I have a confession to make. I really lead a sort-of double life. By day, I?m a charismatic Party Viking that plays a lot of games and writes a lot of words for SPOnG. By night (at least recently) I co-organise a large-scale Sonic the Hedgehog fan convention called the Summer of Sonic.
You might have heard of this year?s convention in newspapers, GamesMaster magazines (I?m in the contributions list for the Sonic special by the way - hi) and other places during the lead up to Sonic?s 20th Anniversary last week. That certainly helped raise our exposure, thanks to a partnership with SEGA and Sonic Team that saw legendary developers Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Naka appear as special guests.
They got absolutely mobbed. But they loved every last second of it. Iizuka-san in particular was very laid back and was extremely friendly to everyone he met - his reactions to certain questions during his Q&A panels were priceless. Naka-san, credited the father of Sonic and involved in the hedgehog?s very creation, was treated as an untouchable deity by the audience, but he was more than down to earth.
The Prope studio head took pictures of every little thing in the convention hall, signed many things and took the time to meet plenty of fans. His Twitter feed in particular was off the Richter scale with updates from London flying left, right and centre to his followers. And both he and Iizuka were honest with their fans when it came to the panel questions. A few highlights:
The Carnival Night Zone Barrel
When asked if he was responsible for ?that? barrel in Sonic 3?s Carnival Night Zone, Iizuka-san absolved himself of credit and said it was the fault of Hirokazu Yasuhara, level designer for the first three Sonic games. Naka-san added that, as lead programmer he would have coded that barrel in, so apologised to the mass of Sonic fans to a rapturous cheer.
The SEGA of America Continuity Sonic the Hedgehog was famous for having two distinct storylines - the Japanese original that was found in manuals back in the 1990s, and the Western continuity created by SEGA of America which featured one Dr. Ovi Kintobor transforming into Dr. Ivo Robotnik and a story of Sonic changing from brown to blue by breaking the sound barrier.
Naka-san was shocked to hear this storyline for the very first time, adding that ?I can laugh about it now some 20 years later, but had I known about it at the time I probably would have been very angry.? Whoops.
Recently, someone leaked concept game footage of a Sonic skateboarding game called Sonic Extreme. It?s estimated to have been dated before the release of Sonic Heroes. Iizuka-san revealed that this was a concept pitched by an American developer - he asked the studio in question to create a demo to better showcase the idea, but ultimately felt it wasn?t very good so cancelled the project. The crowd absolutely roared with adoration with that response.
A fan question quizzed the pair on any regrets they have had in the past 20 years. Iizuka-san said that he was sorry for the Big the Cat fishing levels in Sonic Adventure (which was received well by the audience), and Naka-san mentioned a specific platform in Sonic 2?s Chemical Plant Zone that was quite difficult to get across.
Super Sonic Bros.
A piece of concept artwork from 1991 was passed to Naka-san, featuring Sonic and many unknown enemies, with potential girlfriend character Madonna falling in the background. He then proceeded to explain each character?s role in detail before mentioning that they were all canned besides Sonic and the Eggman. The original plot for Sonic was to run through worlds saving the Madonna woman from an evil villain. It was changed after it was noted that it veered too close to the gameplay mission of Super Mario.
It wasn?t just the Sonic Team pros that were turning heads. For the first time in the Summer of Sonic?s four year history, we had managed to invite Ian Flynn and Tracy Yardley from the US Archie Sonic comics as well as Nigel Kitching and Nigel Dobbyn from the 1990s UK Sonic the Comic. They featured in an equally interesting Q&A panel which saw the two sides of the Atlantic compare notes for the first time. That's to say nothing of the surprise appearance of Mike Pollock, voice actor for Dr. Eggman.
There was also a performance from electro-rock band Julien-K, which featured on 2003?s Sonic Heroes with theme song This Machine and later on 2005?s Shadow the Hedgehog with track Waking Up. A ?Wrecks Factor? karaoke contest entertained the crowd and resulted in one poor soul doing the ultimate forfeit - dancing the Do The Mario dance from the old 1990s Nintendo cartoons.
It's safe to say that this years SoS was one of the best days of my life so far. Everything from having a laugh and making new friends while queueing outside before opening, to the proposal (most nerve-racking moment of my life, haha), and the Iizuka/Naka Q&As, was all perfect. I had an unbelievable amount of fun, and felt right at home the entire day. I must say thanks to all of the team who helped organise SoS!
Elson 'Darkspeeds' Wong29 Jun 2011 15:19
I tried my best not to feel bittersweet about the fact that I couldn't go this year, I knew it would have been extremely special but alas I can't take away my job and career in the hospitality industry for it (well maybe next time I'll do it... XD). Nevertheless the best thing I can do is to get involved in continuing to support it all the way - whether it be through word of mouth (via deviantART/DJ Darkspeeds/Skype/Twitter/Youtube), donations, journal/blog posts etc.. If I could spread the word of your amazing crusade to bring Sonic fans together for that very reason you've beautifully described here:
"Summer of Sonic is primarily a means for fans to meet up in the flesh - although the content we provided and the guests we secured were beyond fantastic, really all of the rest is an added bonus..."
... Then I would be happy and proud to be a Sonic fan too.
Anyways keep up the incredible stuff mate, I'll be sending you and the rest of me mates (who are Sonic fans) one last thing tomorrow before I go for my holiday. *thumbs up*
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