So Summer of Sonic was another blast!
Woke up at 5am to give the pup a nice long walk since he'd be shut in most of the day (friend came round to walk him for us in the middle of the day at least). Headed into London at 7am and arrived perfectly on time at 8:20. Grabbed a coffee (I told them my name was "Jez, J-E-Z" but alas I'm pretty sure they're trained to misspell names so people can take funny instagram pictures - or to be fair, it was very busy).
We got into the queue at a pretty nice time, only JUST out of sight of the start of it. Was about an hour's wait from then until we got in, but it went by surprisingly fast. Someone nearby us had a boom box playing SEGA radio which would have bordered on obnoxious had everyone in the vicinity not been massive Sonic nerds who would appreciate the ambience. Also behind us in the queue was the most adorable cosplayer ever
Was all pretty nice inside, ticketing went smoothly with no hiccups (thank goodness because they warned us to have a printed copy of our ticket in case of technical difficulties on the day but we weren't able to do so, was relying on our phones). Even though they weren't turned on yet, I headed straight for the Sonic Mania pods. Acquaintance/fellow SSMB member/SoS staff member Hogfather came over and warned us that the demo pods wouldn't be turned on until after the welcome messages on stage, and for a moment I thought he was about to advise not queuing up yet but - quite the opposite happened, so we stayed in queue and I got to play it pretty quickly.
I decided to go with Studiopolis since Green Hill is partially rehash and I'm GUESSING it's going to be the first stage in the final game. Even if it isn't I don't get the impression Studiopolis will be. Much as during previous SoSes where I chose Splash Hill Act 3/Sweet Mountain/Desert Ruins Act 2 from their respective games, I went with Studiopolis so when I play the final game, my first gameplay experience is a fresh new stage. The game was fantastic, pretty much exactly as good as it looks. All the creative physics play of Sonic CD with the fluidity and forward momentum of the stage design from Sonic 3 & Knuckles - and yet, those who do choose to stop and explore the less obvious path will be constantly rewarded for doing so. Great stuff. I'm glad headphones were on offer to so we could enjoy that sublime soundtrack and audio design clearly without distractions too.
After that, even though the queue was significantly shorter (and partially BECAUSE it was) I went straight for the Sonic Boom demo to get that out of the way too. The Fire & Ice mechanic seems fairly arbitrary to be honest. You see an obstacle that reacts to one or the other, you stop and switch to it, you carry on. MAYBE they get more clever in later stages but it doesn't have much depth to it in the demo stage. Other than that the gameplay felt more or less the same as Shattered Crystal. A bit of Sonic platforming inbetween gimmicks where you just have to recall which character's ability to use and do so. The tutorials are heavy handed with long messages appearing at the bottom of the screen to explain each action when it would be much easier to just flash some button prompts and let the player learn by doing without having to look down and/or block off the touch screen controls. I'll prolly still buy it coz I'm Sonic trash, but this (presumebly first) stage didn't wow me.
Next up was Never Mind the Buzzbombers which I always enjoy. I swear the guests just never seem to get into it that much but they try their best and are always thoroughly entertaining in spite of their relative lack of Sonic trivia compared to team captains Svend and Adam and the audience guests - one of which this year was my longtime internet friend Laurie whom I've known since 2003. Really happy she got to take part.
After that was a fairly dead period in the schedule likely timed so people could go get lunch, so we did just that. Looking up the area the night before, we were lucky enough to find out there was a vegetarian restaurant only 5 minutes from the venue, so we decided to dive in and give it a shot. It was called 222 Veggie Vegan and was utterly gorgeous. At lunch they do an all-you can eat buffet as the only option so naturally that's what we had. Clockwise from 12 o'clock on the plate was Steamed Broccoli in Pumpkin Gravy, Mashed Potato with Parsnip, Pumpkin Noodle Salad (cold), Lentil Peaks (little savoury mounds with a sort of dumpling-like texture on top of slices of tomato), mixed bean curry and then in the middle a Carrot tart (which had the texture of a firm quiche somewhat). On second trips up I also tried Roast Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and Plantain (wasn't keen on the latter thing there) and an Avacado and Spinach salad which was exactly what it says on the tin. Anyway it was all utterly gorgeous and I'd definitely like to go there again someday. I'm usually a bit iffy about vegan food being a dairy-lover myself but the variety of flavours and textures here was incredible, especially considering nothing was spicy (other than the curry of course, though that was very mild). Veggie food so often resorts to spiciness to create easy flavour, so to eat such a hearty meal that was entirely vegan let alone vegetarian was a real treat. I adored the mash potato with parsnip and the carrot tarts the most but Molly was a fiend for the Broccoli in pumpkin gravy. Funnily enough two other Sonic people followed us in and we're so used to most of our Sonic online friends going for junk food or whatever is available at the venue on the day that we were like "did they just come in here coz we did? They know it's vegan right? Nerds don't have varied palettes!" Then remembered we too are nerds.
Oh right... Sonic.
After that was Jam with Jun, which was neat since he played a few tracks different from the 25th Anniversary party that I didn't expect, such as This Way Out (Prison Lane) and Be Cool Be Wild Be Groovy (Ice Cap Act 3). We mooched around for a bit and caught up with friends, Molly and I were starting to feel a bit worn out so we grabbed some more coffee during the Iizuka and Naka Q&A which I admit sadly I didn't concentrate on due to the tedium of waiting for translations back and forth. Most of it seemed to be old ground anyway, chatting about their inspirations for Sonic Adventure 1&2 (visiting temples/moving to the US etc). After coffee I decided to go queue for Tyson Hesse.
Molly actually saw him earlier in the day while I was waiting for Sonic Mania. He was about to do a panel, but Molly only wanted a quick sketch of one of his frogs from Boxer Hockey which he was really happy to do for her since it was super quick lol. As I was queuing Molly texted me saying I was in the wrong place coz she could see Tyson and I was nowhere near him. After much confusion and back and forth she realised she was looking at the guy from Hardlight Studios, and only confirmed this once they were called on stage for the Sonic Jump event. To be fair I can see the resemblance lol. Anyway I rejoined the Tyson queue and bought his prints and a copy of Big Fat Adventure. I asked for an Amy doodle in the cover. During the queue I couldn't decide whether I wanted Classic or Modern, since I adored his interpretation of her in Mega Drive, utterly adorable. When he asked, on impulse I just said Modern to be easy since I never know whether saying "you choose" is easier or harder on a tired artist who has been drawing all day lol. When he got 90% through he realised he had accidentally drawn Classic but I didn't have the slightest care because what he had done was super lovely and I was kind of hoping for a goofy/cute expression as the main thing anyway since that's what I loved about Amy in the Mega Drive comic lol. Was great to meet him regardless, super friendly, inspirational and talented guy.
After that it was wind-down time. I grabbed a pen and a sheet of paper from the (as usual mostly hijacked by bored parents) art tables to draw my traditional SoS picture
. Then we had Club Sonic (uploaded two videos
of nice little moments from that). Then of course, the day ended with Crush 40. Johnny, despite saying he wasn't well, did a fantastic performance which I'm glad of after the slight awkwardness of him clearly not being at the top of his game at the 25th party. I love Crush 40 but they did play the same set as the 25th party and this is the third time I've seen them at SoS so for me it was just going through the motions a little, but there's no other way to end the day and it's nice seeing everyone else get pumped up even if I'm an old fuddy-duddy lol. Their new original songs are really good too.
After that we grabbed some overpriced if delicious burgers at St Pancras station and headed straight home since we didn't want to keep pup waiting any longer than he had already. Maybe next time we can sort out a second walkies for him with a friend so we can hang with people more after the event as we did last time. Actually my only disappointment this year was not getting to meet a very close friend of mine who was there but their anxiety was too severe to introduce themselves. The missed opportunity was extremely frustrating and did put a dampener on the day for me a fair bit, but we've talked since and laid our feelings out on the table and everything is cool, just disappointed that things went the way they did. Hopefully next time, if there is a next time, since that was the thing I was looking forward to most this year.
Guess that's it. Overall another success, thank you and well done to all the kickstarter backers, and also naturally, a hundred times the thank you and well done for the organisers, staff and guests who put all that money together into another fantastic SoS!
Sonic CD (Sonic Mania put me in the mood)
Coffee and Biscuits
Sonic CD - Temporal Duality (OCRemix Album) (...Again, Mania)
Gravity Falls - Journal 3 (soon anyway, haven't started it yet). If there is at least one person in your life
whom you consider a close friend,
and whom you would not have met without the internet,
post this sentence in your journal.