“I have one speed, I have one gear: go!” – Charlie Sheen
I never thought I would ever need to quote Charlie Sheen, but when it comes down to Sonic The Hedgehog, I believe that his words fit like a glove. 2D Sonic platformer games often require you to run and gun, similar to the pace you would be at during speed runs. However, the momentum breaks when you encounter certain obstacles. Sonic Mania was built upon the general concept of running to the finish line. Slowing down might also unveil some secrets!
Sonic Mania starts off the good old classic way, on Green Hill Zone Act 1. This original level appears to be a copy at first, but as you progress, you realize that something is different. For hardcore fans of the series, different can be a synonym of bad, but in this case, it means better. Other words like polished, complete and more intricate also come in mind. What started off as a thirst for something new ends up feeling strangely nostalgic. Even parts of levels that have never seen the light of day give you that tingly feeling inside. It’s brand new, but somehow, it all feels familiar.
The classic take on developing stages is a fan service to those hardcore fans that have been following Sonic since its early years on Sega platforms. It also invites today’s youth to experience hands-on what it felt like to play Sonic back in the early 90’s. The music brings back memories. For new players, it incites you to go as fast as you can! Sonic is all about speed; the entire soundtrack reflects that with perfection. It has ups, downs, and during boss fights, creates an amazing and memorable encounter. Sonic Mania offers throwbacks to some of the best Sonic games out there. The way they are introduced to you is sure to put a smile on your face!
Not Even Close To A CTRL+C
As aforementioned above, there are quite a few differences between classic versions and Sonic Mania. One of the most striking elements is how stages look. Most of them are a lot more intricate, have more secrets and are bigger than their original counterpart. Comparing similar stages together will show that a lot more work has been put into making the design more detailed. For example, more waterfalls have been added, the elements have more texture detail, and backdrops have more to show. In general, the levels use a lot more colors from the color palette; some levels appear to be a lot brighter as well.
Levels have been redesigned to offer a lot more to players. Sometimes, slowing down allows you to explore a little what some of these stages offer, namely secrets. A few of the older Sonic titles have trouble inviting you to replay the game unless you are looking for a nostalgia buzz, but Sonic Mania gives you an incentive to go back to a stage and play it again. What is that incentive? Chaos Emeralds!
Ever Get Tired Of Sonic?
Stages have quite a few hidden levels in them. Pass the test and you will collect Chaos Emeralds. These are required if you are planning on seeing the ‘True’ ending to the game. In addition to adding more to the storyline, they are required to unlock the legendary Super Sonic Mode. Super Sonic is like a super Saiyan Sonic – gold yellow and bright hear towards the air – that is faster and less vulnerable to enemies. The form consumes rings, so make sure you always find some to keep Sonic glowing. The only way to reach this mode is if you collect all Seven Chaos Emeralds, gather at least 50 rings, and tap jump twice. Truly an amazing form!
Boss fights are also different. In my opinion, they carry the burden of dragging down the game a little. While they are challenging, some of them can be long and ultimately boring. This element of drag breaks the game’s momentum drastically. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen enough to hinder it, but just enough to be mentioned. Also, in between multiple boss fight phases, there aren’t any checkpoints, an element older games from the series and retro titles in general share. Some might see it as difficult, but it just goes to show how Sonic Mania is faithful to its roots. Adding that option would have been interesting for those looking for an easier difficulty setting.
At the end of the day, there are few little things that could have been changed, but that is just in my opinion. The big picture clearly shows just how good of a game is Sonic Mania. While many would call it a blast to the past, I call it a masterpiece. It offers everything a proper Sonic game should offer with hints of modern ideals. Sonic Mania brings old folks to the past and new players into a realm far from blockbuster titles, a realm of serenity and speed. Sonic Mania is beyond a doubt the Sonic game that we have all been expected, and all deserve.