The Best Sonic Ever

The Best Sonic Ever

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"Sonic Mania... is now the highest-rated Sonic game in 25 years." Sonic Mania is the homage that Sonic fans have been dying for. It's also the perfect combination of old and new, taking the best elements from both worlds and combining them into one game so jam-packed that I literally cannot stop it playing (ask my wife). Sonic Team has been through some pretty tough times after the franchises' initial success (1991-1994). However, with addictive gameplay, silky smooth game design, and a great concept, Christian Whitehead (lead developer) and the Sonic Team really have outdone themselves in releasing Sonic Mania.

The gameplay alone is off the charts. Sonic Mania takes the best of the best from Sonic 1, 2, 3 & K, and Sonic CD. We'll focus on the first two levels; the iconic Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone start the game off right. That thought process right there is why the game is pretty much a perfect artifact. Thinking, "Let's take two of the most popular Sonic the Hedgehog levels ever, and start the game with those," not to mention the logical sequence they're presented in (GHZ, Sonic 1, Level 1 | CPZ, Sonic 2, Level 2).

On top of that, while the music from the original levels is the same, the production software, synth instruments, and therefore the audio quality is next level. As for other features, some of the games bosses are revisited and tossed in randomly (Green Hill Zone's boss is from the end of Sonic 2), some bosses are all new mini-bosses featured in part 1 of each level, and some bosses are brand new-new. Because Whitehead remastered the early 90's game series, he had a lot of assets to pick and choose from. The Special Stage (involving chaos emeralds) was plucked from Sonic CD, and the Checkpoint Stage was snagged from Sonic 3 and Knuckles. The Sonic series of yesteryear wasn't the only contributing factor from the past. Hints of Mega Man and Donkey Kong Country are sprinkled in some of the levels. Check out the badniks and design of Lava Reef Zone 1 and tell me that doesn't remind you of a Mega Man cave level. Thirty seconds into Lava Reef Zone 2 and I swore I was back in the echoey caverns of Slipslide Ride from Donkey Kong Country 1.

Speaking of design, the game art and design are what really tie the game together perfectly. The game begins with the iconic, updated, animation of Sonic waving his finger. Variations of this occur through Sonic 1, 2, 3 & K, and Sonic CD. In Sonic Mania, an additional intro animation plays after the into music ends. This animation is reminiscent of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic books, which feature some great art. So to recap, amazing music, amazing art, amazing gameplay- what more could you ask for? How 'bout an amazing concept for the win.

The concept of taking the backbone from the 90's 2D classics and filling them with updated, incredible script is ingenious. This isn't the first time Sonic Team has tried blending old with new. In Sonic Generations, classic 2D levels from the 90's series were entirely recreated in 3D, but the game felt goofy. Even with successful numbers, it wasn't what a lot of Sonic fans were looking for- Christian Whitehead, however, was. Whitehead successfully remastered Sonic CD (2011), Sonic 1, and Sonic 2 (2013) from scratch using his own game engine, Retro Engine. After proving to be worth his weight in gold, he was given the go ahead to develop Sonic Mania using an updated Retro Engine in collaboration with PagodaWest Games, and we are forever thankful.

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To The Youth Athlete I Was, And The Adult Athlete I'll Never Be

It's amazing how much your passion grows when fulfilling it is no longer an option.
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It’s hard for people that have never fallen in love with a sport to understand the loss when it comes time to find new passions. But everyone can understand the pain of losing something they adore and the never-ending need to explore the “what ifs” and the “I would haves.” As a previous youth, high school and collegiate athlete, it hasn’t been an easy transition into a life without a team, a coach, a practice schedule, and pregame jitters. So, I’ve decided to write a letter to my past and the future I never had to help both myself in coping and athletes or passionates everywhere who are in need of a little inspiration.

To My 14-year-old Self,

If only you knew the way things would play out. Trust me, you wouldn’t be dreading practice or arguing with your dad about how a high school social life is more important than a sport. You’d be working your butt off knowing that the competitive edge and team environment would once be gone without your say or acknowledgment. You should be enjoying practice instead of wishing you could go hang out at Starbucks or spending the evening at the movies.

Looking back on it in a few years, some of those practices will be the best times of your life. Love your teammates: cherish their friendship and their talents. They are your rocks and the only friends who will understand the demand of the sport and the pressure of getting a scholarship. There will come a day when no matter how badly you want to, no matter how hard you work, no matter how many braces you wear, you won’t be able to play anymore. And trust me, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt very badly.

You’re going to want to visit every doctor in the country to reverse the damage that has been done, but it’s just not possible. Every night, you will go to bed wishing you still had your talents and a coach that appreciated them. You’re going to miss the soreness after a long tournament weekend, and you’re going to ache to feel the sensation of pride when your team wins an important game.

The field is a sanctuary—you’ll understand that once life actually begins to get stressful. You’ll need your safe zone and a scapegoat but you won’t have one. I wish you would put more time into one-on-one training and focus more heavily being a better player than you were yesterday. More than anything, I want you to cherish it more. I want you to love it more than anything else in the world. Make smart decisions. When it comes time to rehab, don’t skip it or make excuses for slacking off. I can promise you that one day you will regret every moment you took this sport and the talents you were given for granted. There’s a huge chance that if you work to the best of your abilities, you won’t have to write this letter in six years.

To the Athlete I Could Have Been,

For lack of a better phrase, I hate you. I’m jealous, angry and heartbroken that I’m not in your position. You have no idea how lucky you are to have your health and the ability to do what you love. Do you appreciate it? Do you work every single day to reach your full potential? I sure do hope so. Life isn’t always so fair. It’s a rollercoaster of unexpected turns and flips. You never know what could happen or how quickly it all could be taken away.

Be proactive. Take the necessary precautions to preserve your body. I hope you play every single day like it could be your last time on the field. I hope every sprint is faster than your last, every pass is more accurate than your previous and every decision is for the greater interest of your team. When you have the chance to go on an extra run or do an extra set of squats, do them. It’s amazing how much you want to work out and exert energy the second that you are no longer able to without pain or injuries. Most importantly, I hope you never lose the passion you have for the sport.

Today, without the ability to play, my passion is stronger than ever. I think once you mature and understand the blessing of being an athlete and having something like that to believe in and work for, the love for the game is at its peak. There’s nothing worse than being incapable of channeling that love and adoration for something I once didn’t appreciate. That’s what kills me most.

I wish more than anything in this world that I could be you. I’d give up all the free time, the hours of sleep and the social life for just one more minute on the field. Don’t give up on it. Work for as long as you can. Because once that chapter of your life is gone, there’s no turning back the pages.

Sincerely,

Gina

Your future and present self with four ACL surgeries, one meniscus surgery and 0 more days of playing the beautiful game.

Cover Image Credit: Lifetouch

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4 Things All Former Athletes Miss About Being Part Of A Team

You WILL miss playing sports in college.

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Ever since I was a little girl, I was always on a team, until I came to college. You'd think that after a lifetime of constant practices, meets, and games that I would've been sick of sports by the time college came around. However, I still miss it so much. I miss goofing around at practices with my favorite people while doing the extremely intense workouts our coaches would give us. I miss riding the bus to every meet while blasting music the entire way there and back. Most importantly, I miss competing with all of my friends and cheering each other on for hours upon hours. There are so many things that I miss about being part of a team and I'm sure you do too. I have listed the top four things that I miss about no longer being part of a team.

1. The unbreakable bond that you have with your teammates

You would think that spending hours upon hours with each other at practices, competing, and team bonding experiences that you would be sick of each other, but you actually learn to love your teammates even more. You spend so much time together that they become your best friends and then you find yourselves hanging out with each other even during the little free time that you have.

2. The trust that you have placed in your coach's hands

You spent years trusting your coaches to make you the best at what you do. Spending hours at practices, working extremely hard to accomplish simple goals and them putting all of their faith in you as you compete in your weekly meets truly builds a social trust between you and your coach.

3. Going to practice every day to practice your heart out

Some days you dreaded it and some days you loved it, but no matter the day you always gave it your all at practice. You'll even miss the hard workouts that always kicked your butt because you loved how it felt to be super sore the next day and to know that you were actually getting better. Plus, you were probably always really fit and in shape so that's always good.

4. Competing at meets with your teammates

Getting out of class early a couple of times a week to lay on the bus seat and blast music with your teammates until you finally get to the school and then doing the exact same thing on the way back. Pretending your teammates hear you cheering them on while they kill it and pretending you hear them cheering you on even though you all are way too focused to hear that, but you still always appreciate it. Not to mention for some athletes, the awful tan lines that you low-key love, but could never get rid of your entire life.

Being part of a team is one of the best experiences I've ever had and I will forever miss it.

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