It’s been about a month since the Sonic movie came out. Surprisingly enough, it’s been doing super well! Financially, critically, the movie has been a success! I can’t share my thoughts on it just yet, as that would spoil an upcoming movie review (take a guess what it is). All I can say is that we’re living in a bizarre time where a live-action Sonic movie can be genuinely beloved!
Thus, Sonic continues the trend of being the most strange, inconsistent franchise of all time.
Today, though, I’m not here to pick on the blue blur. Rather, I’m going to talk about the one Sonic game that I unironically love! I want to talk about one of the best platformers of the last decade: Sonic Mania! Let’s get started!
Story: Back to Simplicity
Ever since Sonic went 3D, the stories told within the games have gotten progressively dumber. They go hard into edgy stories that take themselves way too seriously and focus more on terrible dialogue and cutscenes than they do the actual gameplay! The storytelling in these games somehow manages to be more uncomfortable and terrible than the first story I ever wrote when I was twelve years old!
Thankfully, Sonic Mania does none of these things. It’s simple and, better yet, quiet! There isn’t a single line of spoken dialogue in this game! Everything is communicated entirely through the animation! And amazingly, the story is still super clear and concise!
Shortly after the events of Sonic 3, Sonic finds himself on a new island for a new adventure! He quickly discovers Robotnik, attended by a group of all-new robots, digging up a mysterious new gem that distorts reality. Now, the blue blur must once again speed his way through various levels, grab the seven Chaos Emeralds, and stop Robotnik’s latest evil scheme!
This game is delightfully simple! There’s no grand story, no character development, none of that at all! The story is only there to set the groundwork for the game itself! And in that regard, this game’s plot succeeds masterfully!
Much unlike the game that came after this one. But that’s a can of worms for another day.
Presentation: That Sweet, Classic, Enhanced Genesis Goodness
FUCK this game looks good! Everything’s so bright and colorful! And oh god those animations! AND THE MUSIC!! This game is such a treat on the eyes and ears!
Visually speaking, this game looks like a super-powered Genisis game! The graphics have that sweet, timeless 16-Bit style with a whole bunch of extra colors and smoother animations! Each level has a completely distinct environment, filled to the brim with life and details that you could easily miss while blasting through them! All of the playable characters have just as much life, with high-quality sprites and some wonderful character-specific animations! They’re all as smooth as a silken dress and just as pretty!
Even the 3D visuals are great! They limit themselves to the tech you’d see on an early 3D game console, but with today’s modern polish! They’re jagged, janky, and charming as fuck! It helps that the animations are still so damn smooth! I’d take a whole game that looked like that!
Especially if it played even half as well!
The music in this game is an absolute jam! Each level has its own track, all of which are catchy and memorable! Sometimes, I’ll find myself humming one of the songs without even knowing it! Whether it be a classic returning track or a brand new one, every song in this game is a delight to listen to! I only wish that Crush 40 could be here. As terrible as that would be.
In terms of presentation, this game is an easy A+! It is absolutely fantastic, ticking all the nostalgia factors while still having its own distinct identity! By going back to that sweet retro style, it has managed to make itself look better than any other modern Sonic game!
Though that’s still not saying much. The bar there was pretty low.
Gameplay: Gotta! Go! Faaaaaaaaast!
Y’all know what this is about! You start from one side of the screen and aim to get to the other as fast as possible! It’s a classic platformer on speed! You’ll go through loopdy-loops, slow down to solve the occasional platforming puzzle, play the occasional minigame, fight a boss every now and then, and collect (and promptly lose) a shit ton of rings!
Let’s get the negatives right out of the way. One: this game carries over some of the clunkier aspects of classic Sonic games. Slopes can be difficult if you aren’t already going super fast; luckily, you have the Spin Dash ability to alleviate the problem. Just hold down and mash a button. Still, if you don’t know about that ability, it can be a huge pain in the ass.
A lot of the levels are recycled from the older games, which is a huge disappointment. All of the new levels are absolutely incredible! The old levels are great and all, but you can only revisit the old so many times! Let me play the new stuff! If this game were all new levels, it would be so much better than it already is!
The bonus from Sonic 3 is back; you know the one I’m talking about. Whether you like it or not is entirely up to you. Personally, I can’t stand it. It makes me motion sick, it’s repetitive and dull, and it makes me yearn for death. Thankfully, they aren’t necessary to finish the game. They’re only there for people who want to play them.
I’m also not a huge fan of the boss fights. They aren’t terrible, but I never looked forward to any of them. They always boiled down to ‘hit them, get hit, get a few rings back, rinse and repeat until the stage is over’. Personally, I didn’t find them to be any fun.
However, the Dr. Robotnik Mean Bean Machine boss fight was fucking awesome and I loved it! Easily the best boss in the game!
Also, not all characters are created equal. As of the Plus update, there are five playable characters: Sonic (with Tails, if you want some baby brother action), Tails, Knuckles, Mighty, and Ray. Each one has its own special properties: Sonic is basic and runs fast, Tails can fly, Knuckles glides and climbs, Bionic is Sonic’s brother that is a really good basketball player and mechanic (I’ll mail you five bucks if you understood that joke), Mighty can slam down into the ground, and Ray can fly up and down like Cape Mario in Super Mario World. Which one you’ll enjoy the most is entirely up to you. But personally, I cannot stand playing as either Knuckles or Mighty. They’re slow, their offensive abilities are weak, and it is a slog to get through their levels! I had no fun playing as either of these guys!
Still, grievances aside, this game is a blast! Each level is huge, filled with branching paths that make them hugely replayable! Blasting through them at high speeds is exhilarating and satisfying! The bonus stages are super fast, challenging, and fun! Each character’s super transformation is well worth the effort to get, making you feel like an unstoppable god (even if you’ll get sandwiched between moving platforms and die more often)! Blasting through the stages and slaughtering everyone in your path is a blast!
This game isn’t perfect. But it’s so much damn fun to play! It is an incredible experience that I’ll happily revisit again and again for years to come! It is the game that made me finally realize why people loved Sonic in the first place!
Ever since Sonic went 3D, he’s struggled to find his identity. Did he want to target children with simple, cartoonish plots? Did he want to aim for edgy teenagers with dark, violent stories? Do they want to be actually good for more than one game at a time? Sega could never be consistent with the blue blur! Thus, his reputation suffered dramatically! Sonic has become a joke in the industry, falling from his status as a rival to the legendary red plumber!
Thankfully, they made a really smart decision. They said “Fuck it! Let the fans do it!” and handed the reigns to a very talented team. And thus, we got Sonic Mania!
I’d highly recommend this game! It’s easily my favorite Sonic game (although the bar was pretty low)! It’s bright, colorful, and fun from start to end! It’s not just one of my favorite Sonic games! It’s one of my favorite games in the last decade!
Man. Remember how this came out in the same year as Mario Odyssey? We were spoiled that year, weren’t we?