Monthly Roundup: August 2017

This month sure flew like clockwork, didn’t it? I’ve been so busy and so productive lately with job-hunting and other things, whilst going out and enjoying myself with friends that it’s officially the end of the month.

I would love to hear how your month went, I am keen to find out whether you enjoyed August, and if not, please feel free to submit your response below in the comments. I would love to hear what you got up to over the course of August.

Without further ado, I will take a look back on the articles I published over the course of August.

1.8.2017 – Welcoming all of you to August, I mentioned that the next few weeks were set to be peaceful, but also a little busy, as I had my next batch of photographs on the way very soon, which would feature a certain someone who is a very close friend of mine.

2.8.2017 – “Should We Change at the Expense of Others?” was my way of getting all of you to see the way I see things from a personal perspective, considering that changing ourselves at the expense of others would mean we would put ourselves in a position where we’re made to change ourselves in order to be socially acceptable to everyone else.

9.8.2017 – A few weeks prior to writing the article: “Croydon Murals Defaced Beyond Recognition”, I spoke about the beautifully exquisite Amy Winehouse: “Tears Dry On Their Own” mural, which was produced by the artist, Bareface, in conjunction with and as commissioned by the RISE Gallery.

I published this article, because on Saturday 5th August 2017, me and two close friends of mine paid a visit to Katharine Street because we wanted to find out if the mural of Amy Winehouse was still in the same finished state it was when I photographed it just a few weeks before.

Sadly, on closer inspection, I was devastated to discover that not only had the mural been defaced, but a grey block and teardrop were drawn just below her eye, with some graffiti etched onto the back of Bareface’s clothing, which ultimately destroyed Bareface’s true work of art.

15.8.2017 – It was a long time coming! Sonic Mania finally arrived and officially marked a nostalgic return to form with the help of Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi & Headcannon!

Reliving 26 years of some of the most iconic levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic CD and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Mania revisited Green Hill Zone with an easter egg of an old landscape that was ditched from the final release of Sonic the Hedgehog, with the zip-line being re-introduced, and a lost level which was meant to appear in the original Sonic games but never got used finally came to Sonic Mania, and that was Mirage Saloon Zone. Studiopolis Zone, which is an all-new level, officially débuted in Sonic Mania with a city-like landscape that made it feel a little like Stardust Speedway, Casino Nights and Carnival Night Zone mixed in.

22.8.2017 – Following on from when I photographed my close friends, Saviyon Thomas & Shaquille Roachford, I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to photograph my close friend, the actor and mental health awareness campaigner, Oli Regan, again, but this time for my photography series: “The Concept of Expression”.

As I look to explore the concept of expression in the subjects I photograph, photographing Oli gave me the chance to explore his personality, regardless of the angle, but more importantly, as body language is a consistent boundary for the subject’s facial expression, photographing Oli again gave me the chance to explore his personality through these photo headshots, as well as his persona, so in this case, because he’s an actor, he puts on a serious face, which makes the photos interesting, considering that being serious really makes him stand out.

Thanks for such a great month everyone. Although it has been quite the busy month, I wanted to take a moment to remember the TV legend and Strictly Come Dancing presenter, Sir Bruce Forsyth, who sadly passed away on the 18th August 2017, but I also wanted to take this opportunity to also pay my full respects to all the victims and all the families who have lost their loved ones as a result of Hurricane Harvey. My thoughts are with all of you at this time.

Again, thanks for a great and busy month everyone and I will see you all in September. To everyone going through Hurricane Harvey, stay strong, but always know I’ll keep you all in my prayers and hope this hurricane ends soon.

Alex Smithson

Sonic Mania: A Nostalgic Return to Form.

It’s been a long time coming! Sonic Mania has finally arrived and is a nostalgic return to form with the help of Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi & Headcannon!

Reliving 26 years of some of the most iconic levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic CD and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Mania revisits Green Hill Zone with an easter egg of an old landscape that was ditched from the final release of Sonic the Hedgehog, with the zip-line being re-introduced, and a lost level which was meant to appear in the original Sonic games but never got used finally came to Sonic Mania, and that lost level was Mirage Saloon. Studiopolis is an all-new level that officially débuts in Sonic Mania with a city-like landscape that makes it feel a little like Stardust Speedway, Casino Nights and Carnival Night Zone mixed in.

After such a long wait, Flying Battery Zone has officially been revived and is officially a part of Sonic Mania, which wasn’t just a fan favourite, but is also one of the most iconic levels taken from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic & Knuckles, a level of which I absolutely love. Both Acts for Flying Battery Zone have had some changes here and there with access to some new and unseen areas, giving all gamers a chance to discover certain parts of both levels that have never been seen before.

Chemical Plant Zone has returned in Sonic Mania but with a difference; Chemical Plant Act 2 contains an upbeat sound whilst giving gamers like myself the chance to go inside the Chemical Plant. This gives the Sonic franchise a new lease of life considering that Chemical Plant is often seen in some or most of the games released in the Sonic series. The last known appearance that Chemical Plant made was in Sonic Generations, but this time, it’s back with quite a few changes. The songs for Chemical Plant receive up-to-date futuristic sounds, modernising the old into the new.

The man behind the soundtrack for Sonic Mania is Tee Lopes, who, just like Christian Whitehead, is also a massive fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series and his work on making the soundtrack for Sonic Mania is sure to make everyone’s eyes water with joy.

Special Stages are back and have an eerily similar feel to the Sonic CD Special Stages, though you will need to think quickly and act quickly to catch the UFO that carries the Chaos Emerald per each Special Stage that you play.

Eggman is back but with a difference. Working alongside him, the Hard-Boiled Heavies aim to manipulate the timestream by stealing the mysterious gemstone, which is revealed to be the Phantom Ruby, which is the energy source Tails picked up on one of his energy readings far away from Angel Island Zone.

The new levels that make their début in Sonic Mania are Press Garden Zone, Oil Ocean Zone & Titanic Monarch Zone, though the other few notable levels that have been revived for Sonic Mania are Stardust Speedway Zone, Metallic Madness Zone, Hydrocity Zone and Lava Reef Zone.

Does Sonic Mania live up to the hype and anticipation?

Of course, it does! Sonic Mania brings about the nostalgic days of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, including Sonic CD. With past levels, such as Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Flying Battery Zone, Lava Reef Zone, Hydrocity Zone, Stardust Speedway Zone & Metallic Madness Zone making a comeback, Sonic Mania truly lives up to the hype and anticipation me and everyone else have waited for. Sonic Mania was delayed earlier this year as more time was required and some more levels were being added in, but I was glad it was delayed until today for its release as a delayed game is better than a rushed game.

Does Sonic Mania capture the true essence of old-school retro games?

Definitely! Because Sonic Mania has revived some of the well-known and well-loved levels from the 16-Bit Sonic franchise, the old-school retro appeal gives Sonic Mania the true essence that it needs. The true essence of old-school retro games is the nostalgia the games carry, and for Sonic Mania, it does exactly that, it captures the true essence of old-school retro gaming.

How many levels are in Sonic Mania?

In their particular order, the levels that are in Sonic Mania are:

  1. Green Hill Zone
  2. Chemical Plant Zone
  3. Studiopolis Zone
  4. Flying Battery Zone
  5. Press Garden Zone
  6. Stardust Speedway Zone
  7. Hydrocity Zone
  8. Mirage Saloon Zone
  9. Oil Ocean Zone
  10. Lava Reef Zone
  11. Metallic Madness Zone
  12. Titanic Monarch Zone

I must admit, when I heard that Titanic Monarch was a completely new level, I was a little bit stunned at first with the name, but I was pleased the name was used as the name pays homage and pays tribute to the RMS Titanic ship that sunk on the 15th April 1912, 105 years ago. Although this might not seem like a relevant connection between the level and the ship, it certainly pays tribute respectively as the name remembers the ship perfectly. Fair play to Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi, Headcannon & SEGA for paying homage and for paying tribute to the RMS Titanic, I think it’s a perfectly respectful and touching gesture.

Below are the screenshots for Sonic Mania that I managed to gather together during gameplay.

Below is the video playlist I’ve created for Sonic Mania. Please feel free to watch the gameplay footage I have uploaded to my YouTube Channel, and if you have a YouTube Channel and want to see gameplay footage from Sonic Mania, please make sure to like, comment and subscribe.

Sonic Mania hasn’t just proved to be so popular, but because Sonic Mania has brought back the nostalgia and magic of past games, this gives the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise a new lease of life and also brings to the table the potential for more Sonic games and potential sequels now that Sonic Mania has exceeded mine and everyone else’s expectations. Sonic Forces follows on from Sonic Mania this holiday season, but I can be absolutely sure from my own perspective, that the Sonic franchise will be open to the potentiality of more games and sequels.Sonic Mania has me falling in love with retro games once again.

To conclude, Sonic Mania has me falling in love with retro games once again.

If you haven’t yet purchased your copy of Sonic Mania, I strongly recommend you do, because Sonic Mania isn’t just a nostalgic game worth playing, it’s a game that stays completely true to the entire Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. What are you waiting for? Purchase your copy of Sonic Mania now! If you pre-ordered the PC version of Sonic Mania on Steam before today, the PC version will be released on the 29th August 2017. To make up for polishing the PC Version, those who pre-ordered the PC version of Sonic Mania before the 15th August will receive a free copy of the first ever Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog.

SEGA, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi and Headcannon, including all those involved in the making of Sonic Mania, you are awesome! Thanks for making Sonic Mania the perfectly crafted masterpiece it truly is, but more importantly, thanks for taking me and everyone else for a nostalgic trip down memory lane. You are all awesome and all of you rock!

Alex Smithson

© SEGA, Sonic Team, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Lola Shiraishi, PagodaWest Games & Headcannon 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

© The Sonic Mania logo, including all the screenshots, all of the gameplay videos, thumbnails and official art, are all copyright of SEGA, Sonic Team, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Lola Shiraishi, PagodaWest Games and Headcannon. Full copyright goes to the respective owners.

Sonic Mania Rating: 10/10

Sonic Mania. Out 15th August!

After a lot of hype, a lot of anticipation and a lot of excitement, Sonic Mania will officially grace our screens on the 15th August!

This news couldn’t have come at a better time, as this year will mark 26 years since Sonic the Hedgehog graced our screens.

Christian Whitehead, PagodaWest Games & Headcannon, who are responsible for making Sonic Mania a reality, showed us Green Hill Zone, including Studiopolis & Mirage Saloon, which are two new levels for the Sonic franchise, with past-time favourites, such as Flying Battery Zone and Stardust Speedway even making a comeback.

I must admit, when SEGA announced the game was being delayed until the Summer, I wasn’t sure at first, but I am so glad they delayed it because it made more sense to delay the game so that it could give them more time to make sure the game could not only capture the magic of the first three Sonic games, but that Sonic Mania could pay homage to the franchise itself. Stardust Speedway, which made its debut in Sonic CD (or Sonic the Hedgehog CD, however you choose to call it), which last featured in Sonic Generations and in Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (Episode II) for the segment, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode Metal, returns in Sonic Mania with modernised visuals that go old-school, which is what myself and every Sonic the Hedgehog fan wanted.

Overall, I have a strong feeling this game will not just be popular once it’s released, but I can guarantee this game will be a smash-hit for SEGA when it is released before the next Sonic game in the Sonic franchise, Sonic Forces. Sonic Mania is most definitely the game I will be playing and reviewing so stay tuned as there’s more to come, what with Miles “Tails” Prower and Knuckles the Echidna also returning in Sonic Mania!

Are you excited for Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces? Please let me know. I would love to hear your response.

Alex Smithson

Welcome to March!

Welcome to March on Mother Nature! As you can see, I have decided to go retro with the article image and do it up in the inspired style of Sonic Mania, considering that Sonic Mania is set to be released within the next few months. There is news just around the corner surrounding Sonic Mania and Project Sonic 2017, which I am excited about and I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on Sonic Mania when it comes out. If Project Sonic 2017 gets an official title and if there’s all-new gameplay featuring both Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic, then I shall consider the possibility of buying the Project Sonic 2017 if it lives up to the hype. I know SEGA & Christian Whitehead both have one heck of a great year ahead so I am pretty sure they will exceed our expectations any which way.

The next few weeks are going to be much busier considering my Summative Assessment deadline for the Self-Directed Curiosity Project is right near the end of this month, so I will be making sure to work my socks off as I am so determined to pass and bump last year’s grade up to a Merit or Distinction at least. Also, I will be working harder than usual over the course of the next few weeks as I have a GCSE English Speaking & Listening Assessment coming up which I am currently preparing for, so I hope it goes well, so fingers crossed! Meanwhile, I will be making sure to put all of the hard work in with my GCSE Maths coursework as I seriously want to pass this time around.

Spring is ready to embrace its beautiful side and with the clocks going forward towards the end of the month, it is safe to say that Mother Nature will blossom with vibrant colours and displays. Not only that, but with the temperature of the weather slowly going back to normal, I cannot wait to enjoy the lovely Spring weather once again. The clocks are set to go forward as part of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday 26th March 2017 at 1:00 AM so I thought it would be wise to let you all know in advance so you know exactly when the clocks go forward.

I should warn you as I read something a short while back for when the clocks went back that if you have any devices with Airplane Mode switched on, such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch and any Android devices and smartwatches, then it’s recommended that Airplane Mode must be switched off very briefly in order for every device’s clock to go back or forward an hour. I am prepared for the clocks to go forward so to speak, but even so, why waste time when you make the most of it by making the best out of it?

If I am able to find the free time over the next few weeks, I may consider doing some drawings that I can publish on here, or if I head out to certain places in and around London over the next few weeks to photograph anything nature-based for my coursework, then I will make sure to publish any photography work I produce on this website.

Until then, Welcome to March!

Alex Smithson

Sonic Generations: A Shift Between Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic

As Sonic Generations marked the 20th Anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, it was clear that this game had everything to offer, because for the first time, and with Stereoscopic 3D, you would get to see Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic in an entirely nostalgic form that would shift between the past and the present. I will not deny this, but I have played the game myself and I absolutely love it, because it delivers and creates not just a nostalgic feeling that makes you think of the good old days of Classic Sonic, but it gives you the approach that Sonic is back and Retro is back too.

As a massive SEGA fan, I love the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and have played previous games, such as Sonic Heroes, Sonic Rush and even the Christian Whitehead reboots of Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and I won’t lie, I wish I played Sonic Generations sooner, because it’s one of those games where you cannot afford to not play it to appreciate and understand the true aspects behind how the game was really made, as well as the hard work that SEGA went to in order to modernise and remaster past levels.

For the first time, you can play these levels in modern form:

  • Green Hill Zone (Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog)
  • Chemical Plant (Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
  • Stardust Speedway (Metal Sonic Rival Battle) [Classic Sonic] {Taken from Sonic CD}
  • Death Egg Robot (Boss) [Classic Sonic] {Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog 2}
  • Shadow the Hedgehog (Rival Battle) [Modern Sonic] {Taken from Sonic Adventure 2 Battle}
  • Sky Sanctuary (Taken from Sonic & Knuckles)
  • Speed Highway (Taken from Sonic Adventure)
  • City Escape (Taken from Sonic Adventure 2)
  • Seaside Hill (Taken from Sonic Heroes)
  • Crisis City (Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog) [2006]
  • Silver the Hedgehog (Rival Battle) [Modern Sonic] {Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog ’06)
  • Perfect Chaos (Taken from Sonic Adventure)
  • Rooftop Run (Taken from Sonic Unleashed)
  • Planet Wisp (Taken from Sonic Colours)
  • Egg Dragoon (Taken from Sonic Unleashed)

Also, for the first time, you can play the final boss in the level, Time Eater. If you have all of the 7 Chaos Emeralds, you will be able to play as Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic but as Classic Super Sonic & Modern Super Sonic, and you will be able to fight Dr. Robotnik & Dr. Eggman.

If you have the PlayStation 3 version of Sonic Generations, it comes bundled with the first ever Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog, which is an added bonus considering you can play two games as well as one. To get the first ever Sonic game in Sonic Generations, you need to buy the SEGA Mega Drive Controller in the game with the points that you collect through every level that you have completed and don’t worry, you don’t pay extra money for the game at all, you just use the points you earn in the game for every level to get the controller in the game and you’re ready to go at any time.

Below are some screenshots from some of the Classic & Modern levels of Sonic Generations if you want to relive the nostalgia of past Sonic the Hedgehog games.

It’s hard to believe it was five years ago this game was released, and I won’t lie, playing this game has made me realise just how much technology has evolved in the gaming world, and not only that, but to see games from past time being remastered, it’s amazing how some games still capture that nostalgic appeal from the last 10 to 20 years.

I felt it was right to write a review on this game considering it’s exactly 25 years this year since the first ever Sonic game was released, and to continue the celebrations, Christian “Taxman” Whitehead, who has ported Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 & Sonic CD to smartphones and consoles, is working again with SEGA and also with PagodaWest and Headcannon on the upcoming 2017 Sonic game, Sonic Mania, which will relive the nostalgia of past levels from some games, including some new levels, though some of the new levels will be new to me as I have never seen them before, apart from watching clips of Sonic Mania on YouTube and on some gaming websites. Also, as the as yet untitled Project Sonic 2017 game is being developed for the XBOX ONE, the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch and also for Laptop / PC, it’s safe to say that SEGA have a fantastic year ahead. 2017 is going to be SEGA’s year, and I am absolutely sure of that.

What do I think of Sonic Generations? I love the game with a passion, because it relives the nostalgic appeal that I had with past games, such as Sonic Heroes & Sonic Unleashed, and because I have played Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic CD & Sonic Heroes, including Sonic & The Secret Rings and Sonic Colours, Sonic Generations really captures the heart of what made SEGA, and Sonic Generations as a whole captures the flare that past Sonic the Hedgehog games had as well.

Overall, I am absolutely glad to have played this game and I will still continue to play the game anytime and also because the HD Graphics on the game are perfectly crisp, and you can’t help but feel like as if you’ve immersed yourself in the game even though you’re the one playing the game. Sonic Generations is such a fantastic game and I absolutely love the fact that SEGA have decided to give past levels from past games the new lease of life they deserve.

One more thing. If you haven’t got Sonic Generations, then I strongly recommend you buy it for the PlayStation 3 as it is on the PlayStation Essentials list, or if you have a Laptop / PC, then it will be available to purchase on Steam.

I wholeheartedly recommend Sonic Generations.

If you enjoyed my review of Sonic Generations, then please feel free to comment below your feedback on this review. All feedback is much appreciated and to end this review on a high note, I just want to say this:

THANK YOU SEGA FOR SUCH A FANTASTIC AND NOSTALGIC GAME!

Alex Smithson

© SEGA & Sonic Team 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

© Any logos / promotional images used, such as the SONIC GENERATIONS Trademark, the Registered SEGA Trademark, including the promotional image of Classic Sonic the Hedgehog & Modern Sonic the Hedgehog, including the concept art behind the logo and the game’s screenshots are all copyright of SEGA & Sonic Team. No Copyright Infringement Intended.

Sonic CD: Old-School Retro Meets Modern Gaming

As I share my love for SEGA‘s blue mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic CD officially went widescreen, thanks to Christian “Taxman” Whitehead, who is best known for porting SEGA’s iconic classics, Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to consoles, smartphones and even tablets and as I was lucky to grab a copy of Sonic CD via iTunes, I started playing on the game and I can be honest, it is much better now compared to the 1993 SEGA CD release.

As Sonic CD was also re-released for the PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, Android, Steam and Windows Phone, it was safe to say that the Classic Sonic we all knew and loved was back and to be honest, playing the game in widescreen is so much better now than before as you can finally feel comfortable playing a treasured classic from the past without needing to go back to a certain area in each level that you play.

The 7 time stones, later known as the Chaos Emeralds in the future Sonic the Hedgehog games, were the crucial pieces of the puzzle that would come together once you claimed them through 7 Special Stages in the game. This, of course, would give Sonic the Hedgehog the ability to defeat Eggman once and for all, or Dr. Robotnik as Sonic’s arch nemesis is most famously known as.

I won’t lie to you, it’s such a good game to play and it has the old-school retro appeal that can make you feel like as if you were in the 1990’s playing this game the moment it was released. I love the game, as it is different in its own right, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel like you wished you played this game sooner.

It’s hard to believe it was 23 years ago that this game was released, it’s amazing how the time flies, but when you consider how much technology and gaming have evolved, it’s amazing to see old games becoming new again, and it’s also amazing to see old games being revived for the big screen. Sonic CD was remastered to be played in 16:9 widescreen and it is Full HD, so you’re getting the best from this game, even if you have or haven’t played it before.

But overall, Sonic CD is such a fantastic game and you cannot go wrong with such a fantastic old-school classic like this. Sonic CD’s old-school retro appeal has officially met the modern gaming world and it’s safe to say that this game is worth downloading and is worth playing. I wholeheartedly recommend playing the game, because the moment you start playing it, those seconds turn into minutes, and those minutes quickly turn into hours of gameplay.

If you enjoyed my review of SEGA’s Sonic CD, please feel free to submit feedback. All feedback is much appreciated.

Alex Smithson

© SEGA & Sonic Team 1993, 2016

© Any logos / promotional images used, such as the SONIC CD Trademark, including the promotional image of Metal Sonic & Sonic the Hedgehog side-to-side are all copyright of SEGA & Sonic Team. No Copyright Infringement Intended.