Developer: Headcannon, PogodaWest Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
It’s Sonic Mania! With the recent release of this highly-anticipated game on almost all current, last-gen consoles, as well as PC, it seems like blue is everywhere! After only a few days, my Twitch notifications and Discord chats were filled with ‘streaming Sonic Mania!’ It’s been crazy. As a long-time fan of the franchise, I’ve been hanging with Sonic since Sonic 1 on Genesis. I’ve played through Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, the now-infamous Sonic & Knuckles (with the Lock-On giving you all those games & Knuckles), the well-conceived, yet poorly-received racing game with no cars dubbed Sonic R, the divisive Sonic Adventure era, and finally the most hated, most broken, and most annoying of them all: Sonic 06.
There are two types of Sonic games: the 2D retro titles and the other sidescrollers that encapsulate that nostalgic feeling (like Sonic 4 on mobile). Easy to pick up and just go, the colorful environments, upbeat driving music, and simple mechanics of just running and jumping appealed to wide audiences. These Sonic games tried to set themselves apart from Mario and other platformers by focusing on speed and quick reflexes, instead of precision and carefully timed jumps, and for the most part they succeed. Any Genesis-era Sonic games are easily considered classics that any self-proclaimed gamer should check out.
Sonic Mania not only met, but also exceeded my expectations, which were arguably pretty high. I’ve been playing the originals for years now, and I’ve beaten them legit and also had some fun with old Gameshark codes. I was really hoping Mania would hit the perfect mix of old and new. Well, it absolutely did. When you start the game and hear that classic Sega jingle, followed by a title menu that looks almost exactly like it did back in the Genesis era, you know you’re in for a good time. The game gets as much mileage as it can off the classic Sonic games without ruining the nostalgia.
The first few levels are remakes of original zones from the old games, and the graphics are much improved if you look closely enough. Sonic has way more frames of animation for all his movements, even simply looking upwards. The text is all shadowed now for better viewing, and the colours pop like never before. Musically, it’s also a trip, starting off with a score inspired by the original tune from the level, then kicking it into high-gear by mixing in new melodies and percussion tracks when you hit Act 2 of the Zone.
The secret bonus stages that I remember so fondly are still there. I haven’t personally seen the Sonic 2 tube-running bonus stages yet, but the Sonic 3 “Get Blue Spheres” is still just as much fun with the new layouts. If you manage to find a 3D giant ring in the normal stages, hop in to be gifted with an amazing blast from the past: a new, yet retro looking Sonic R-type racing stage, where you chase down a UFO for a Chaos Emerald! The graphics here are intentionally “bad”, with exaggerated polygon shapes and sharp edges, but that’s why it’s incredible! Someone really put heart into these stages and kept that feeling of Sonic jumping from 2D to what used to be considered crazy 3D graphics. I was overjoyed when I found these stages, and I can’t wait for what else this game has to offer! I’ve heard there’s even a secret “& Knuckles” mode where you can have Knux follow you instead of Tails, a shout out to the old jokes of the Lock-On days.
Sonic Mania is widely available now. If you’re not sure what version to go with, here’s a few things to consider. The game has two multiplayer modes: Competition, which splits the screen horizontally (and also looks terrible in just the right way) and the classic 2P as Tails during the story. I went with the Switch version first because I wanted to get use out of the dual Joy-Cons and try local couch multiplayer. A friend of mine was disappointed it didn’t have online multiplayer, but through using PS4 Share Play, you could still manage it, so he grabbed it there. I have played both versions and notice little difference.
Play it! I meant this to be shorter, but I am just so happy to see Sonic rocking it again! It’s been a long time coming and I’ve had hope for every game, but like most fans I was let down by the franchise in recent years. Well, Sonic Mania did not disappoint! If you’re a Sonic fan in any capacity, grab this game ASAP. Trust me, it will immediately be worth it when you hit the nostalgic title screen and feel that smile creeping across your face.