When I started playing Sonic ERaZor, what I expected was a basic Sonic the Hedgehog hack, consisting of some level redesigns, maybe a few altered graphics — nothing fancy. What I actually discovered was that the source material was completely ripped apart and reformulated; the end result is a game that maintains its general "Sonicity" but is quite the nouveau experience. It's also extremely difficult.
Right from the get-go, something is strange. The title screen has Sonic's oversized coconut dropping from the top of the screen, rather from within his logo. Odd. When you start the game, what do we get... but a text box! Sonic the Hedgehog never had any sort of in-game text, aside from the intro cards when starting a new stage, so that's quite the accomplishment in itself. The creator, under the guise of "Selbi", introduces us to Sonic ERaZor and warns us about the dangers ahead. Maybe we ought to practice, "for your own safety". He indicates that we "will face some of the most range inducing, unique, and explosive challenges ever created for a Sonic game!" (He hasn't played any 3D Sonic title, obviously.) And, at our discretion, we are whisked away to Tutorial Place to begin our training.
Sonic ERaZor introduces many new game mechanics, though they are used rather sparingly during the remainder of the hack. Sonic now boasts two different styles of charging so that he can dash at different speeds. Sonic can also enter "Inhuman Mode", which not only makes you invincible to everything (including spikes and bottomless pits) but allows you to fire off bullet bursts that help propel you upward. Gravity control also plays a part (a big part in one particularly frustrating level), as do "trial-and-error" areas with a series of checkpoints after difficult maneuvers. Oddly enough, there's also a "Hard Part Skipper", seen on occasion, that allows you to bypass sections that prove to be excessively taxing. Of course, Sonic's usual moves are intact (plus a double jump for some reason).
The original Sonic the Hedgehog's level system was sequential: once you finish a level, you move ahead to the next. Although Sonic ERaZor does follow a linear path, all worlds are connected by a general overworld, Uberhub Place; further stages are opened as others are completed. These stages are based heavily on ones readily available in the original but with new layouts. Some of these levels are truly irritating and will require countless attempts. Two "places" are based on the Special Stages from the original; Sonic must navigate his way through a seemingly endless maze to snag some Chaos Emeralds (which, as Selbi puts it, are useless). The walls are mostly "GOAL" orbs, which send Sonic back to the last checkpoint, so he'll have to take caution as he navigates with limited regular platforms. Another stage, Scar Night Place, is officially one of the most maddening moments of video game history, requiring Sonic to navigate through mazes with deadly walls while manipulating his own gravity. Touching a wall sends you back to the previous checkpoint, and considering how delicate the controls are during this time, truly one's brains will spill out before it is finished. Interestingly enough, boss battles with Dr. Robotnik have been greatly REDUCED to only two (with variations in their attacks), though a couple of "usual" robots in a gray palette substitute their way in and give Sonic quite the headache.
Other additions with this hack include brief story scenes; they don't have any text to them, but we get to see Sonic (or, occasionally, Dr. Robotnik) doing something to push the plot forward. Rings are also in higher supply — six of them pop out every time you defeat an enemy, for example — and your stash does not reset between stages. Rings are required in order to stay alive (getting hurt costs rings, naturally) and the supply depletes when you are in Inhuman Mode. Much of Sonic ERaZor also features an entirely different soundtrack, though the new songs are identifiable as tunes from the Mega Man series, separate Sonic titles, or varied other games (Street Fighter, Ninja Gaiden, F1: Pole Position, etc.).
This is much more than I ever expected. Maybe I shouldn't have expectations at all because they'll just end up broken. Hardcore Sonic fans will get a kick out of this, although it may be too difficult at times even for them. "Practice makes perfect" is the slogan for Sonic ERaZor, as you really aren't penalized for retrying part of a stage once, twice, or a hundred times. Be prepared to fail. Repeatedly.
Let's chomp down on Sonic ERaZor with some screenshots: