Before Sonic Mania, There Was Sonic Project Mettrix: A Short Biography of Simon Thomley

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2004

Project Mettrix eventually became a solo project. Aimee, around 2002, mysteriously disappeared from the internet. Thomley found just himself working on the game, tackling the issues and challenges of developing an increasingly complex DOS title solo. Soon enough, the project found itself more and more by the wayside. This was due in part to Thomley taking on other fan projects.

Around this time, he started working on a port of Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 to the Sega CD, which was Sega’s ill-fated CD based hardware upgrade for the Sega Genesis. In particular, he wanted to take one of the music tracks from Knuckles’ Chaotix, titled “Walkin'”, and insert it into his port of the first Sonic game. He found the help of a fellow hacker, who in turn asked for Thomley’s help on a hack of his own known as Sonic the Hedgehog: Megamix.

Sonic Megamix Featured Playable Characters such as Shadow the Hedgehog (2008)

In 2004, he became a founding member of one of the most famous teams in Sonic romhacking: Team Megamix. Granted, at this point the team consisted only of Thomley and the original Megamix hacker. Megamix began as a level modification of the original Sonic game on the Sega Genesis. It soon evolved into something much larger in scope.

The team would change around quite a bit over the years, and Thomley would eventually come to lead it himself after the original development head left for various personal reasons. Within a few years, what had initially began as a palette swap and level modification of a game from 1991 became a game with a new soundtrack, redone head’s up display, and five different playable characters, each with their own unique play styles. Of note, Sonic himself was modified to have abilities such as the homing attack, which appeared prominently in the Sonic Adventure titles.

In late 2004, Aimee briefly returned again with renewed interest in Project Mettrix. Development was still slow. She would soon disappear again, but not before she and Thomley managde to prepare the game for the Sonic Amateur Games Exp, and added the new Knuckles exclusive “Bronze Lake Zone”. The game would continue to be showcased at SAGE every year for the next five years.

Two years later, for Sonic’s 15th anniversary, Sega themselves would release two games which would forever change Sonic the Hedgehog and its fan base. The first of these was Sonic the Hedgehog for Xbox 360, known  colloquially by many as “Sonic ’06″. This was meant as a dark, edgy reboot for the series. It was so poorly received that it caused much of the Sonic community to fracture.

Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (Sega, 2005)

The second, however, was a port of the original Sonic the Hedgehog to the Game Boy Advance, known simply as Sonic Genesis. This port was just as poorly received, and would earn even more ire from some fans than the Xbox game. Sonic ’06 may have been a bad game, but Sonic Genesis turned what was considered by many to be a great game into a nearly unplayable mess.

One of these fans was Thomley. Feeling that Sonic Genesis was not up to par with the quality expected from the series, he set off to create his own port of Sonic the Hedgehog to the GameBoy Advance.

A few months later, he emerged with Sonic the Hedgehog GBA, a port of the first zone of Sonic 1 that, along with running at a consistent 60 frames-per-second, had far fewer glitches than Sega’s port, along with additional playable characters. Thomley received much praise for his port. Writer Dreadknux of Sonic Stadium reported in 2008, ”Well, it looks like jokes of ‘five people making this game in their lunch break’ are no longer appropriate (or funny), because one talented Sonic fan’s decided to make a much better port.”

Thomley would, years later, go on to port his GameBoy Advance version of Sonic 1 to the Nintendo DS. Meanwhile in 2005, Project Mettrix entered the realm of stagnated development known as “development hell.”

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About James Christensen 8 Articles
James Christensen is a writer, content creator, and social media marketing nerd currently residing in Victoria, British Columbia. He’s written about people, technology, and the environment, along with creating the online documentary series “The Art of Failure”. Feel free to check him out on Twitter and on YouTube!