3/17/2012

SONIC Robo Blast 2


Games come and games go. During their time in limelight, each videogame released has a limited opportunity to accumulate a fanbase, and become timeless. The games that don't, end up like Rakuga Kids. However, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, for better, or worse, has one of the largest followings of any videogame in history.  Sonic is more than a videogame; Its a cultural icon that has influenced millions of people growing up during the 90's. Some of those people went on to college, where they earned degrees in various fields of art, design, programming, and many other things, gaining the tools to achieve their dream of creating their own masterpieces. Others went on to start a DeviantART account, picked up textile work, and built fur-suits. And some still, decided to do both, and create Sonic Robo-Blast 2.



SONIC ROBO-BLAST 2 (PC)
Developed & Published by: Sonic Team Jr.
Released from : October 1999 thru May 31st 2010 (date of latest update, version 2.0.6)

Sonic RB2 is the sequel to Sonic RB1, obviously. Now, before we go on, I MUST stress that sometimes bad games have sequels that are vastly improved over the original; sometimes they address severe problems, allowing the first  games' potential to truly shine, other times they are built pretty much from scratch, revitalizing the original in spirit and name, more so than expanding the experience. But it would be virtually impossible to put into to words the world of difference between SRB1 & 2. Everything is an understatement. It's like a beautiful  flower grown from soil tainted with disease. Or maybe Cleopatra. Did you know her parents were severely inbred on both sides? Well now you do.

I'm no expert, but one of these probably took more effort than the other.

SRB2 is one of the longest running fangame projects in history, having lasted over a decade. The game is updated somewhat frequently, though the game, as of writing, has seen little progress in a little over a year and a half. The team is still developing content; they are working on version 2.1,  but there is no concrete  release date.

RB2 started as a follow-up to the joke fangame, SRB1, sometime during the spring of '98, lead desinger, Sonikku released several holiday-themed proof-of-concept demos (Halloween once, and somehow, 3 Christmas games, idk must have been leap year) using the Doom Legacy engine. Yes. That's right. They made a Sonic game, a third-person platfomer, with the Doom engine. SRB2 does show it's Doom heritage in some modes, but I'll be getting to that in a bit. The fact that it's built off of Doom's infrastructure, probably has you curious about how it looks in motion, so here's a quick & gritty run through the first Act:

video

SRB2 handles decently. It's reminiscent of the first Sonic Adventure, though not nearly as refined. I can forgive it to a degree, since it's a 3D platformer based on an FPS engine, but some of the mechanics simply aren't as fine-tuned to precision platforming as they could be, such as the camera, SRB2 sports two control modes; 'Analog Mode' yearns to recreate the experience of playing  Sonic Adventure, with controls more suited to the needs of a platformer. Unfortunately, Sonic & co. have somewhat cumbersome turning radii in this mode, and tend to trip up alot. And by trip up, I mean die, and frustrate you. The other mode, which isn't named because it's on by default (which is what I'll call it) makes the game play more like a third-person shooter. This, helps deal with the camera, but still won't save you from the games most prominent annoyance...

Personally, my biggest gripe with this game, is the characters' acceleration and momentum. Everyone speeds-up too quickly, and it seems like you can never slow down in a timely manner. Most deaths in this game, at least from my experience, have been a result of momentum. The only means of dealing with this are to cherry-tap the forward key, which is counter-intuitive for new-players, and takes some warming up to. In a similar vain, you needn't much of a running start to jump great distances, and the horizontal length of your jump is ABNORMALLY far, making it a bit tricky to accurately judge jumps. This, naturally, is an enormous pain in the ass, and will likely lead to you dying at first, though you'll eventually begin to get used to it.

But that's all subjective, and eventually, (eventually) you'll be able to compensate for such things. The gameplay itself, is meant to adapt the gameplay of 2D Sonic into a 3D game, but really it feels more like a marriage of 3D Sonic's gameplay, with 2D Sonic's level design, which is absolutely a good thing. Stages are huge, and though frustrating at times, are still entertaining, and feature multiple paths, crammed with secret, hidden shit. In fact, the game as a whole is teeming with secret, hidden shit- but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a look at who is going to be navigating these stages, shall we?

 

Sonic is the fastest of the three available characters. He's also the most unwieldy. Most of the problems I've listed above apply doubly for Sonic. Granted, when in the hands of a high-level player (ie- the online oldbies) he's pretty much unrivaled in terms of usability. Like in the classic games, Sonic takes different paths than his friends, because he's vertically-challenged.

 
  
Tails can fly. Tails is slow, but honestly, in this game, where everything is coated in hot-butter, that's not really a detriment. Tails can fly over entire stretches of stage, and can completely negate the challenge of many gimmicks and set-pieces. Whereas Sonic is for the ELITE, Tails is a much better choice for beginners who don't like careening into chasms.




Knuckles, or Knizzuckles as he's known to his friends, is able to glide through the air. Although gliding isn't as effective as Tails' flying, it is indefinite, and he can also climb walls by gliding into them. Knuckles is a moderate character; in addition to his abilities, he's more effective than Tails overall, and easier to use than Sonic, making him perfect for people who've mastered Tails, but are still having trouble with SRB2's obnoxious acceleration.



So, what you have is the classic trio, pretty much exactly as you remember them from 1994, except Sonic, who also has an air-dash that propels him forward. It is similar to his 'Homing Attack' from Sonic Adventure, though it doesn't actually home-in on foes. The goal, just like in the classic series, is simply to gun it through the varied 'zones' the game has to offer. Each zone, sticking to classic Sonic structure, offers many different paths through each and every stage, making every play through feel different. In addition to that, as mentioned earlier, the stages contain many secrets, including emblems, which are used to unlock bonus stages, as well as 'tokens' that allow you access to the series' hallowed special zones. Unfortunately, this games special zones are pretty unspectacular, using the same mechanics as the rest of the game. You simply have to gather a specified quantity of rings from an arena within the alloted time to earn a Chaos Emerald. The dev team, however, has promised to overhaul these stages with levels similar to  Nights for Sega Saturn. Naturally, snatching all the emeralds will allow you to play as Super Sonic, plus finishing with all the Emeralds also nets you a set of unlockable stages. This game has a robust gallery of unlockables that I'll go into in more depth later on.

Tails, preparing to play Street Fighter X Tekken.

The games' zones are SUPPOSED to consist of 2 normal acts each, plus a 3rd, where you face Dr. Robotnik's latest budget-friendly weapon (classic stuff). However, the game is still incomplete, and as it is, Only the first three Zones are fully complete (2 acts, & boss act). The  4th has 2 acts, but no boss. The 5th & 6th only have a single act. It seems as though this is deliberate, however, as these stages feature transitions, a la Sonic 3, implying that either these stages are each indeed, one act long, or they finished and implemented the 2nd act, along with the transition before the first. The former seems more likely. Speaking of Zones, we have 7:

GREEN FLOWER ZONE 

Every Sonic game absolutely must begin with a verdant meadow, or beach of some sort, and SRB2 is no exception. Green Flower Zone is pretty self-explanatory, being green, and filled to the rim with flowers, it also features Sonic's iconic 'checkered dirt' pattern. GFZ, is inspired by Green Hill Zone, obviously, and as such is definitely not all that interesting. Sorry folks.




TECHNO HILL ZONE 


Sure am glad I'm not Sonic

Techno Hill Zone's first act is pretty similar the Green Flower Zone, only it's filled with deadly polluted water that hurts you on contact. Yes, on contact. And you still sink to the bottom; this is one of the most dangerous hazards in the game. The first act ends with our hero/heroes arriving at a chemical plant (don't get too excited).


The second act is entirely different, taking place entirely inside of a chemical-producing facility, without even the slightest hint of Green. Act 2's gimmick is the abundance of conveyor belts meant to ruin you, many of which drop you off directly into raw chemicals. The act begins with a fork from the get-go, so you can choose whichever path suits you best; Sonic should go left, Knuckles can go either way, though right might be a better bet, and Tails should stick to the right, as he can fly, and doesn't have to put up with THZ's shit..




DEEP SEA ZONE 

Ahhh, zee Deep Sea Zone. Zere is nothing more fun than wandering around in a maze, only for it to fill up with water suddenly, and zen drown you to death. But alas, such is life in zee Deep Sea Zone. DSZ actually has more in common with zee 'Lost World' from Sonic Adventure, zan any 2D water stage. It features several series' of rapids' slides, as well as a few irritating platforming sections.


CASTLE EGGMAN ZONE


Yes, Castle Eggman Zone,  a zone that is strangely out of place in a Sonic game, taking place in what appears to be a Scottish War Fortress, that Dr. Robotnik somehow gained ownership of. This stage features all the hazards you'd expect from a medieval themed videogame stage; clock-gears, swinging maces (a stalwart for Sonic), Archery, etc.



Pictured: ASSHOLE

Yes, I want to make a point about the archers, as they'll be the bane of your existence as you play through this area. CEZ is 2 acts long, the first act taking place on the grounds, and the second act taking place in the castle proper. There's also a particularly frustrating platforming section in act 2, that is hell-on-earth for Sonic.


Knuckles tries his best to think of a context-appropriate Monty Python reference.



ARID CANYON ZONE
 
ACZ is an American desert themed stages, featuring Cacti, steep cliffs, and quicksand (which belongs in the jungle, not the desert anyway). The main gimmick in this stage, actually isn't the quicksand, a minor nuisance; instead, your primary challenge here lies in the many ski-lift-like serpentine belts placed around the stage


SURE AM GLAD I'M NOT SONIC
ACZ is a definite step up in difficulty especially after the annoying, but
overall nonlethal Eggman Castle. This stage takes place atop a tall mountain range, and this is reflected in the the many unsafe jumps you must make over deadly chasms. Sonic players will have a 'fun' time navigating these very precise jumps. Occasionally you'll have to make timed jump, off of crumbling platforms, over bottomless pits. Arid Canyon Zone doesn't fuck around.


RED VOLCANO ZONE

RVZ is a classic stage archetype; a volcano filled with unstable platforms, and molten-magma that periodically rises, sometimes all the way to the ceiling, killing you, so, yeah. A good 2/3's of the ''ground" in RVZ will crumble beneath your feet, so the entire stage is pretty much an endurance run, with very few breather platforms in between. Red Volcano will even give Knuckles some trouble.












EGG ROCK ZONE

In space, no one can hear you yiff.
ERZ is the final zone, and it begins with an immediate fork in the path, not unlike Techno Hill Act 2. The left path takes you to an area where those who can fly would have a distinct advantage, whereas right will require pinpoint reflexes. The stage appears to take place in the Volcano's core at first, but you'll soon learn that it in fact takes place in space for some reason.  I believe there is a stage missing in between Red Volcano, and Egg Rock, so hopefully Sonic Team Jr. will explain what the fuck is happening.

Sonic is a closet Lionel Richie fan.
The first gimmick you'll encounter, of course, is inverted gravity, a staple of the series' space levels. These segments have much more in common with Sonic Advenutre 2's gravity-sections than the Genesis games', though. They involve conveyore belts too, so double-gimmicks. The later part of the stage takes you out into space, which is similar to being underwater, except you only have 5 seconds worth of air. You have to get from one O2 chamber to the next in order to avoid death.


Great work team! Now back to HQ, for a viewing of Balto and some heavy petting!

Multiplayer is the meat of SRB2, containing a bulk of the modes. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the meat of this article, as it's where I make a bulk of the 'yiffing' jokes, because, clearly it hasn't gotten old already. SRB2 boasts a reliable online server for matches, although the online players have dwindled over the years. Prepare to see some of the same players multiple times. And then something about a circle-jerk.

Co-op


Co-op in SRB2 is exactly like Singleplayer, only better because you can play with up to 32 other technicolored animals. Co-op is pretty much what you make of it; it can be a race to the finish, or you can aid others with your various abilities. Some players will opt to find every last emerald, others will just gun it and other players will wait for you to catch up. You can also collect Chaos Emeralds, and having a big posse with you makes the special stages a cake-walk.

Some of these guys take forever.

Unfortunately, some players like to mosey around too long looking for shit. It's possible for the games' host to skip ahead to the next stage once at least one party member has made it the the goal, but some hosts' will hesitate to do so. Perhaps they believe the stragglers are on the cusp of discovering an emerald, maybe they are trying to avoid upsetting people? The reason for this is unknown. These long, overdrawn waiting periods are the only real downside to playing Co-op as oppossed to singleplayer, with the exception of certain unlockables.

Competitive Multiplayer


 Where Sonic RB2 really shines is it's robust, and varied competitive gametypes: There's two-variations of racing, Deathmatch, in both team, and free-for-all variations, Capture-the-Flag, and Tag. No-one plays tag. Each mode has it's own unique set of stages, although there is some overlap; you can race through specially-made race tracks, or through any of the 1P mode's  zones, and you can host a Deathmatch on one of the battlefields from Capture-the-Flag.

The racing modes, like co-op, use the single-player mode's unique Sonic-styled controls, and, as such, are played in thrid-person. However, Capture-the-flag, and both Deathmatches are where SRB2 really starts to show it's Doom side. These particular vs. modes are old-school, fast-paced FPS games, where break-neck speed, and general reckless abandon are gleefully celebrated.

Another day, Another Sonic.
 The FPS games are, by far and large, pretty standard in terms of rules, but the gameplay is what sets this game apart. It's a first-person platformer, with great emphasis on speed, and the utilization of momentum to get around. You name, and play as a recolor of either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles, all retaining their abilities, plus the use of new weapons.

Rings act as both your lifebar, and your ammuntion, requiring you to constantly collect more. Firing will fire one of your rings like a bullet, losing you that particular ring in the process. Getting hit by any attack, in true Sonic order, will cause you to drop everything; all of your rings, weapons and pick-ups. When they scatter, you can easily recover them, but so can the bastard who hit you, as well as any shmuck who happens to sprint by. So, try not to get to hit. Hitting someone award you 50 points, killing someone, 100. The reward for capturing a flag is 250. 75 points for nailing an opponent who is stealing your own.


T/DM & CTF have exclusive weapons that are only available in FPS modes:

Automatic: Hold down the fire button for rapid fire. The basic, most common power-up.
Bounce-Rings: Irritating as all hell, if the bounce ring misses it's initial target, it will deflect off of every-fucking-thing, and hit everybody long after the attack has left the room. Very annoying. You should try using it.
 

Exploding Rings: These are rings that explode on impact. They are similar to the standard fire, but have a fairly large radius of splash damage.

Grenades: These are called 'grenades' but the function like landmines. Throw them at strategic choke-points, and hope an idiot opponent runs right into them.
 Rail-Rings: This is for all intents and purposes a sniper rifle. These rings hit their target immediatley, without actually having to physically travel forward, like the rest of the weapons.
Scatter: Scatter shots spread out as they travel away from the point of fire, and degrade in power too; a point-blank shot will fling your opponent across the board, whereas a shot thet's travel more distance has significantly less knockback.


In team-based games, each base is stocked with color-coded rings, item-boxes, and weapons, which can only by obtained by a member of the corresponding team.


Weapons, however are useless without modes to use them in. Let's divulge, shall we?

Capture the Flag

The Most Excellent & Lamentable Tradgedie of Sonic & Knuckles



Since it's the most commonly played gametype (along with Co-op), it seems like a good place to begin:  Played like a standard FPS, Capture-the-Flag divides players into two arbitrarily-assigned teams, both denoted a color; red & blue, respectively. Each team has a home base (as seen in figure:Shakespeare, above) containing a cheap nylon flag, that the colorful-furries have decided is worth risking life and limb over. I don't get it either.

It's like the Montague's & the Capulet's up in this bitch!
The method for capturing-the-flag is quite simple; walk up to it, take it, and bring it back to your HQ. Naturally, your opponents will be constantly trying to kill you/cursing the name of both your houses, and might also take possession of your coveted banner, presenting the defensive game of capture-the-flag; you can only score by having both flags in one base, at the same time, where they will likely be used to perform unsavory acts. If you have the enemy flag at the same time they have yours, you cannot score until you go out and assassinate the opponent who has the flag. 

Then you can score.


Deathmatch
Sonic is not a common character. He's very difficult to use, and, as you can see, very few play as him.
The hardest of the hardcore, Deathmatches, known simply as 'Match' in SRB2, for some reason, are exactly what you'd want out of a competitive FPS. Non-stop run-and-gun, with a furry, platforming twist. The rules of engagement are quite simple; kill (or at least hit) your opponents to accumulate points. Whomever has the greatest number of points by the end of the round (which are timed) is declared the winner. 

In team matches, the team-members' totals are accumulated, and a judgment is made from there. Team Deathmatches, when played on CTF maps, utilize both the home bases, and team-rings mentioned above.  This mode couldn't be simpler, but there's a certain elegance to simplicity.


Racing


Facuzz the Hedgehog's manager told him that if he doesn't win today, he's getting banned from DeviantART.
Ahh, the classic race mode, a staple of the series. Available in both "Classic' and "Standard' flavors, racing takes the game back to it's proprietary mechanics, requiring you to spin, jump, and spinjump around either, one of several mode-exclusive racetracks, or through any of the available zones from 1P. Races through the tracks consist of laps, since they're small, but races through the stages only require one go, as they're significantly larger.


"Classsic' races follow the very same rules as the races in Sonic 2, hence the title, in which several factors determine a races winner, including the quantity of rings picked up, the quantity of rings retained until the finish, the number of power-ups found, the highest score, and of course, who finished most quickly. The more standard racing mode, labelled simply as 'Race', eschews all that collecting nonsense, and instead focuses on finishing before your opponents.. To put it simply, it's a race.


Tag


video

Can you believe it's been more than a paragraph since the last furry joke?

If you've ever played a PC game, it's likely you've heard of mods before. Mods, short for modifications, are pieces of dependent software that either alter how the game operates, or add new content altogether. Or at least that's what they claim; in reality they're just used to make everybody naked. However Sonic & co. are animals, and thus are already naked, so mods are used instead to make new stages, or in some cases let you be a banana.

video

Haha, that's just ridiculous, isn't it? But in all seriousness, being built off of the Doom engine, means that SRB2 is compatible with the many of Doom's map-making utilities that have become available over the years, the most popular of which is DoomBuilder. The community has in fact created a specialized version, hence named SRB2 Doom Builder. With this utility - along with several different tutorials you're going to have to read in order to understand anything if, like myself, you've never used Doom Builder in any incarnation before- you can create your own custom maps. Of course, the best ones come from those with years of experience, and the worst ones  come from people like myself, who built a square room, filled it with immobile enemies, and called it a day.

Why would I not add a character named 'CastleBot FaceStabber'? Oh, and our favorite asshole makes his encore.
Levels are something of actual use, and when well made, can extend you time in singleplayer. It's even possible to play with mods online; the game will usually download whatever you need to sync with everybody else, though sometimes these mods will cause consistency failures (if you don't already know what that is, that link likely won't help much). The game will convieniently mark which online matches utilize mods with a 'M', and, incidentally, games with cheats with a 'C'.

More impressive than the individual stages/packs, are full conversion mods, that drastically alter the nature of the game. Take a look at SRB2 Riders, a fun little mod that features a MarioKart clone:


This game has been cracked wide open. Sonic RB2 is a HUGE game. Between the robust multiplayer modes, and all the secrets of the game proper, as well as the many different modifications available from their forums, SRB2 goes a long way.

You can download Sonic RB2 from STjr's website.

If you want to make your own stages, here's SRB2DoomBuilder. Rolls off the tongue, don't it?

Actually, before you do that, you should probably read this, followed by this.

And finally, check out the other mod's on the forums.

Well, that just about wraps up this article. I've gotta say, It's nice to finally be finished with this. Now I can get back to writing my articles one at a time, instead of concurrently. In fact, I don't know if you've noticed on the main page, but I have a new writer, Gileum, helping contribute now! You can visit him on his blog.

This will make things go much smoother now. 

That said, I'd like to point out that today is St. Paddy's Day.
And I'm now going to go and get completely wasted with the Mrs.
So, with that in mind, I'd like to leave you with this:


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