Title: Sonic Mania
Platform: Nintendo Switch eShop
Developer: Christian Whitehead/Headcannon/Pagoda Games/Tantalus Media (Switch version)
Release Date: August 15th, 2017 (NA)
Review copy provided by Sega
So here it is, the first true new 16-bit style 2D Classic Sonic game since Knuckles Chaotix. People were hyped through the roof when this was unveiled by Sega at the infamous 25th anniversary party a year ago in July. When you finally get the buzzing out of your ears, we’ll begin the review!
The game seems to take the most cues from Sonic 3 & Knuckles (my personal fav of the classic era). You have the option of playing as Sonic & Tails together, Sonic alone, Tails alone, and Knuckles alone. There’s also eight save files (so you can have two saves for each choice if you wish), as well as a No Save option where you can just go in without bothering to start a new save and having to delete it later or whatever.
The premise appears to be that Eggman has stolen a mysterious crystal from beneath the ground at Angel Island (seriously, the intro is Sonic 3 all over again) and this causes some kind of warp that sends your character to, where else, Green Hill Zone AGAIN. Yeah, Sega just can’t leave Green Hill Zone alone for five minutes can they? Anyway, you run through that oh so familiar checkered environment. However, things are a tad different; instead of fighting Eggman with that ball and chain, you fight this odd pair of metal ball enemies. That’s the name of the game really; while the game does have new levels, it has some of the classic ones, but with a twist.
All the characters play like you remember them. Sonic has the spin dash, but also an all-new drop dash ability. Tails still flies and Knuckles still climbs walls and glides. But each character and the environments got a slick new coat of paint meant to mimic the visual style of Knuckles Chaotix on the more advanced 32X add-on. Music also sounds more like Sonic CD-quality than the Genesis-style chip tunes. I personally see the game as an odd Sega CD 32X game rather than a Saturn game, since you know as well as I they’d never have made a 2D Sonic on the Saturn.
Green Hill Zone Act 1
The game brings back special and bonus stages with some twists again. The special stages are now in Sonic CD-style chase sequences where you have to catch a single UFO to nab the Chaos Emerald, only this time Sonic and company now feature Saturn-style 3D models (the only thing Saturn-esc about the game). You collect orbs to build your speed to try to make it before time runs out, but you can collect rings to gain more seconds. Bonus stages feature the famous Blue Sphere levels you all remember from the Sonic 3 games, these are accessed once again by carrying enough rings when hitting a point marker. The prize this time are these medals. If you get a perfect from collecting all the blue spheres and the rings, you get a gold one, but if you only get all the spheres, you get a silver medal. Collect these to unlock stuff in the Extras menu.
There’s quite a few callbacks and whatnot that it’d be a crime for me to spoil them so I won’t do so. All in all, the game is definitely fun, but admittedly, there are the same issues you’d might have experienced with the original games, but maybe not as much. For instance, with the widescreen, enemies aren’t as out of sight before you smack right into them. I do have an issue with the special stage rings being only one-time uses (there are two in each act), even if you quit the game after losing (it only saves when you finish the entire world, acts and all), it’ll still be hollow when you return to that same spot, so you only get one try in each ring per save file. The blue sphere levels are a pain in the ass at times where some spheres feel like they’re in impossible spots where you have to not touch the red ones or you lose.
I’ve read some say, and this is very true; the game was built for the fans, by the fans, and it’s clear preservation of the classics was vital, but that seemingly made it come with some of its warts so to speak. I never beat any of the main games until 3D Sonic 2 on 3DS (you can check my review of that at Sonic Stadium right here!) and to summarize, it didn’t leave me with the best impression despite loving it back in the Sonic Mega Collection days. Honestly I think you get the most fun with just messing around with debug modes and whatnot in those games, but eh, to each their own, right? 😛
I have no hesitation recommending it to fans of the original Genesis games, but less so for fans who’ve had issues with them, most likely the ones like me who began with the Nintendo-era games with Sonic Adventure 2 Battle and the like.
+ It’s very pretty if you like retro-style graphics and the classic Sonic games. It seems to run in 1080p docked on Switch but when I take screens, the pixels seem to be blurred, even when the video option in the game is set to “Clean”.
+ The music is good, high-quality stuff. Nothing new that’s made me listen to it on YouTube or anything… yet.
+ Sonic 3-style character selection and saves are a big plus.
+ The special stages are really fun and seeing a Saturn-style 3D model is pretty damn neat.
+ There’s some callbacks that really made me smile, and others that blew my mind.
+ There is local multiplayer but I didn’t test it myself.
+ Stuff to unlock in the Extras menu definitely give you incentive to keep trying those bonus stages, which luckily you get multiple shots at with multiple point markers in each act.
+ Screen options include a “clean” image, a blur filter, and scanline options for both. That’s neat.
– Old levels (including Green Hill Zone, AGAIN).
– One shot at special stages, and they’re hard to find to boot.
– Getting all the rings in the bonus stages is a pain in the ass since it ends automatically upon collecting the last blue sphere. They’re always random so you’re always tossed into a different one each time, some of which are IMPOSSIBLE.
– Save states would’ve been appreciated in my opinion.
– Too aimed at classic fans if that makes sense (kind of the idea lol!). If you hated those games, this won’t change your mind.
– I actually would’ve liked to have seen an all-new character with something unique. Not a negative per se, but it’s an odd tradition to break.