Reviews August 25, 2017

Sonic Mania

post main image

Reviewed By: Ricardo Benitez
System: Switch (Also on Xbox One, PS4, PC)
Genre: Platformer
Rated: E
Players: 1-2
Cost: $19.99
Release Date: 08/15/2017
Publisher: SEGA
Developers: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games and Sonic Team
 
As I loaded up the freshly downloaded Sonic Mania on my Nintendo Switch, I was greeted with Sonic dashing across the screen and the classic 16-bit "SEGA" logo/chorus blaring on my television. At that point, I knew then I had come home. Who knew this was what I was missing in my life – a direct sequel to 1994's Sonic & Knuckles made by the fans, for the fans?

Side note: I didn't own a Genesis growing up. I bought into the Nintendo bandwagon and was denied a regular daily avenue of Sonic. I did have plenty of friends that had Sonic, though. I’ve also purchased my fair share of Sonic games over the years into adulthood, including the excellent (Sonic Generations) and not so good (Sonic 4: Episode 1). That said, my “late to the game” nostalgia still allotted me a kid like excitement when we got our Sonic Mania review code.

 sonic-mania-screen-4
 
Sonic Mania is not a reboot, nor is it a remake. Nostalgia is a huge factor though; it feels like the Sonic you remember but there are noticeable differences. First, the sense of speed is absolutely apparent, with Sonic Mania pushing 60FPS consistently. With Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles pressing the envelope of the 2D sound barrier, our heroes have never seemed speedier. The graphics are undeniably 16-bit visually, but more Sega Saturn in practice. Sonic Mania feels like the next step to Sonic CD – what Sonic 1, 2, and 3 would have been if they were ever released on that system. The sound effects are undeniably Sonic-esque, and although the music takes liberty with whether or not it belongs in the 16-bit era (it doesn't), it still feels like it absolutely belongs. Basically, it’s what Sonic 4 should have been.
 
While it’s seemingly the sequel we’ve always wanted, I can understand why someone would think Sonic Mania was a remake. Classic zones from a plethora of Sonic games have been recreated with slightly different layouts/secret passages. The Blue Sphere levels from Sonic 3 make a comeback allowing you to earn medals. As you earn more medals, you unlock different modes, including sound test and debug modes. The Sonic CD levels, where you chase a UFO for those sweet, sweet Chaos Emeralds are back as well. I haven't collected all of them yet, but I have a feeling Super Sonic is in my future very soon. Accompanying the past levels are all new zones and boss fights that are expertly made – they seem to fit in with the rest even though they’re completely new. Most of what’s here (new stages or classic remakes) is great, offering an entertaining thrill ride for Sonic fans…

sonic-mania-screen-3

…yeah, so the horrendous water sections are bad, which for better or for worse, shows the lack of precise platforming that these games were notoriously known for. This wasn’t an issue for the other zones where for the most part, speeding through a level was only impeded by enemies, spikes and pitfalls. It was when I started playing the water zones that I yelled at my screen, almost twisting my controller in frustration whenever I heard the heart-stopping sound of my rings being spilled all over the ground. Only after hearing that sound many times did I realized that I was in familiar territory; that I haven't felt this sudden rush of wistfulness and regret since Mega Man 9 and 10 were released years ago. Funny enough, this was when I fully embraced Sonic Mania as my new favorite 2D platformer!
 
The replay value is stellar. I have yet to even scratch the surface of what each level has to offer. With the inclusion of the familiar co-op mode, as well as competitive mode and time trials, I see myself sharing my second Joy-Con with friends and family who grew up loving the genre as much as I do. In co-op, as long as you selected the default Sonic and Tails mode, whoever has a second controller can just take control and teamwork ensues. The competitive mode, with its horrible squashed horizontal split-screen of old, is a heck of a lot of fun. I’ll be sending most of my waking hours in the Time Trails mode as I attempt to find the quickest route through each level. Good times!

sonic-mania-screen-2
 
It’s true. Sonic Mania is great. That is, if you enjoyed it back in the day. If you didn't like Sonic the Hedgehog to the point where you steered away from the series, you might want to look elsewhere. Sonic Mania is a love letter for Sonic fans, by Sonic fans. There was a lot of thought and love poured into this game. It is apparent the developers wanted something they could enjoy playing. They wanted their "perfect" Sonic game. And by George, I think they did it!
 
Gameplay: 9
If it looks like Sonic, feels like Sonic, then for better or worse, this is Sonic. Thankfully, that’s good news for most of us. That said, when it comes to precise platforming, you will definitely be screaming your head off (stupid water zone).
 
Graphics: 10
16-bit Genesis-style perfection. Sure, they took liberties adding things that could not have been possible on the actual Genesis console, but who cares! It still feels and looks like what we remembered this series to be.
 
Sound: 10
Incredible music remixes and original soundtracks. I'll be purchasing the LP. Also, the sound effects are exactly what they should be, including that rip-your-hair-out coin-dropping effect.
 
Replay Value: 10
These guys packed so much into Sonic Mania. Take your time to explore it all. It is absolutely worth it!
 
Final Score:
 
9.8