An update!.. of sorts
Sunday, 23rd December 2007, 10:15pm (UTC), 3 Comments
Well, the good news is that I've been able to do ALOT of work towards this site over the last week. The bad news is that it'll have little or no impact on anyone but me, because it's all entirely behind-the-scenes stuff. It's a whole new system for storing the data for the level pages in the guides, which I hope will offer massive benefits for efficiency and consistency.

My pages have always been straightforward HTML files. If I have to make a new one, I load up my template HTML page, and slot my text and image links in, messing around with their heights and widths and if I later realise I need to add a new point, changing all the subsequent point numbers and tags by hand is a real pain. However, I have now built a system that can successfully match this whole process using PHP scripts, form fields and MySQL databases, which looks a bit like this and this.

Look! It's all stored dynamically now! Every paragraph, every stat, every margin value for div tags. I can enter everything into these form fields, and the page simply builds itself! The coolest feature is that I can add, remove and change the order of the points incredibly easily, and the whole lot simply reorganise themselves accordingly. All of the sections are colour coded correctly, and when I add an image, it works out the right file name and size all by itself. God, I love PHP. Since learning it, the world of web design has really opened up for me.

So, other than making the whole process much quicker and easier for me, it means everything is loaded from the same, single page, so if I feel like changing the way things are presented, these changes will affect every level. Because everything is dynamic I can use particular bits of content elsewhere on the site, maybe share it with other sites and even build a little search engine for it. I know I may eventually need to either acquire staff members, or hand the torch on to others, due to lack of time, so this system allows them to build upon it, and still keep everything consistent and easy to manage.

I've been using my writing for Mystic Cave as the tester, and no other existing levels have been converted yet, but they will be, and the system should be easily adaptable to any new features that the next few games on the list should require. One thing it can't do at the moment is anything to do with the non-level pages, like background info and Special Stages, etc. These will either be too specialised and may as well just exist in HTML form for the time being, or I may just do some more coding to include them soon-ish. *Hopefully* you will be able to see the completed Mystic Cave Zone page soon, but I'm unsure about the maps at the moment, as my eyes are playing up once again. And also, because I've gotten so carried away with my PHP-spree, I've forgotten to do my coursework. Oh well.

Check back soon!
Comments   3 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by 1963886 on Tuesday, 25th December 2007, 1:19am
I've got Wi-Fi Connection Now... If you want to, I can give you my Friend Code and we can play Rush Adventure. I doubt I can keep up with you though. I may like Sonic, but I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. Do you like the Sonic RUSH or Sonic RUSH Adventure soundtrack better. I still like the first one's best. But Adventure's is awesome, too.
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Tuesday, 25th December 2007, 11:51am
Sure, go for it! You can find my code in an earlier blog entry.

Rush's soundtrack is cool, but a bit unusual. I prefer Rush Adventure's more traditional approach. Haunted Ship is definitely my favourite track - a very traditional Sonic tune.
#3. Comment posted by Ajavalo on Tuesday, 26th February 2008, 2:07pm
Can you add to this site bugs and glitches of Sonic the Hedgehog?
Sonic Rivals 2 Impressions
Sunday, 9th December 2007, 5:12pm (UTC), 1 Comment
Unfortunately I have nothing new for you to see, still. However, there's only a week to go until my Christmas break, and I hope I can manage to at least put together the guide for Mystic Cave Zone, and perhaps start Oil Ocean too. Because I have such little time for this place, and that's not too likely to change in the long term, I have been considering whether it's worth just finishing off the essential Megadrive games, and then maybe handing over control of the site to another dedicated Sonic fan, or group, who would be willing to write further guides to the other games. It's not something I'm interested in arranging at the moment, but if your hedgehog-like spiky ear has just pricked up at the thought of spending many hard hours over indepth writing and eye-frazzling screenshot taking and map making, all for the sake of the clarity and quality that these games, and us fans, deserve, do feel free to register your interest by leaving a comment. It'll be helpful to know if there are people out there willing to continue with this resource, if I am unable to. But nothing is definite yet.

So, played Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games yet? I must admit, I've let this one slip by, despite how well it seems to be doing, which in itself is despite the fact that it hasn't been advertised nearly as well as it should have been. Admittedly I've seen its TV ad more often than I have the other Sonic games of recent years, but this is a very casual-gamer title, and as such, needs the absolute shit advertised out of it, like Mario Galaxy seems to be getting. Sega's budget doesn't seem to be able to stretch that far with advertsing for anything, and that always annoys me. Still, it does go to show how popular Sonic still is if he can regularly get into the charts with minimal TV advertising. Or it goes to show that TV advertising isn't that successful at shifting games. But it probably is. I probably won't pick up the game until it goes down in price, personally. I'm most interested in platformers that are single player focused, and Mario and Sonic is primarily a multiplayer spin-off that doesn't seem like it'll capture my interest for long. It does seem a more comprehensive experience to Wii Sports though.

I did however pick up Sonic Rivals 2 on Friday, and I think it's rather good. Its predecessor was a nice little, small-scale adventure, and this is still quite small-scale in the grand scheme of things, but with additional characters, more original and interesting levels, a slightly more complex story, and 6 different, arena-enclosed battle modes in addition to the level racing, it all adds up to a richer experience. Like with the Sonic Rush series, and unlike the Sonic Advance series, the basic mechanics of things like character control and the pace of the levels has remained mostly unchanged, so as was the case with Rush Adventure, it's very similar to its predecessor, but better.

So what's changed? Well, it's all about the levels with me, and we've got six more to add to our list here. They range from done-a-bit-but-not-to-death levels like Blue Coast, Sunset Forest, Mystic Haunt and Chaotic Inferno (clear throwbacks to the likes of Ocean and Water Palaces, Sunset Hill, Hang and Cryptic Castles and Crisis City), done-to-death-but-not-quite-like-this levels (Neon Palace, the thankfully alive and well bouncy Casino stage, inspired by BINGO Highway but looking even more colourful and even rather graphically impressive), and of course, the one that got me very excited, the completely brand new, fully wild west style Frontier Canyon Zone. 16 and a half years, over 200 different levels across the whole series, but there are still surprsingly obvious environments that we haven't properly covered before. These are a much more original bunch than the generally more obvious and less inspired choices made by SR1, and though the graphics are still quite polygonal, there seems to be a bit more decorative stuff in the levels, so it's not such a big deal.

The emphasis on racing and conflict between the two rivals continues to set limits to the level design, so the multiple routes are still numerous, but very close to each other and brief, and the pace means that there isn't much opportunity for objects and traps that stop you for a bit to make you use your brain. But in addition to the many common objects, there are also a fair few interesting level-specific ones to take advantage of too, and Mystic Haunt is particular good at that, with its picture-matching levers, portals and even a terrific nod to the dark-dwelling ghosts in Sandopolis Zone (with light switches and everything). Neon Palace of course contains the usual flippers and stuff too, and even an enemy that strongly resembles Crawl, from Casino Night. There's rolling around inside barrels in Blue Coast, and mine trolleys in Frontier canyon that require you to pump them by madly tapping away. It all adds up to a rich and varied experience, which is what a good set of levels needs to have.

Each stage contains three acts and a boss, but only the first and third acts are actual levels. Act 2 always takes place in an enclosed arena where the two characters have a battle, which usually consists of a three-round knockout, but sometimes extends into one of the other 5 battle modes such as a ring collecting challenge. The missions in the levels sometimes vary too, where you have no rival but are racing against the clock, or attempting to collect 100 rings. In story, the eight characters are paired up into four alliances. It would have been logical to only have one story per pair, alternating between the two partners, but instead, each individual character has a story, yet you still play as your partner during each third act anyway, with any given character always rivaling another particular character at each level. It means twice as much to unlock, sure, but seems a bit pointless to me, especially when every character controls exactly the same except for their own special move. These special moves, by the way, are now fuelled by ring power, and a full meter allows you to perform it by pressing square, but alot of them are nothing to shout home about. So expect little more than basic Sonic controls here once again, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Bosses are more challenging this time around, but also quite original and fun, and your rivals seem a bit smarter as to how to go about beating them. The game always remains a challenge and you'll find yourself losing quite alot, but the acts are usually less than 2 minutes long, and breeze along fairly simply, so to me at least, it never really felt like a pain having to try again. The point, afterall, is not getting to the end but getting there first. My biggest gripe with the first game was the highly uninspiring and bland music that robbed the levels of that real icing on the cake, which Sonic games generally seem to be so consistently able to provide. Thankfully, things have improved a bit this time around. Granted, we're not talking one of the all time best soundtracks here, but things are no longer just "meh", they're "good". Blue Coast Act 1 borrows the game's opening theme, which is an upbeat lyrical rock tune by the fella that gave us Escape from the City and Theme of Team Sonic. Not to everyone's tastes I'm sure, but it's far more appropriate and energising than anything in SR1, and Act 2's lyric-less variation is a bit of an instant semi-hit for me. The rest often feature bits of that bland rock style from before, but some actual melodies and appropriate styles make up for that. The only exception is Sunset Forest, Act 3 especially, which is a disturbingly inappropriate, factory style piece of dullness that puts you off the level a bit.

So all in all it's a neat little adventure with alot of variety, but still remaining quite comfortably where a Sonic platformer should. Ultimately I prefer the traditional obstacle-based challenge of other Sonic games than this racing-based one, and I suspect others do too, because it allows the level and object design a bit more freedom. Still, despite preferences, I've never been one to say "Sonic should always do this stuff and only this stuff, and everything else is worthless", and I always welcome different ways of doing things now and then. Sonic Rivals 2 is better than its predecessor in just about every way, and should be a fairly good one to come back to once in a while.
Comments   1 Comment has been posted.
#1. Comment posted by TheGuyWithTheGames on Saturday, 2nd July 2011, 1:52am
Rivals 2 is a good game although i like the first one more
Zone: 0 officially on hold for the moment
Monday, 29th October 2007, 10:15pm (UTC), 0 Comments
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who voted for the place in the Sonic Site awards. It didn't win anything unfortunately, but the results were still fairly impressive I thought, for a site that's only just started and isn't yet that well known in the Sonic community. It came third out of five in both the Information Station and Impressive Layout awards, falling from first by a fair old margin, but I'm really pleased that it actually came second in the main, Sonic Site Award, with 29 votes, and losing by a mere 3. I'm quite chuffed with that, and it shows the appreciation you guys have for the hard work I've put in here, in the face of much more well established competitors. Thanks alot! Also thanks to Hogfather for his consistent support over on the Sonic Stadium board.

It's unfortunate that, as the title of this entry suggests, I just simply don't have any time at all to work on here right now, and probably won't be able to get much done until Christmas. I'm on my second year of university, and just have so many projects to juggle right now, I'm afraid I'm going to have to neglect adding anything to the site for the time being.

Will let you know when I've managed to do anything significant, but until then, I'm offially hitting the pause button.

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Brawl, and highly belated first impressions of Sonic Rivals
Saturday, 13th October 2007, 6:37pm (UTC), 0 Comments
So, Sonic's in Smash Bros Brawl, eh? I'm sure you'll all have seen it by now, but in case you've lacked an internet connection or something in the last few days, you can catch up here. I must admit, I hadn't particularly been following progress on the game beforehand, but I've certainly taken an interest now. I love the whole idea of rival developers collaborating to bring various icons together, in the true spirit of gaming. I also love what they seem to be doing with Sonic aswell. It would have been easy to just import him pretty much as he is now, but some real effort has gone in to try and capture some of the little aesthetic qualities of classic Sonic, like the sound effects, spin dash and even the spring. These guys certainly know what they're doing, and the inclusion of "Live and Learn" (which I suppose could also be considered a different type of "classic" now, being six years old) in the movie was goose-bump rendering. Things are starting to feel different, better, more quality-focused in the world of Sonic now.

In other news, I've finally gone and bought myself a PSP this week. Don't know if they're still doing it, but I took advantage of a fantastic bundle offer from HMV, which consisted of a PSP Slim and Lite, with Sonic Rivals, Sega Megadrive Collection and Virtua Tennis 3 for only 150. That's basically two full priced games for free, so if you've been meaning to get hold of a PSP, that's the offer to go for, I'd say. This of course also means that Sonic Rivals is finally mine, and therefore, my Sonic game collection is now once again fully complete. Phew. You know what, it's actually a better game than I was expecting it to be too. Not that I thought it was going to be rubbish, but I guess I was just a bit put off by its slightly ugly and simplistic graphics, and the fact that it's a relatively simple Sonic platformer too, certainly compared to the DS's recent Rush Adventure. Relative to the full 3D console games, screenshots and movies of Sonic Rivals have always made it seem to me almost like the 3D equivalent of the Game Gear/Mastersystem counterparts to the Megadrive games, i.e. much, much less pretty. When I saw it running on the PSP screen however, it suddenly all makes alot more sense.

It carries a racing theme, and I was surprised to learn that, like Secret Rings, it also abolishes lives, checkpoints and total ring loss in its levels, with re-spawn points occuring regularly to keep both competitors very much in the action. While Secret Rings levels were still a struggle even without that stuff though, the challenge in Rivals isn't about getting through the levels and bosses, it's about doing it before your opponent does, and you do get beaten quite a bit from start to finish in the story, although perhaps not so much in the middle, for some reason. It's a shame all the characters play exactly the same apart from their one special move, when an item is obtained, but handling isn't bad once you're used to it, and it certainly feels totally different from the Advance/Rush strand of the series.

The levels are better designed than I thought, with quite a range of obstacles and features, both common and level-specific, and some stages change their appearance by quite a surprising degree as you venture through each act. A few, like the rollercoaster-styled Sky Park Zone, my favourite, feature an altered appearance for each act - something from S3&K that I've since been absolutely dying to see again in a 2D platformer. I wonder if the fact that Act 2 looking quite a bit like Sonic CD's Stardust Speedway Zone 3, where you also raced against Metal Sonic, is intentional. On a final, soundtrack based note, the extremely mediocre, repetative and uninspiring level music seems to be alot more bearable when you're actually playing, I must admit, but I still say it's one of Sonic's worst soundtracks for a platformer. I mean, it's not awful, but Sonic music simply must be at a mich higher standard by default.

I suppose 3D graphics on a 2D control plane is the exact opposite to Sonic 3D, which was 2D sprites in 3D controls, making both of them difficult to categorise in either the "2D" or "3D" folders that most people like to use for the series. But as I predicted before even playing, 2D controls in 3D visuals is an idea that works really well for Sonic, I think. The great thing about Sonic in 3D is the more dynamic camera angles you get while whizzing through stuff, and this is certainly used to the full extent in Rivals, yet the simplistic 2D controls remain. I really think that Sonic Team's next big move should be to translate this in some way into their next primary, console-based Sonic platformer. It keeps it 3D and up to date, but retains the simplistic Sonic controls that we all know and love and if done with enough pure, brilliant content and interesting little ideas, I think it could prove a big hit. In the meantime however, I'll continue anticipating Sonic Rivals 2 - especially that lovely new Wild West style level. Why we've never really had one of those until now, I'll never know.

Sorry about the 10 month late review there, but once you get me talking, it's hard to shut me up. Unfortunately that hasn't yet happened for Mystic Cave Zone however, as I've not really had the time to do anything other than re-reading and editing what I had already written for it. I know, I'm sorry, but as I said last time, I'm pretty busy at the moment, with about seven different other projects floating around in my head, so you'll have to sit tight for the moment. I'm sure you can manage.

Oh, and the Sonic Site Awards are closing in a couple of days, so if you've not yet voted for Zone: 0, go and do it now! Go on, quick!

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King of the Hill
Sunday, 30th September 2007, 1:24pm (UTC), 0 Comments
Update: Hill Top Zone added to the Sonic 2 section
Hurrah, it's here! Again, sorry it took so long - it really shouldn't have because it was a nice, easy level to map. Not many objects, non-complex routes and no extra scenery bits to add. As I mentioned in the last quick blog post, things have gotten in the way, and unfortunately, will continue to get in the way for the foreseeable future. I'm out of the summer holidays now, and back to university, in my second year. Things are about to get alot tougher there, so I'm going to have alot less time to work on Zone: 0 than I have in the last few months. On top of that, my eye problem is playing up again, and sometimes I have trouble concentrating on a computer-based task for very long before my eyes start to hurt unbearably, and it's especially difficult when it comes to all this html/php coding and map making that I have to do. I've been to the doctor's about it, but he thinks it's just because I've over-strained them and they'll probably settle in time. While it's not quite as bad as it was when I was first struck by it, it is, at the very least, extremely irritating and I really hope it goes soon. I've been trying to rest them whenever I can, but it's pretty difficult, and I can't stand being so idle like that. As if that wasn't enough, my internet in my new accomodation here has so far been very unstable, if available at all, and I really hope that gets sorted soon.

So I'm afraid updates will almost certainly become fewer and further between. I had originally hoped to stick to to my schedule of approximately two new levels per month but I think it's probably going to be more like one, for the time being - If that. It's hard to say at the moment, and depends on whether my eye and internet problems will get better, and unfortunately, Zone: 0 isn't at the top of my list of priorities at the moment. There are no plans to give up on it yet however - It's just a case of having to be a little bit more patient.

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Just to let you know..
Thursday, 27th September 2007, 7:10pm (UTC), 0 Comments
I'm not dead. Hill Top Zone's completion is imminent, I just haven't had time to finish her off, what with uni starting, a currently very faulty internet connection in my new room here, and a freelance job.. Oh alright, and a bit of SRA aswell, but as I say, it's nearly done and I hope to upload it over the weekend, if I can. I thought I best just let you guys know, if you're wondering, as it's a pretty simple level that didn't take me as long to map out as Casino Night did, and you might be wondering what's going on. Now you know.

That's all. Cheers!

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