the Unity engine. There is a lot of attention to detail, and I mean a lot. Take for example the screenshot to the right. Not only is it raining, but raindrops are bouncing off of the ground. You'll see them splattering on springs, enemies, palm trees, even Sonic. Better yet, when Sonic runs, the effect his speed leaves on the level is a nice touch. Dust clouds trail, or in the case of the rain, a spray of water that cascades along behind him. Very nice and while you won't directly notice unless you look, the overall effect is very nice. The lighting is good as well, the third act takes place just after sunset, with a deep reddish purple sky and spotlights rolling over the level, which casts shadows across everything. Even the badniks have been outfitted with headlights, letting you see them coming. It's also neat to watch the shadows left by their headlights play across the level. The overall effect is pretty, if a little overwhelming at times. Its probably best to play this with a gamepad if you have one, sitting near the screen and playing at a full 1920x1200 tends to just leave a little too much to look at that close. Luckily the graphics are adjustable, there have been reports of this running even on aging PCs with few problems. Oh yeah!

There are other minor quibbles such as enemy placement and speed (darn robot fish) but overall the game is excellent. If Sonic Fan Remix continues down this track, we may finally have a fan made title that is better then the newest commercial release in the series, which is something pretty amazing. You can find a download link at the official site, and I'd give it a spin. With such high production qualities, this is not one to miss.

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