It’d be easy to begin this article lamenting the fact that I’m a video game fan living in the Midwest. The truth is though, there are plenty of homespun conventions in the area, a lot of locally owned game stores, and many, many fans to socialize with. Still, whenever an event is announced near our area, my friend and I make a point to attend. When my friend learned that Sega’s annual Sonic the Hedgehog fan event, Sonic Boom, was to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, it was a no-brainer for us. From Tulsa, Oklahoma it’s a six-hour drive and we had traveled to St. Louis a few years earlier and always wanted an excuse to return.
Sonic Boom 2013 was held at The Pageant, located in a hip area of St. Louis full of boutique eateries and hookah bars. The doors opened at 5pm and the event began at 6pm. We arrived about 5:45 and grabbed our goodie bags promptly. We received a gray t-shirt with the St. Louis skyline behind the Sonic Boom 2013 logo, an event-specific Chao bobble head, and a lanyard plastered with Sonic Lost World imagery. Upon full entrance to the venue, we were bombarded with hundreds of fans decked out in Sonic-affiliated clothing and costumes. Demo kiosks for the Wii U and 3DS versions of Sonic Lost World lined the east and west walls alongside buffets containing various foods.
Before the event began in earnest (and during parts of it), my friend and I spent a considerable amount of time StreetPassing with dozens of other 3DS owners. We initially waited in a line for the Wii U version of Sonic Lost World but turned our attention to the stage when Jun Senoue began shredding on his custom Sonic-themed guitar. After fifteen minutes flying solo, Johnny Gioeli entered the act and completed the group known as Crush 40. Together they’ve composed many songs for the series, especially Sonic Adventure forwards. Jun’s work is reminiscent of American hard rock circa the 1980s while Johnny’s lyrics are happy-go-lucky and kind of don’t fit but totally do in a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers sort of way.
During the latter half of their hour-long performance, my friend and I tried out the Wii U version of Sonic Lost World. With no lines, it was no sweat getting a chance. The game was vibrant, colorful, and controlled well. Sonic zoomed around the stages as I propelled him forward, jumping about avoiding and defeating enemies and collecting rings. I was satisfied after playing the three of four stages included in the demo but wasn’t sold. It honestly had more to do with my lack of experience with the Wii U controller than the game itself, which seemed pretty good.
The 3DS version on the other hand, that was a solid game. Both my friend and I concluded that we’d probably get that when it releases in October. It’s being developed by Dimps rather than Sonic Team although the games both look and play identically. Again, I was impressed with the visual quality, especially since the action was shrunk down to a smaller screen. I had more fun with this version, but that’s probably due to my comfortableness with the system.
After Crush 40’s performance, there was an hour-long Q&A session with Takashi Iizuka and Kazuyuki Hoshino. The former is the current head of Sonic Team while the latter is a primary artist for the developer. Both have been with Sega and Sonic Team for twenty-plus years and spoke through a translator. This section was comical thanks to their funny insights on the minutiae of series. They did answer meaningful questions as well. Hoshino-san in particular received many questions regarding his two most popular characters: Metal Sonic and Amy Rose.
Moving ahead swiftly was a costume contest that saw about two-dozen fans’ participation. Each had time to show off their craft during a brief Q&A session with the host. There were a handful of individuals who put a lot of work into their costumes as can be seen in the attached pictures. Of the many highlights, my favorite was probably a kid who when asked how old he was responded s-s-s-s-s-s-eight. This garnered a chorus of laughs from the audience. Following this portion was a trivia contest that pitted two teams of three against each other. The questions ranged from novice trivia that most video game fans would know to obscure knowledge that only the hardest of the hardcore Sonic fans would know.
The event was concluded with a bit of news in the form of the English-language release of a cutscene from Sonic Lost World. My friend and I hung around a bit, thanking members of Sega for bringing the event to the Midwest. He lucked out and received Jun Senoue’s autograph while I shook Johnny Gioeli’s hand. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention meeting a swell guy named Heath Aldrich. We had a lengthy conversation about many things video games as well as podcasting and running blogs. You can find his (and his cohorts’) at firstworldpodcast.blogspot.com. They’re forty episodes deep into their podcast and I know I’ll begin listening soon.
Sonic Boom 2013 was a blast. Seeing so many euphoric fans enjoying themselves makes me want to revisit the series and fall in love the series. Kids, teenagers, and adults were all enjoying themselves and oftentimes, going nuts with joy. Personally, I’m going to go back and play hordes of Sonic games to reacquaint myself with the series. In fact, my friend and I completed Sonic R recently after many fan questions pertaining to the Tails doll’s debut in the Saturn racer/platformer. I hope they’ll return to a nearby area so we can attend again!