The world of ROM hacks can be a scary place. Diving head first into the community with little prior knowledge is a frustrating experience. There are tons of hacks for just about every popular series and platform out there, with vastly varied quality and goals. Luckily for you, your old pal Casey is here to help you out. Let’s explore the world of ROM hacking, its terms, and purpose, and find some great games to play! If you are new to ROM Hacking or missed Part 1, go back and give my intro and guide a read. We’ve already covered Metroid, Pokemon, Super Mario, various other Nintendo titles, and Mega Man in past entries. That is a lot of games!
We’ve covered a lot of games in this series so far, but up to now, they’ve all been on Nintendo platforms. I think it’s time we venture on to the world of Sega. There’s no better place to start than with Sonic the Hedgehog, a character whose popularity only increases with each less-than-stellar new release. Unlike Nintendo, Sega has embraced the creative fan community, going as far as hiring key ROM hack and fan game developers to work on the mobile incarnations of Sonic 1, 2, and Sonic CD as well as the soon to be released, Sonic Mania.
There are tons of Sonic ROM hacks out there. The team at Sonic Retro has done a stellar job compiling all of these projects as well as tools and resources for creating your own. Check out their website to learn more!
Let’s start with a game made in part by some of the Sonic Mania dev team. Sonic 1 Megamix is a full on custom game. Brand new levels, 5 playable characters with new moves, elemental shields ala Sonic 3 & Knuckles, bug fixes….the whole works. The original Sonic the Hedgehog levels are here as well, which are really fun to navigate with the new moves and characters.
If you’re looking for something a bit different from the standard Sonic formula, Sonic 2 Retro Remix is for you. This game transforms Sonic the Hedgehog 2 into a mission based game, ala 3D platformers such as Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. Instead of simply racing to the end goal, the player is tasked with finding six Chaos Emeralds from each level in order to unlock the next. The usual tropes are here, such as hidden collectibles found with exploration, speedrun challenges, and boss battles. A hub world has been implemented to connect each section of the game and facilitate backtracking. This is a very impressive feat, and more than worth your time.
I’m going to break my own rule here and talk about a fan game. This game is not a ROM hack, but it’s something worth mentioning. Classic Sonic 3D Adventure is a standalone title pitting Sonic and Tails in a game similar in style to Super Mario 3D World, with its blend of side scrolling and 3D depth sections married to the classic Sonic Adventure style gameplay. The work done here is very impressive. The visuals are great, gameplay feels solid, and it’s a lot of fun. There’s even multiplayer! How cool is that?
The vast majority of Sonic ROM hacks are slight modifications to the first two games, as opposed to full on custom games like Megamix. A good example is Sonic CD++, an enhancement to the Mega-CD installment. Sonic CD++ retains the original’s level design while significantly speeding up the gameplay by adding in the Spin Dash from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and a homing attack similar to Megamix. Sega CD is a pretty great entry in the franchise despite its slower pace. This ROM hack solves that issue pretty well. Give it a go!
Sonic 3 and it’s offshoots Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Blue Sphere (Sonic & Knuckles + Sonic 1) haven’t seen much in the way of hacks. There is one standout product though, called Sonic 3 Complete. This game combines content from all 3 of the aforementioned games, modifying the visuals to stick to the original Sonic the Hedgehog 3 look. There are tons of bug fixes and tiny tweaks to improve the experience, including an extensive soundtrack covering all 3 games as well as Genesis recreations of the exclusive music from Sonic & Knuckles Collection. This is the definitive way to play Sonic 3. For those unfamiliar with the somewhat complicated details surrounding the Sonic 3 games, check out the video below for details as well as gameplay of Sonic 3 Complete.
There are tons of Sonic hacks like Plus Plus and Sonic 3 Complete out there. Adding new characters to the Genesis games, backporting levels, adding in unfinished/scrapped content from the original carts…all sorts of wacky fan creations are available at Sonic Retro.
That’s it for this week! Hopefully, I’ve highlighted something you can dig on. The Sonic community is always making new fan creations, whether it be games, artwork, or cosplay. If you want to play some of these games and run into trouble getting them up and running, check out the first installment of this series. Feel free to leave a comment with questions, or shoot me a tweet @PfhorTheWin if you’re still having issues. Next week we shall venture into the world of fan translations.
Why hello there. I write about the video game industry. I usually write features about the history and state of the industry, and dive into topics like game design and tech. I’m also a competitive fighting game player and speedrunner. I talk about old fighting games and Mother 3 too often for most people’s taste. Money match me in WindJammers if you don’t mind losing. Aside from gaming, I work as a professional musician and do a bit of stand-up comedy. You can find me writing jokes and retweeting fan art @PfhorTheWin.
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