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The Joy of the Sonic Hacking Contest


It's that time once again, folks. Sonic Hacking Contest 2020 is almost here and I am very excited for it!

You might be wondering: "Kazama, what is the Sonic Hacking Contest? What's so great about it?" Well, I'll tell you, good sir!

The Sonic Hacking Contest is a contest where the Sonic community show off their latest romhacks and mods based on the Sonic games from retro Genesis games, to the modern ones. The entries are submitted to the judges for evaluation and they'll be awarded based on the quality of the romhack or mod. The contest has been active since 2002, and this year is their 18th entry in the series.

I've experienced various Sonic romhacks in the past. I remember the first romhack I played when I first got into emulators and roms back in the early 2000's was a romhack called Sonic Gaiden (the 2003 romhack, not the Sonic Mania mod). I had so much fun with that game. But looking back at how far we've come with Sonic romhacks, the quality improves overtime. That goes the same for the PC mods for modern Sonic games as well.

When redhotsonic released a trailer for the Sonic Hacking Contest 2020, I was impressed at what I saw. There were a lot of romhacks and mods that I was looking forward to this year. 

Now for the contest itself: SHC2020 has two different entry categories: Contest and Expo. Contest entries are self-explanatory, while the Expo entries are based on fun entries. Think of them as For Glory or For Fun. The reason why they are separated like this is because of what happened with SHC2016 in which there were a lot of entries that were left unfinished or filled with an abundance of joke hacks, leaving the judges frustrated. In other words, it was quantity over quality. 

As for the contest entries, the judges introduced three separate categories based on the entries submitted: Retro, 2D PC, and 3D. All of them will be based on what the judges like, what the community like, and other special awards such as the Polygon Jim award for example.

I have a couple of favorite Sonic romhacks and mods that I've seen and played from the contest. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Sonic Scorched Quest - Formerly known as Sonic 1 Burned Edition during SHC2015, it appeared again on SHC2016 under that name. When I first saw the game, it showed a lot of promise but it was affected by the catekiller glitch that caused the game to glitch out for a few moments, only to crash later on. Team Painto brought it back a year later, which made several improvements and introduced more new things.
  • Sonic: The Next Level - You probably saw this on the High Score documentary on Netflix, but this is a romhack done by MarkyJester. All of the levels are original, plus MarkyJester included a couple of different mechanics into the romhack.
  • Sonic Adventure 2 Randomizer - This one was part of the Contest entries from last year's SHC. I loved how Prahaha managed to alter stages based on the different character's gameplay. I know I played the updated version of the Randomizer and I had a great time with it. Trust me: I streamed the game earlier in the year.
  • Hellfire Saga - Oh my goodness, this romhack right here is amazing. It's a romhack based on Sonic 3&K with a horror-themed aspect to it. The first release on SHC2018 was a great start, but the SCH2019 build is the best one since it has a lifebar and made several improvements in story, levels, and boss battles. Take Classic Sonic, mix it in with Castlevania and Ghosts n Goblins, and you got yourself Hellfire Saga.
  • Sonic Gaiden - Not to be confused with the 2003 romhack, this is a Sonic Mania mod with some interesting levels and a great soundtrack. Still a work in progress, but you'll have a fun time.
  • Metal Sonic Rebooted - This is a Sonic 2 romhack that allows you to play as Metal Sonic and also has several modifications to the levels, new art, new zones, and more. It is also a spiritual successor to Metal Sonic Hyperdrive, which appeared in SHC2014. I believe this romhack won 1st in SHC2017.
  • Dr. Robotnik's Plan B - Another romhack done by Painto. This takes all boss battles from Sonic 1 and completely revamp them to brand new challenges. Fun fact: one of the boss battles from this game is taken from Sonic 1 Burned Edition, while the Labyrinth Zone boss battle is influenced by the Game Gear/Master System port of Sonic 1. This one was also from SHC2016.

This year's contest has a total of 41 Contest entries and 29 Expo entries, bringing it a total to over 70 entries overall. I'm not going to list every game here, but I'd like to talk about what I'm most excited for. I think the ones to look out for this year are:

  • Contest 
    • AMY MANIA 2020 by Troopsushi & CodenameGamma
    • Dash Adventure 2 by AeroIncarnated
    • Gex The Gecko in Sonic 1 by JoenickROS
    • Knuckles' Emerald Hunt Mania by BlueStreakMods
    • Pantufa the cat : Extended Edition by VAdaPEGA
    • Return of Shadow by JoenickROS
    • Sonic 2 Tailsplosion by GTKoopa
    • Sonic Megamix Mania - 2020 DEMO by MegamixManiaTeam
    • Sonic Heroes: Extended Multiplayer Edition by DonutStopGaming
    • Sonic '06 - Greenflower Zone by Knuxfan24
    • Sonic 06 Legacy of Solaris by JotaroPowered
    • Sonic 1 - Point & Click Edition by Nat The Porcupine
  • Expo
    • Chat VS Sonic Mania V2 by CodenameGamma
    • SA2 Vs Chat by MainMemory
    • Sonic R Improvement Mod by Showin
    • Sonic R Mania (Sonic R Texture / Sound Mod) by Rlan
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Encore Mode by SonicFan300
    • Sonic The Hedgehog: RANDOMIZER by cyberkevin
    • Sonic: Painful World Spikes Kazio by Vadim_Super

And of course when there's the Sonic Hacking Contest, there's going to be streamers checking out each entry. Here's a list of streamers that will be participating next week:

Lastly, the other best thing about the contest is the memes. Oh my god, the memes for the contest are hilarious. Most of them are based on what we see on the streams. For example, when I was watching Somecallmejohnny's stream for Day 4 of the SHC2019 showcase last year, there were several memes based on CodenameGamma's Chat vs. Sonic Mania, and it was hilarious. Here's one that IanBough created last year:

But yeah... I can't wait for SHC 2020 Showcase next week. The Sonic hacking and modding communities are creative when it comes to creating these romhacks and mods for existing Sonic games. And I think this year might be its best one yet based on the qualities of the game shown in the trailer. Aside from the new entries, I also want to see returning ones just to see what kind of improvements were made over the previous year.

If you guys have the time, please check out SHC 2020 all next week. If you want to try these games for yourself, I'd recommend using Kega Fusion for the retro games, and also Mod Loaders for the PC ports of existing Sonic games. And if you haven't yet, please give a follow to Sonic Hacking Contest on Twitter because these guys have been keeping the community strong for years.

Until then... Train Up, Fighters! (P.S.: Still waiting on that Mr. Roger's Hack...)

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Virtua Kazama   
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About Virtua Kazamaone of us since 12:55 PM on 07.05.2014

Twitch Affiliate, Let's Player, FGC player, and the host of Virtua Fighter Takeover. I play games: mostly fighters, platformers, beat em' ups, Japanese, Retro, and Modern.

Never miss a livestream! https://twitch.tv/virtuakazama