Sonic P-06: Impressions On The Fan Remake
One of the best things about video games is the fanbase. You could argue that’s also one of its worst aspects as well. I’d argue that it’s any form of entertainment’s worst aspect. The passion expressed through the very media we consume is what makes the video game fanbase unique. This passion is no more apparent than through the fan remake of the infamous Sonic ’06 game.
Youtuber ChaosX is the project’s developer. It’s called Project ’06 or Sonic P-06. Recently, an updated demo featuring more content than the first released. I had my had at it and I have to say, it’s not bad.
Before I take a deeper dive into how I feel about the demo itself, allow me to give a little back story. I used to be a huge Sonic fan in the past. One of the first Sonic games I ever owned on my first console, which was an Xbox 360, was Sonic ’06. It wasn’t the first Sonic game I ever played, but it was one of the first games I owned on a console. So the game itself is kind of unique for me.
Don’t get me wrong, Sonic ’06 is incredibly flawed. It deserved all of the bashings it received upon its release. That’s why it’s nothing short of incredible that people are actually willing to put out the dumpster fire that is this game. Few fanbases of any media are willing to put in the time and effort to fix their favorite franchises. The only one that even attempts to come close that I can think of is the Fallout franchise. And even that’s starting to fall off due to the embarrassment that is Fallout 76.
It’s 2019 and people are doing their damndest to breathe life into a game that was dead on arrival more than 10 years ago. It’s also a testament to the powerful public tools that we have these days.
Project ’06 utilizes the Unity Engine and my god does it make this game look pretty. For its time, Sonic ’06 was a graphically impressive game in some parts more than others really… Even today, ’06 doesn’t look too bad considering the looks of its anthropomorphic cast, and the art style of its levels. Project ’06 takes everything to the next level though. With improved lighting, colors, character models, animations, visual effects and all the customizable options afforded to PC games, you can really appreciate the amount of detail that goes into just the textures of Sonic and the company’s fur patterns. You can see a side-by-side comparison here. It’s on an older build than the one I’m going over here but the difference is still apparent.
Visuals are only a small part of a game’s appeal though. For the sake of length, I’ll just briefly focus on the three aspects of gameplay I look for when I start up a modern Sonic game and how I feel about them in this project: Control, Flow/Momentum, and Level Design.
Right from the jump, this game feels so much better in terms of control when compared to the original. I haven’t played the original in a while but I do remember Sonic feeling very stiff. It also took him a century to get up to speed. Ever since the adventure games, it’s been a bit of a struggle for Sonic Team to capture the ideal handling for characters in a Sonic game. This game gets it just about perfect. Jumping feels a bit floaty. It’s easy enough to adjust to, though. Getting rolling with Sonic can sometimes lead to a slight loss of control. It makes you want to jump just to correct and reorient yourself. It’s not nearly as slippery as Sonic Heroes.
Homing attacks give the player more control over where they can push Sonic after one connects. This is one of the biggest control issues I have with the original. The lack of free movement after a homing attack connects was really restricting. It’s not nearly as free as the adventure titles, but it’s a welcome change.
Unfortunately, the camera is still pretty god-awful. I feel it’s a bit too close to your character in some situations. I wouldn’t mind seeing it being pulled back at times just to get a better view of the enemies you’re engaging. It also struggles to keep up with your character when dashing around in a fight. Again, I think pulling it back in some of the mandatory fights would be beneficial. Also, the action sequences that jerk the camera in a set direction during some set-pieces during gameplay have killed me more than helped me. That might just be more a result of me being impatient though.
A lot of people assume that Sonic is all about going fast. While this is true, I think a lot of people use ‘going fast’ as a misguided umbrella phrase of sorts. Sonic games are all about momentum, in my opinion anyway. If nothing else, Sonic games always let players chain moves together in an efficient way. It rewards you with a near-seamless and fast flow through a level. Spin-dashing through an enemy before jumping into another one that allows you to chain a series of homing attacks into a couple more before bouncing into an air-dash out of there is always satisfying.
A problem with ’06 is how it will routinely break the player’s flow. Either through bad controls, bad design, glitches, bugs or bad move utility, ’06 never failed to break flow and momentum in every level in some way. Unfortunately, since this game is a pretty faithful recreation, just with improved control and much less glitchy, design choices that break flow is still there. Although, implementations by the developer does its best to keep things going where it can. For instance, most jumps out of spring pads no long kill all of Sonic’s momentum. Air dashes now retain Sonic’s forward momentum instead of dropping him like a rock after curling out of the dash. Bouncing leaves room for greater player input, making it way more useful when engaging enemies just to move around the field without coming to a complete stop or strictly resorting to running.
Again, it’s been a while since I played ’06. I’m unsure how many of these little momentum boosters were in the original. There are a ton more changes made to the side characters as well that help them play better. While the base design still kills flow at times, some of these character quality of life changes do their best to keep things going once you’ve gotten a handle on them. I wouldn’t mind seeing a stomp move added either, similar to the boost games, which quickly halt all of Sonic’s momentum when slamming the ground and can be subsequently chained into an instant spin-dash. That’d be pretty sick.
While the levels are more fun given the improved character control and abilities, the design is still plagued by the original’s blunders. Plenty of design choices still make it feel like taking hits isn’t entirely your fault; evil enemy placement, speed traps and decisions that just unnecessarily break up the flow of the level itself. This isn’t really ChoasX’s fault. You can chalk it up to the original’s design. It would be nice if maybe a few liberties were taken to clean up some of the more basic design choices though.
For instance, in Flame Core, I could do without the molten rocks at the very beginning stealing your rings like a thief just because you happen to be running in a place that one fell with little indication to the player along a stretch of land. I’m pretty sure they do fall in a set pattern, but it’s such a tedious thing to remember in a fast-paced game like this, especially if there’s nothing there to tell the player that they’re coming. It just feels like they shouldn’t be there at all.
There are some other small things I noticed as well such as getting stuck on level geometry at times. Small spots like a raised transition that looks like I should be able to just run right over it have caused me to stop dead in my tracks and run in place. And while the physics is much better here, in some mock speed sections, I found myself flying out of the level to my death after hitting a ledge at an awkward angle after jumping over a gap. This was most apparent during Kingdom Valley’s speed section.
Overall, this remake is an excellent makeover to Sonic ’06. It plays better and it looks better. While there are some things you can’t fix about the entire game, namely the barf-worthy story and the horrible hub sections complete with the terrible town missions, I look forward to what else this project has in store in the future. At the very least, I wouldn’t mind giving all of the levels another shot with these improved controls and polish. If the rest of the levels ever become available, I’ll certainly see what they have to offer.
If you want to try the demo for yourself, you can find the download of it in the description of this video here.
What do you think of Project ’06? Do you think Sonic ’06 is really a game worth reviving? Leave your comments below!
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Follow James on Twitter @DatBlackGhost.