Sonic is going back to his Sega Genesis roots in a brand new adventure! Find out if Sonic has returned to form or fallen flat in our Sonic Mania Review.
|Release Date||August 15, 2017|
Sonic The Hedgehog is an iconic video game character in the history of games. There was a time when Sega and Sonic went head to head with Mario and Nintendo for gaming supremacy. To me, those were the glory days of Sonic and he’s never quite reached those heights again. Sure, there have been decent games like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Generations since then, but there have also been titles like Sonic 2006 and Sonic Unleashed. I can safely say that Sonic Mania is in a different world than those two titles.
Sonic Mania takes place shortly after the events of Sonic & Knuckles which makes sense considering that was the last 2D Sonic game on the Genesis. The story has Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles battling against Dr. Eggman (Dr. Robotnik to some of us) over an emerald artifact. Of course, Dr. Eggman has some help in the form of the Hard-Boiled Heavies which are a group of customized Eggrobos. That’s about as far as we need to go for the story. This is classic Sonic. Your goal is to defeat Eggman and collect all the Chaos Emeralds as it always has been.
Sonic Mania instantly takes you back to the 90s from the moment you start the game. The familiar “Segaaaa” sound is followed by a beautiful retro splash screen welcoming you to the game. As you jump into the game itself, it feels instantly familiar but updated. This is due to the higher detail and quality of the animation. It gives Sonic and his friends much more personality than they originally had. The music and sound effects are equally as impressive with some remixed tracks from the original games along with new ones for Sonic Mania.
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In addition to looking like a classic Sonic game, the game also controls like a classic Sonic game. You have the option to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles. You can even play cooperatively with another player as Sonic and Tails. The physics for each character feel like they did in the classic games and all their abilities are remain intact. Sonic does have a new Drop Dash ability. This ability allows him to quickly roll forward after a jump. It’s a fantastic addition to the game that allows you to keep your speed up at all times. I wish I had that ability in the classic games.
The level design is the most interesting part of Sonic Mania and it’s where this game truly shines. There are 12 zones (8 remixed, 4 new) in the game and each one comprises of 2 levels and 2 boss battles. There is an amazing sense of speed, perhaps more than ever before as you guide Sonic through each level. I enjoyed the fact that no route felt like the wrong route. There are multiple ways to get through a level and you never feel hindered by going one way versus another. As fast as Sonic is in these levels, it never feels like he’s out of control because the widescreen ratio gives you the ability to see ahead of you better than ever before.
Sonic isn’t the only character you can use. Tails can fly and Knuckles can glide. These options open up new areas and new ways of playing levels that you wouldn’t see if you only use Sonic. The classic games had a few secret areas tailored to those characters, but Sonic Mania designs each level around each character. It’s enjoyable to replay levels because of this fact. A lot of times, a level for Knuckles will be completely different than it will be for Sonic and Tails including new enemies and different obstacles. It’s some of the most intelligent level design I’ve seen and it makes the game so much better than it would have been if it was more linear.
What I loved most about Sonic Mania was the way that it blended the past with new elements. All the powerups from the past game are present like the different shields, invincibility, super-speed, and even the blue ring box that makes your rings jumbo when you get hit and lose them. They added other things like being able to put your character in an ice block or even burning wooden bridges with the fire shield. This extended from new levels to the remixed levels like in Chemical Plant Zone where you’re jumping on the jelly to get to higher places or putting your character in a bubble in Hydrocity Zone. This made everything feel familiar but allowed the game to shape its own identity.
As I mentioned earlier, every level culminated in a boss fight. I thought I would dread this, but I really enjoyed getting to fight all these interesting new and remixed bosses that the development team came up with. Some are simple one on one battles, others are battles with multiple set pieces, while others are subtle nods to past games like Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. There was a nice of difficulty and entertainment in these battles, but I won’t say too much more to spoil them. They’re definitely some of the bright spots of the game.
Bonus rounds also make a return in Sonic Mania allowing you to gain gold and silver medallions for completing a level of Blue Sphere perfectly or by collecting all the rings. It’s a nice break in the action and it plays just like it did in the classic games. To collect the Chaos Emeralds, the big ring returns with a new twist. The new Chaos Emerald levels are 3D and require Sonic to catch up to a UFO holding the emerald before his rings run out. These levels can get pretty challenging, but I appreciated seeing something a bit different here.
The beautiful thing about Sonic Mania is that it rewards you with reasons to keep playing. There is a Competition Mode that you can play locally with a second player and there’s also a Time Attack mode to get through the level as fast as possible as well. Those are to be expected in any Sonic game these days. The biggest reason to keep playing is to unlock Secrets. This is the term Sonic Mania uses for new abilities and ways to play. You can play through the entire campaign using Sonic’s Insta-Shield ability from Sonic 3 as just one example. You can also unlock “& Knuckles” mode, where a second player can play as Knuckles instead of Tails. It’s even possible to play with Knuckles and Knuckles in this mode. This stupid thing about this is that you can only use Secrets by using the No Save functionality. It’s a weird limitation that makes it so you have to play through the whole game without saving.
Sonic Mania is a wonderful Sonic game and I would say it may be the best Sonic The Hedgehog game ever. You can tell from every little detail that this game was a labour of love from people who genuinely love this series. This game exceeded every expectation that I had and reminded me what I enjoyed so much about this series in the first place. I recommend this game to everyone. It’s the definitive Sonic experience.
*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Sega for review purposes*