Sonic the Hedgehog is Back! Well, almost.
Back in the early 90’s I was given a choice, a choice that would determine my formative gaming years. A choice between a SNES or a Sega Mega drive for Christmas. It was the height of the great ‘console war’ of the 90’s, Nintendo vs Sega, and after a great deal of deep soul searching I chose the Mega drive. Don’t shoot me but one of the main reasons was my love for Sonic over Mario, I know, I know. I must admit I never regretted my decision, partly due to my best friend owning a SNES which we would play regularly together.
For me, Sonic offered something Mario didn’t, speed and attitude wrapped up in a more teenage centric design as opposed to Mario. Sonic 2 especially was a fantastic game, a fantastic platformer, and one of the standout games on Sega’s new system. So, you can imagine my excitement when Sonic Mania was announced. With that feeling of excitement there was a certain amount of trepidation based on Sega’s recent dealings with the Sonic platform. I still have nightmares of that awful Sonic game on the Wii (Sonic and the Secret Rings), and there is a lot of negative feedback over Sonic Forces which just released.
One advantage Sonic Mania has over other modern-day incarnations is the fact it wasn’t developed by Sega. Sonic Mania is actually more of a fan made/indie title which was picked up by Sega later on in development when they saw how good it was. SEGA made the decision to license and publish the game. The brain child of this development was Christian Whitehead, and he has done a fantastic job.
Sonic Mania has all the great elements from the top selling Sonic games of the past: vibrant colours, fantastic music, intricate levels, speed, and that sense of excitement and pure joy in its gameplay. This title really does hark back to Sonic 2 for me and Sonic at its height of popularity. There are 12 zones in total and the levels are constructed in a way that plays Sonic’s strengths, speed and intricacy. Usually you can play Sonic games in two ways, rush to the end as fast as possible, or explore, and the same applies here. The levels are built very well with multiple layers, so if you keep replaying the same levels, you won’t always follow the same path which is great.
Dr. Eggman (or Robotnik which I prefer) is back too with various new contraptions for you to destroy. One boss fight in particular was really annoying, mainly due to the fact the screen was constantly scrolling, and sonic was too, which made me feel like I had less control over my character. I really dislike it when they do this, especially in the modern games which are more like a ramped-up version of temple run! With platformers you need total control, that’s the point. Otherwise gameplay is more luck based than skill. This being said, scenes like this were very limited throughout the game.
As well as the 12 zones of gameplay, there are new game modes for you to explore. Time attack is exactly what you think it is, but it will rank you against players online. Time attack is fantastic for all you speed runners out there. There is also competition mode which will put you against another player in split screen. The goal here is not just to finish the level first, but you are also ranked on score, rings, and items collected. Competition mode is a fun addition especially in local multiplayer against friends. What is the best part of this entire game?… You can play as Sonic, Tails or Knuckles. Miles “Tails” Prowler even follows you in normal gameplay, akin to his first appearance in Sonic 2.
I honestly really love this game. Sonic Mania brings out that nostalgic feeling in me, and as the success of the NES mini classic and SNES mini classic shows, nostalgia sells! Overall this is a great game for very small outlay (£14.99 in the UK) and Sega should take note and develop more games like this. It’s difficult to keep a franchise going for a long time while also trying to keep it fresh and new. For example, Mario Odyssey couldn’t be further from the early Mario games, however what they have in common is they all focus on great platforming gameplay and a huge amount of fun. This is what games should focus on rather than the definition and frame rate, as so many gamers seem to focus on. Sonic Mania is not in 4k, but it is beautiful and a great addition to the series.