“I've always loved the way fifth gen graphics [such as those on the N64] motivated people to use their imagination to fill in most of what's going on,” Azura Hardware, developer of the fan-made Sonic Storm, tells me. “There's a level of edge to the low poly look that'd be extremely difficult to replicate with current graphics' standards. Plus, the PlayStation was my childhood console, so fifth gen is the look I'm definitely most attached to.”
Sonic Storm looks like the return to form fans of the Blue Blur have been waiting for. Big 3D levels filled with rails to grind, rings to collect, and secrets to find make for an excellent playground that the official games don’t always deliver on.
“Level design is extremely difficult, and part of why it took so long was being scared of making terrible levels,” says Hardware. “What kicked me into high gear was announcing a deadline publicly for the testfire. Most of the tutorial level was made just that week in a frenzied panic. It's helping me learn so I can't complain.”
Although she describes her development process as sporadic, Hardware is planning to release Sonic Storm as a full game. “Absolute best case scenario – if stars align – will be November 2022,” she tells me. “I think realistically the release date could be somewhere around May 2023.”
No matter when it comes out, it will be a full game. “Part of the fun of Sonic Storm is having all of your records and rankings be immediately available since the mechanics are designed around additive speed, giving massive incentive to speedrun,” she explains. “The last thing I'll release before the full game is the Hyperdemo, which is already in smooth development.”
Hardware is confident that Sonic Storm will stay on Sega’s good side since the company’s response to Sonic Mania was so positive. “I think where we are now is perfect,” she says. “Sega allowing fan games to exist and even acknowledging or bringing fan creators on for celebration pieces is already in itself amazing, as long as no one pokes the bear and takes advantage of that by throwing monetization into the mix, but I also feel like if Sega started picking up more fan games the community would split even further and start spiralling into anarchy. I'm fine with fan games being where they're at now and Sonic Mania being the exception.”
In order to avoid poking the echidna, Hardware has assured: “Every aspect of Sonic Storm is free and will stay free.” The game is also composed of almost completely original work, so she’s prepared to overhaul the characters and story to move away from the Sonic IP should Sega put its foot down.
Hardware is also optimistic about the future of official Sonic games. “Sonic Forces was the most linear a Sonic game has ever been, so the fact that we're getting the complete opposite for Sonic Frontiers was certainly surprising, and definitely a welcome change to me,” she says. “I'm excited to see what direction they choose to take.”
If you want to stay up to date with the development of this project, Check out the Sonic Storm YouTube and Twitter.
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