Sonic and the gang are back, and they aren’t better than ever. They’re exactly the same and it’s the best thing ever.
Sonic Mania is the game Sonic fans have wanted, and that Sonic Team has finally – hallelujah! raise a freaking chorus of angels! – delivered.
If you’ve ever played/enjoyed the older Sonic the Hedgehog games (Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic and Knuckles) that were originally released in the early 90s, then drop whatever you’re doing and buy/download Sonic Mania from the e-shop on whichever system you have handy. (Assuming you’re not a super-fan like me, and enticed by things like Collector’s Editions, you can pick up this newest great addition for $20. Not only is it chock full of nostalgia, it’s also just a damn good game that’s finally answered the wishes of Sonic fans the world over.)
Words cannot describe how many “yes” buttons this game pressed for me (although I’m damn well going to try), and I will admit that I might have—possibly, maybe—cried. You’re welcome to judge me; after you play this game, you might be right there with me, sobbing into your controller. Here’s why:
If it was possible to choke and die because of nostalgia, this game would have done it. I turned it on and even from the first, initial blaring of the “SEGA” jingle (I know you just heard it in your brain. Don’t lie), I was flashed back to my childhood: sitting in my 90s garb—plaid tights and white keds—and sipping my Squeeze-it while running from zone to zone in the earlier Sonic games. It was like no time had passed.
I haven’t felt nostalgia this strongly for something since… ever, probably. Sonic the Hedgehog was my gateway drug of gaming, and going back to something that felt so reminiscent of my first gaming experiences was pure, disarming, and just… happiness-inducing. 10/10 would recommend for the sheer positive feelings alone (saying nothing of the gameplay or the music or anything else). Speaking of the gameplay, it plays like the old games, down to the reaction times of the smallest jerk of my finger (I’m playing on the Switch)!
Whoever was in charge of this game finally, for once in the collective lives of Sonic Team, knew what they were doing: making a game where speed and reaction time were the paramount components. No gimmicks or strange plot lines!
One of the ways the dev team captured the feeling of the old games was by simply… porting in old levels. Eight of the thirteen levels are from older 2D side-scrollers and it’s glorious. Although it may seem lazy, those levels were a breath of fresh air amidst the new—and admittedly amazing!—levels. The level designs for the old levels were kept roughly the same, too! More than once, I raced through a zone (like Flying Battery or Hydrocity Zone) and thought, “There should be a checkpoint/star post right about… here.”
And, there it would be, 9/10. It’s the little, small details like that that will tickle even the blackest of hearts when it comes to the nostalgia of these games.
Also, speaking of old levels… Blue Sphere has made a reappearance. I’m not sure who asked for it, but it’s there now.
THANKS, SEGA TEAM (no, but actually, thanks).
OLD FEEL WITH NEW GRAPHICS
This game looks stunning while still keeping it’s very obvious 2D-Mega Drive/Sega Genesis roots in mind. Just… I won’t even waste words trying to describe it. Just look.
DIFFICULT ENOUGH TO MAKE IT CHALLENGING
You may think I’m joking because come on, there hasn’t been a super hard Sonic game in ages. But no, Sonic Mania brings it all home, adding in enough difficulty to want to make you tear our hair out.
All these years, I thought I was good at Sonic games, but Sonic Mania has wasted no time in kicking me off that high horse born of arrogance and putting me in my place. /cry
I haven’t been schooled by a game so hard in a very long while. But, it was both humbling and exciting as hell, because I can’t level up my characters or buy beneficial DLC. It’s literally just me with the controller, trying to best my previous self. I kept wanting to push further, do better, and try again, rather than immediately trundling off to the Internet to find a method to progress in the game.
GLITCHES AND DELAYS
Whether or not this was intentional, I’ve found my fair share of glitches—moments where I’d input a command, and have to deal with a split second of lag. But, rather than angering me, it just warmed the cockles of my heart, because it was exactly like playing the games growing up. A glitch in the fifth level of the game killed me, and rather than raging at the television, I sat there and laughed (and cried a bit) because it was so much like my childhood.
Now, this might not actually be a rational response, but for anyone else who lives their life drowning in daily nostalgia like I do, you will not be disappointed by this.
(And, the reason I’m semi-convinced the inclusion of these glitches was intentional is that the lag for the blue sphere stages is exactly like what it was in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. The ol’ familiar lag allowed me to dominate.)
MUSIC AND SOUNDS
While it’s not Michael Jackson, Tee Lopes (the composer) knew what he was doing when he worked on the music for Sonic Mania. While there are—admittedly super sick—remixes of older songs that we know and love, there are a fair share of new ones that are unfathomably good. I have listened to them. On repeat. For many hours.
Also, the Dev Team kept in loads of the old noises, as well—the jump sound, the sound of opening boxes, the sound of losing all your rings in one fell swoop because you mistimed a jump… ah, familiarity.
To be honest, on the whole, the music works to enhance that feeling I was mentioning.
What was it again?
Oh, yes. Hardcore nostalgia.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a link to the complete soundtrack.
SICK COLLECTOR’S EDITION (if you’re into that sort of thing)
I don’t have words for it. Look at this. Look at this beauty. Did I need a 12in’ statue of Sonic that plays the SEGA load jingle?
Yes. Yes, I did.
Not to mention the metallic collector’s card and the SEGA cartridge cast (don’t try to put it in your Genesis/Master System. YOU’LL BREAK ‘EM BOTH AND NO ONE WANTS THAT). Were the goodies worth an extra $50?
If you consider yourself a Sonic fan, then the answer is going to, undoubtedly, be ‘yes.’