The day a Sonic Game came up before Mario on a Nintendo system …
In order to not spoil the experience and discovery , i’ll avoid mentioning the surprises you’ll encounter when playing Sonic Mania, but be aware there is a lot !
SONIC MANIA now is coming to Steam, should you buy it? the answer in details based on the Switch version!
level design :
Some of the game mechanics are new and unique to Sonic Mania, some other directly come from previous Sonic games, but are here twisted and refreshing, one may even smile when noticing them; it is recycling, but it works, for example the remixed version of Oil Ocean from Sonic2 now is inspired by the Sandopolis act from Sonic&Knuckles.
Levels are large, huge, gigantic even, and manage speed really faithfully to classic Sonic games, mixing up superfast segments and careful platforming with a seemingly perfect ratio. Bosses are original, what more to say? the game is a pleasure to play !
Bonus Stages !
Do you hate SonicCD’s special stages? Rejoice then, because although they do look similar, the bonus levels here are inspired by the Saturn (Sonic R) and give a real emphasis on speed to those stages, which was catastrophically missing from the frustrating SonicCD ones! Those can be hard, but really enjoyable !
These levels allow via giant rings hidden throughout every level to obtain emeralds required to get the good ending, just as they used to.
But that’s not all !
The Sonic&Knuckles bonus levels are also present on the checkpoints, their purpose is only to unlock bonuses, they are however really hard, and their amount being limited, they are randomly selected, so if you failed one, the next checkpoint will probably offer you a different on, really tough !
One thing you’ll promptly notice when playing those stages, after having played S&K ones is:
In the balls special stages, it’s extremely obvious, but the whole game displays beautifully smooth scrollings and movements, even the sprite animations have been improved with more frames, so that from start to end the game feels so smooth and fluid the eyecandy never stops . Even the vertigo animation on the corner of a ledge are not only smooth but also different according to the way you’re pointing at, the game is REALLY smooth, period!
The sound effects are basically the same ones as on Megadtive/Genesis, fortunately!
But where the game shines is on the music, which is basically perfect, the classic tracks sound extremely well already , but the remixes and original tunes sound really appropriate, I do not love all the songs, but they do fit perfectly !
-The bugs :
The game is basically awesome, however a number of game-breaking details spoil some of the fun, such as dying upon a cutscene, or staying stuck in the background after beating a boss, forcing you to reset the game because the timer is stopped … rare bugs but big enough to be amazed that they are still there?!
Basically keep in mind: do not move during cutscenes. Ever.
I do like SonicCd, but it contains what i consider to be THE WORST level of all Sonic Games: confusing design based on floating trumpets (wtf?) the level feels out of place compared to the other more solid-looking levels, Stardust Speedway feels more like a psychedelic trip escaped from Rayman. But worse than the looks of it, the multiple-choice-pipe-based maze level design angers and confuses me, it’s an impossible to memorize mess in which i commonly get close to time-out.
Well rejoice ! Stardust Speedway is part of Sonic Mania…. Why this one? any other SonicCD level is so much more charming and the critics i have towards StardustSpeedway also apply to some other levels, too labyrinth-ish, although not as much, but inspiration is noticeable.
The other critic i may have, is that some levels are really immense, gigantic, perhaps a tad too much …If Sonic3 levels offered several pathways and some verticality, they still were easy to visit and learn; in Sonic Mania you encounter too many new branches to keep track of them… I will have to re-play the game several times to confirm that impression
The scale of those immense levels is also more or less responsible of some lack of consistency among the level itself, what i hear by that is that some platforms and elements of GreenHills appear to be randomly pasted or glitched, poorly fitting with each other, in a way reminicing of SonicCD but leaving a feeling of unfinishness or “fan mod” in Green Hills (although much less in following levels)
Furthermore, the presence of those classic levels slightly disapoints, sure only the act1 is (somehow) faithful to the original, and we then get a “remixed” version, but the game is still made of a lot of pre-existing levels, which make it hard for me to consider it as an actual follow up to Sonic3&Knuckles, but more like a revival.
Everywhere is it said that Sonic Mania is the true Sonic4, but a real Sonic4 should be made of entirely original levels, as is the hated actual Sonic4
I will also dare asking the question : Why in 2017 wouldn’t you offer a high-definition 2D game? The Megadrive/Genesis era’s pixel art has a nostalgic charm indeed, but does 2D have to be a synonym of 320×240 ?
Surely a HD resolution would have prevented re-using old sprites and create a huge amount of work on the classic levels … but again, any new original game comes with it’s own new graphics
REDONDANCY and BALANCE
What’s more, the choice of classic levels feels odd, as both Chemical Plant (Sonic2 and Oil Ocean (Sonic2 too) are included, two industrial levels from the same game that also includes HillTop, Mystic Cave, and Aquatic Ruin…
Also similar are Metallic Madness (SonicCD, with traces of scrap brain from sonic1 ) and Titanic Monarch, which indeed play very differently, but reinforce the lack of variety in which Sonic&Knuckles excelled for example, going from forest to flying fortress, to desert, then underground, and into the skies before reaching Death Egg …. have you guessed my favorite Sonic Game already ?
i would have loved instead of (or added to) Oil Ocean or MetallicMadness a jungle level as seen in 8-bit Sonic games (“jungle” from Sonic 1 or “Meta Junglira” from Sonic Triple Trouble… ) or the “past” version of Quartz Quadrant from SonicCD, the aforementionned Sonic2 levels, a Sky Sanctuary or an original level in such spirit
How about the FUTURE?
All fans are looking for the signs; the presence of almost complete levels from Sonic&Knucles in one hand, and gameplaymechanics from Sonic&Knuckles in the other hand remind us strongly of the Sonic3 remake project that SEGA never allowed .
Are now available in widescreen and 60FPS, on PC, Android and consoles : Sonic, Sonic2, SonicCD, and ow SonicMania, which contains a bunch of Sonic3&Knuckles elements …
Will we FINALLY get the remake of the double game one day ? Do we have to make do with the classic levels integrated to SonicMania, as we had to do with the DaytonaUSA and ScudRace available as bonus to OutRun2, to cope with not having any direct port of those games ? it would be nice to see SEGA get ahold of themselves!
Sonic Mania and the overall work of Christian Whitehead is a great step in the very right direction, but there still is a lot more to make .
The note: 8.5/10
almost flawless, but the amount of recycled levels and deadly bugs have to be factored in the note, you would still have to be mad to miss this gem !