Real Talk By: KJ
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Sonic Mania is a dream come true for many Old School Gamers. Though I’ve enjoyed the Adventure Series, and a few other titles along the way, our fast-running-friend needed a boost. That would be in the form of Classic Play. A longtime fan would make it happen. Christian Whitehead was working on a home-brewed game titled Sonic Discovery running on his Retro Engine. He presented what he had to SEGA in the hopes they would approve. Whitehead was responsible for porting Sonic games to mobile with SEGA previously, so the company was more motivated to give him a shot. Whitehead teamed with Headcannon and PagodaWest Games. A Dream Project was now a reality. Could this experiment work?
Well to do it right, one thing is always needed. The classic SEGA jingle! It’s back. Next would be to grab classic titles as a blueprint. Possibly my favorite in the series was Sonic CD with its use of time manipulation and stellar sounds. Like CD, Mania opens up with an animated intro designed to build hype. The video puts a spotlight on Three Highlight Characters. Progress as Sonic, Tails, or even Knuckles. We’re shown a new group of bad guys built by Dr. Eggman (Robotnik): The Hard Boiled Heavies.
Each of these Special bolt-buckets provide some exciting Boss Fights throughout. Minor or major, they are fantastic. I’ll even say a franchise best in terms of innovation. You’ll appreciate how Eggman’s thugs put their various abilities to work. One that immediately comes to mind is the “Heavy Magician”. He makes players see things that aren’t there, While staying illusive in the process. Each of Eggman’s Robot Masters gave me Mega Man vibes in the most positive way. Sonic probably needs new ways to defeat these fresh foes.
The Drop Dash lets Sonic launch himself into a spin attack after hitting the ground. This can be very useful in a pinch. Equip a Hyper Ring, and less rings are lost when taking a hit. Great for players like me, who collide into seemingly every enemy on-screen. There is even an Egg Man power-up. Be careful though, it’s a trap sonic!
Sonic Mania maintains a classic look, but dive a bit deeper with CRT Filter options. Admittedly I didn’t see a substantial difference between each of the screen offerings. More noticeable is that the game maintains a smooth 60 FPS. From a visual standpoint, longtime fans will be pleased. A great amount of thought was put into the presentation. Top flight Character designs.
Mania’s soundtrack as a whole will be in contention for Best of 2017. New music hits just as hard as the classics, and belongs right there with the throwbacks. This is a 90’s Jam with no misses in the playlist. I can picture Michael Jackson breaking it down to the Mini Boss theme. Moonwalking and styling!
Play in some familiar stages such-as Green Hill and Chemical Plant Zone. Two levels that appear familiar on the surface. You’ll notice remixed content, with secrets that were never present before. Finding everything is going to be a tough task. Keep-in mind old areas now have many alternative routes. Once Mania’s Story Mode is finished, there’s much more to do. Since levels are so detailed, returning feels far from a chore. As stages are concerned, it seems that more focus was put on pre-existing areas with a modern spin, rather than brand new places. Time limits are still a thing, more noticeable now. I ran out a few times just trying to find bonus routes. Overall I really appreciate the layouts, but hitting that limit of 9′ 59” 99 can be a bummer. Finding everything is a guaranteed challenge, then you have to worry about sneakily-placed deathtraps, enemies, and Boss Fights. Trying to juggle multiple tasks while simply surviving, Sonic Mania is a tough game for completionists.
Studiopolis takes us to a uniquely lit place using blueish hues, and bright lights of Hollywood. This seems like a stage ran entirely by Dr. Robotnik. He’s plastered on TV’s, his name stamped on various set pieces. Enemies and obstacles fit the theme nicely. More original stages would have been welcomed since they are so true to the franchise. This flaw is leveled-out by the classic stages getting so much extra added to them.
Bonus activities make a comeback also. The Fast moving Blue Orb collecting mode. Another bonus joins the lineup. A very important one involving the retrieval of Chaos Emeralds being held by UFOs. Finding all the Emeralds will unlock the game’s true ending. Run around a race track avoid traps, while collecting rings to give you a speed boost. Later UFO levels, the ship moves faster with less predictable movements, making failure frustrating.
Launch into Two Player coop. This brings classic fun. True-to-form, Tails is here to assist Player 1. A Computer-Controlled Tails actually came through in a few clutch situations when I least expected it. I was surprised by the effectiveness of Tails this go-around.
Compete worldwide in Time Attack. Blaze through the unlocked zones fast as possible beating previous times, finding the best route. Time Attack isn’t always my favorite activity, but in a game like this built on speed it’s definitely a good fit. Upload your scores online.
Competition mode features old school 1v1. Make it to the exit before a friend. This is exclusive to local split screen. Yes it’s still just as fun to watch opponents struggle through obstacles, as you’ve already finished the stage, calmly sipping a soda. That’s how it is playing with my cousins anyways.
Sonic Mania is built on The 90’s era of Hedgehog Gold. Everything that made him great is inside one affordable game ($19.99). Though it’s made by a different crew, Mania provides truly authentic gameplay. Challenging in the right spots, with boss battles and tributes that will excite diehard fans. You’ll have to see it for yourself. This can set right next to all the classics you remember. Sonic Mania is a highlight Reel that enhances what was, while bringing in welcomed updates that fit perfectly.
Sonic Mania Gets
5 out of 5
+Gameplay is 100% True to Series Roots
+Presentation as a whole (Spotless Soundtrack)
+Thrilling Boss Battles
-No Online Play
-More New Stages