We all know that vault exists. And Sega just needs to keep digging in there. Maybe they’ll find a new Wonder Boy or Streets of Rage too… But instead, they found Sonic Mania.
Let me begin by saying that I really, really loved (past tense) Sonic games from the beginning. However, after many failed attempts by doing spin
ballsoffs and re-inventing Sonic by using 3D or even giving him a human girlfriend (not kidding) I almost lost hope. When Sega released Sonic 4, they shredded that bit of hope I had hanging on a thread and never again I expected anything good from the franchise.
That is until Sonic Mania was announced. After 20 years of disappointment and empty promises, I didn’t want Sega to break my heart again. My first reaction was denial with skepticism. I tried to protect myself from it, but after much alcohol and crying I eventually gave in. I wanted to love Sonic again. So I hit the “purchase” button on my Xbox One.
Let’s start with presentation. It features its own themed music which is delightful (I can’t get it out of my head) and sprite-style animation intro for the title screen. Very well animated and it seems like a mix between Sonic 2 and Sonic CD.
They went to the extent of producing a new anime-styled short film after the title screen. You can see the carefree, confident and sometimes goofy Sonic we all know on it.
Pixel art is the norm throughout and the featured stages are based off the originals in the series, but each Act 1 is slightly changed and extended. Included is also a very subtle-yet-great remix of the original soundtrack. Act 2 for every stage is completely new and contains a more aggressive remix of the soundtrack.
There’s also new and original full stages coupled with all-new music and mechanics as well, giving the entire game an unexpected and very much welcomed surprise.
Although the character sprites look like the originals, they are not. They are completely re-drawn with more animation and more colors for each character while taking the best moves each game had to offer. The controls are super tight, very responsive and fast. While the original physics are still present, they are also refined ever-so slightly in a very good way.
There are two types of special stages: Blue Sphere and UFO. Although I am not a fan of the Blue Sphere ones from Sonic 3, the UFO emerald special stages are superb and resembles the Sonic CD ones in style. Both types are challenging, but I find UFO the easier and more enjoyable of the two.
I have nothing negative to say about this game. Sega made a great decision to let fans make a game for fans, with Christian Whitehead as the main honcho for the project. The amount of love, care and dedication from Christian and his brochachos is amazing and it really oozes from each pixel throughout the entire game. They were able to capture the personality of the characters and the essence of what a Sonic game should truly be to the point that it feels like a completely natural and amazing sequel. Feels like I never lost that love I originally had.
To sum it up, Sonic Mania is simply the best Sonic the Hedgehog game in the franchise. Without a doubt, it has set a new bar for Sega and it will be one of the games to be remembered for decades to follow.
Welcome back Sonic, we missed you.