Summer of Sonic 2012 has come and gone – and we hope you all came away with some fond memories of the event. Getting to know other fans, rocking out to Crush 40, laughing at the insanity of Never Mind the BuzzBombers, meeting some of your Sonic Heroes… there was a lot to see and do at this, our fifth anniversary of the convention. For us, we certainly felt it was the best Summer of Sonic we’ve ever held! Everything went to plan, minor hiccups were swiftly averted, and every one of us had time to really enjoy some time with you guys. It was relaxing, exciting, and the best fun we’ve ever had.
But it could have been so different. For just a day before, we came so close to not having a convention at all. As we were setting up the Hove Town Hall in Brighton – the convention’s original venue – things seemed to be running smoothly (we even have pictures, look) until an electrical fire caused a power cut. The majority of our setup day was spent waiting on the call to come back in and continue our work – that call never came. In what became a very brief nightmare for all of us, we had nowhere to go.
It was due to some very quick thinking by our friends at SEGA and agency Indigo Pearl that we were able to default on our backup choice – the two-floored Syndicate Wing at the Brighton Centre. The decision to move the venue was made in the late afternoon on Friday 6th July. From that point onwards, every single volunteer gave his last ounce of strength to shift equipment, create new floorplans, re-calculate sound checks and inform all attendees of the last-minute change.
It’s funny that I start our Summer of Sonic 2012 story on a tragedy, but I tell this because on Saturday, you wouldn’t have noticed we even had a problem. In fact, we’re starting to believe that the Brighton Centre worked out so well for us, that we couldn’t have imagined the day going any better at the Hove Town Hall. It’s like Summer of Sonic was made for this venue.
And you all seemed to think so too. You came in your hundreds, all redirected to the new venue without a hitch, and were just as eager to get into the doors as you are every year! Over the course of the day, you guys really made the Brighton Centre your home away from home for the day. Within minutes, the ground floor was completely covered with Sonic fans of all ages, from all corners of the community – those who grew up with the original games on Mega Drive, younger fans weaned on Sonic Heroes, comic and cartoon fans and much more.
Then Rory and I took the stage to welcome the crowd. But not before the Summer of Sonic was hijacked yet again! This time, Dr. Eggman had plans to steal the show and to turn the convention into the Winter of Eggman. But, he is foiled at the last minute by a familiar face… Tails Doll! The stuffed toy’s intervention, animated by the one and only BoozermaN, caused many cheers throughout the hall and was a perfect start to the day.
Once attendees were made aware that there was an upstairs floor to the convention, everyone fanned out and made good use of the space available. And there was just as much reason to head to the top – a canteen area was serving Chili Dogs among other snacks, the always-popular art area allowed fans to sit down and draw their favourite Sonic characters, and the entry desk for the Cosplay Contest was also situated there. During the day, judges would sit at the Cosplay desk and rate the best costumes before the best ten would take to the stage.
The upper floor was also the home for Sonic the Comic legends Nigel Kitching and Nigel Dobbyn. Kitching was responsible for pretty much expanding the Sonic universe for kids of the 1990s with his incredible Freedom Fighters story arc, while Dobbyn is still revered for his excellent artwork and stunning renditions of Knuckles and other Sonic characters. Needless to say, their desk was constantly packed, with an orderly queue forming of fans eager to talk to them and learn art tips from the masters. A number of extremely talented fan artists were situated next to the two Nigels, showcasing their impressive skills to others.
Sonic Merchandise, the official outlet for Sonic paraphernalia, attended with style at Summer of Sonic 2012, commanding a corner of the upstairs floor with a huge array of items for fans to buy. These included two limited edition Sonic and Eggman T-shirts that fans went nuts for. Plushies, iPad skins, figurines and posters were just some of the other collectibles that fans could buy. Just next to Sonic Merchandise was the official Crush 40 Merchandise booth, which had exclusive posters, CDs and T-shirts that Sonic rockers would be proud of!
Downstairs was no slouch on the action, either. On top of the main stage, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed saw its first public preview. Fans got to play it first at Summer of Sonic, well ahead of its November release date. SEGA and SUMO Digital received a lot of helpful feedback (as well as a mountain of praise) for the game. Signing desks were also placed on the ground floor, where attendees could get to meet with the day’s other VIP guests: Sonic Team leader Takashi Iizuka, SUMO Digital’s Steve Lycett and Tim Spencer, and Crush 40′s Jun Senoue and Johnny Gioeli.
Johnny, in particular, showed his fun personality throughout the day – not least during the entertaining quiz show Never Mind the BuzzBombers. My team engaged in epic quizzical battle with Adam’s team, and the rounds included this year were great fun. One mask-wearing round tasked each team with asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions to correctly guess which Sonic character they were and from what recent Sonic game. I thought I was a Motobug from Sonic Colours, when I was in fact Amy Rose from Sonic Unleashed. Adam couldn’t figure out who he was (Elise from Sonic 2006) until everyone started making jokes about how he shouldn’t cry. Ultimately, Adam’s team was victorious, with his guests winning a limited edition Sonic the Hedgehog 20th Anniversary statue and Sonic Generations t-shirt, contained in a custom Mega Drive style box.
Jun Senoue, one half of Crush 40 and the sound director for the Sonic series, took to the stage for his collaborative ‘Jam with Jun’ segment. The crowd went wild as he played instrumental versions of Station Square, as well as a medley from Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II. Later, he invited Daniele Narducci and Jasmine Lindsay to sing two classic Sonic theme songs. Daniele sang It Doesn’t Matter to a roaring audience, while Jasmine stunned the crowd with her rendition of Believe in Myself. Talented fans Daryl Sautter and Anthony Turner also jammed with Jun – Daryl played the violin to Emerald Coast from Sonic Adventure and Anthony riffed on his guitar to Metal Harbor from Sonic Adventure 2. Both performances were amazing! No doubt these guys have a great career in music ahead of them.
The Jam with Jun segment concluded with a surprise – Johnny Gioeli wanted to jam early! And so a surprise performance of I Am… All of Me rocked the house well in advance of Crush 40′s official gig in the evening.
Summer of Sonic isn’t just about music, though. It’s also a rare opportunity to speak with, and listen to, some of the key people behind the games we all love. I sat down with Takashi Iizuka and asked him some of the biggest questions that are being asked in the fanbase right now, and the Sonic Team leader seemed relaxed and enjoyed himself as he joked and explained some interesting background to the thoughts of the studio. Rory fielded questions for SUMO Digital’s Steve Lycett and Tim Spencer, who were focusing on their experience working on Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Two surprises came from this – firstly, a voice recording of the crowd which may be included in the final game! And secondly, Steve and Tim exclusively announced that NiGHTS will be a playable character in the sequel.
The stage was also home to some incredible fan animations from the Sonic Paradox team, as well as Frobman – who is well known for his Sonic in Brief sketches. This year, Sonic Paradox showcased a music video in the style of Seaside Hill. It sent the audience into fits of laughter, with its light-hearted pokes at the Sonic Heroes story and setting. Frobman presented the long-awaited Shadow the Hedgehog in Brief, which I have on good authority that even Takashi Iizuka thoroughly enjoyed (he was apparently upstairs watching the gags unfold on the TVs there). Another animation by Frobman lightly touched on Sonic 2006, but… well, watch them all for yourself below.
A number of contests throughout the day proved that the Sonic fanbase is still as incredibly creative as ever. The Cosplay Contest was a lot of fun, and there were characters ranging from Shadow to Tikal, Cubot from Sonic Colours and even Wes Weasley from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. The winning costume went to Sonic the Werehog though – a magnificent full suit that brought a massive grin to Takashi Iizuka’s face. A 20th Anniversary statue went to the winner, and two more went to winners of the Art Contest that we had running throughout the day.
This fantastic day was brought to an epic close with Club Sonic, which saw myself and Rory (along with a cameo by Adam) hit the stage to dole out goodies to the crowd. This was all presented with an amazing mixtape of Sonic the Hedgehog remixes, with DJ Chris ‘BlitzChris’ Neilson on the decks. You can listen to the whole Club Sonic via The Sonic Show here, or if you want to download the fan remixes that were used, head to the SEGASonic Radio website.
The euphoria that the crowd was showing during Club Sonic was nothing compared to the reaction to the headline act of the day – Crush 40. Johnny Gioeli had returned to sing along with Jun Senoue after the duo’s first official appearance in 2010, and he brought the thunder with him! Jun performed heavy riff after heavy riff with effortless poise, while Johnny amazed the crowd with his powerful voice and friendly chatter between songs. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.
And look who got involved at the end!
Sadly, like every Summer of Sonic before it, 2012′s convention had to end, and with it was a sense of real accomplishment for the SoS team. It’s funny how, in the face of adversity, you pick yourself back up and bring out your ‘A’ Game. The Summer of Sonic volunteers did exactly that, and for us this year ended up being a truly unforgettable experience. To see the warmth of the Sonic fans who were extremely happy to be there. To meet with as many people as possible inbetween stage segments. To notice all the fans taking advantage of the hallways and stairwells, drawing or playing Nintendo DS with one another. It felt like Summer of Sonic had elevated itself to become a true convention, in every sense of the word.
From the bottom of our collective heart, we thank you all for supporting us as we – hardcore Sonic fans ourselves – try to organise an event like this. I never had any idea that this could run for two years, let alone five. You help make Summer of Sonic as awesome as it is – and we know now that this event can only grow. Thanks to SEGA, Indigo Pearl and NJ Live for their assistance and support in staging our best year yet. And, on our fifth anniversary, I’d like to say a special thank you to everyone who has been involved in Summer of Sonic, past and present. Without you guys, we wouldn’t be here today.
It was our absolute pleasure to host the convention for you guys, and we’d like to see you all next year! Take care – and Stay Sonic!
Svend Joscelyne / Dreadknux
Summer of Sonic Co-organiser
[ Some photos courtesy of Oni Photography ]