Switch

North America

Sonic Mania (Switch)

by Jared Rosenberg - August 14, 2017, 8:20 am PDT
Total comments: 11

9

Sonic the Hedgehog makes a spectacular return to his 2D roots.

The last 16-bit mainline Sonic game was 1994’s Sonic & Knuckles. Through the power of Lock-On-Technology, players could combine that game with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and create one the greatest platformers of all time, Sonic 3 & Knuckles. While Sega has released an assortment of 2D Sonic games since then, none have come close to capturing the magic of those early Sega Genesis entries until now. Sonic Mania takes players on a nostalgia-filled adventure that feels like the Sonic 3 & Knuckles follow-up that Sonic fans have been forever waiting for.

Sonic Mania features a mix of brand new Zones along with many returning favorites. Just like in Sonic’s Genesis debut, players begin the game in Green Hill Zone. It’s important to note that the returning stages have been heavily remixed. Bits and pieces of the original level design show up, but for the most part the returning Zones feature completely new layouts in the style of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. The little nods and gimmicks that reference past Sonic games were pleasantly surprising. For example, Green Hill Zone now includes the corkscrew paths that originally appeared in Sonic 2’s Emerald Hill Zone. Just because your favorite Sonic Zone is absent from the game’s roster, doesn’t mean a sly nod to it won’t show up at some point. Overall, the level design is extremely strong and does a great job at balancing nostalgia with new ideas.

One of the largest criticisms leveled against Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was the game’s physics. The physics are not a problem in Sonic Mania thanks to Christian Whitehead’s Retro Engine, which perfectly replicates the physics of the 16-bit Sonic games. The game’s 3 playable characters, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles control exactly like you remember. Sonic does have one new trick in his arsenal, a Drop Dash, where Sonic can perform a quick boost immediately after landing a jump. I rarely used the Drop Dash during regular play, but it is a handy tool for the game’s time attack mode.

The music is composed by Tee Lopes, who has been creating Sonic remixes for years. Some of the returning songs stick very close to the original arrangements except with fancy new synth instruments. However, Tee Lopes does an amazing job at jazzing up many of the old songs by creating delightful new remixes. Along with the returning favorites, Tee Lopes has arranged a number of brand new songs that sound great and perfectly fit the Sonic aesthetic. The music and sound effects in Sonic titles have always been extremely important for setting the mood and thankfully Sonic Mania does not disappoint in those areas. This is also a beautiful pixel art game, even more so since Sonic and his friends have been enhanced from their 16-bit incarnations with additional frames of animations. Returning stages have subtle new effects at times, while the brand new stages give you a good idea of what a Sega Saturn Sonic game might have looked like.

The new Special Stages in Sonic Mania are discovered in the same fashion as those in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, by finding giant rings hidden throughout the game’s levels. In these, players enter a 3D arena and must chase a UFO carrying an emerald. If players run out of rings, the Special Stage ends, so collecting blue spheres to gain speed is integral while keeping an eye on the rings counter. These stages are quite challenging, but also a lot of fun. The Blue Sphere bonus stages, where Sonic must collect the blue orbs on a giant globe, also return. To play the Blue Sphere stages, one must simply have 25 rings when reaching one of the numerous checkpoint star posts. While it’s entirely optional to enter the bonus stages, I almost wish the ring count was higher for entering the Blue Sphere stages because you’ll constantly be breaking up the action if you enter them at every opportunity given.

While Sonic Mania does so many things right, my biggest issue are the boss battles. That’s not to say they aren’t very inventive, but a few of them aren’t that well executed and many lack any difficulty. I would also argue that the boss battle music doesn’t pump you up the same way that previous 16-bit Sonic titles did. In addition, for all the amazing ways the game uses nostalgia as a plus, a brief moment or two cropped up where it almost felt too familiar and I longed for a completely brand new 2D Sonic game.

The Switch version of Sonic Mania was ported by Tantalus Media, the same folks who brought Twilight Princess to Wii U. Having had a chance to play both the PS4 and Switch versions, I can confirm both versions run at a silky smooth 60fps during the high-speed sidescrolling action. The one area where the Switch version takes a occasional framerate dip is in the UFO chasing Special Stages. It’s not a giant problem, but it is noticeable, especially when the PS4 version has zero issues in these stages. The game looks great on the Switch screen and I expect I’ll be playing Sonic on the NYC subway for months to come.

Sonic Mania is a delightful return to the 2D platforming style that first made the hedgehog a star. The love from the development team for 16-bit Sonic is evident in every moment of the game. Fans of classic Sonic must buy this game, but the excellent level design, music, and graphics will please all people who enjoy a well-thought-out sidescroller.

Summary

Pros
  • Great graphics and music
  • Very strong level design
Cons
  • A few of the boss battles are not well executed

Talkback

LemonadeAugust 14, 2017

Easy boss battles is a pro for me.

I dont plan on buying the game though. Im not much of a Sonic fan

ClexYoshiAugust 15, 2017

... whew...! <3

Like... there's no doubt in my mind that this dream team couldn't NAIL it, because I think the real only thing that held a guy like Simon Thomley alone back from greatness was a budget and a little bit of good ol' corperate conservatism to laser focus a project. you need only track the history of Sonic 1 megamix and look at the early days of SSRG to realize this.

and it's not like Christian isn't brilliant either. he's the guy who, after all, basically was like "here's a ground up fixed port of Sonic CD for Mobile! you guys like mobile, right?" and caught Sega's attention with his wealth of talent.

I've been listening to TeeLopes goodness since 2012dude knows what he's doing. Probably one of the few guys out there qualified for this sort of job outside of maybe like... I dunno, James Landino? even then, his music doesn't have that poppy jazz feel that something like Sonic Mania needed to stand on it's own two feet.



I hope Sonic Mania's rags to riches tale creates Sega a level of success even beyond the current fervor for it as a labor of love, and that certain companies learn a valuable lesson about cultivating their fanbases instead of employing their paralegal unit to salt the earth.

lolmonadeAugust 15, 2017

Quote from: Lemonade

Easy boss battles is a pro for me.

I dont plan on buying the game though. Im not much of a Sonic fan

Agreed.  As a big Genesis Sonic fan, the boss battles are probably always the weakest part of the games, and most of the boss battles in the game that were difficult always felt frustratingly so.

While I still think some of the boss battles are a bit too easy, my main issue is that certain ones aren't very well executed/fun. For example, there's a certain boss battle that is almost the reverse of a classic Robotnik battle from Sonic 3 and while it's a neat idea in theory, the original boss battle is a million times better.


Worth mentioning that some battles are still a little tough/frustrating, but most shouldn't take you too long to conquer.


I also think most battles don't feel as epic as some of the ones found in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. I always thought the battle at the end of Marble Garden Zone in the air was awesome and I feel no battle in Sonic Mania comes close to that.

ClexYoshiAugust 16, 2017

tone wise, quite a few of these are on par with Sonic CD bosses, although I think the mania team here focused on subverting expectations. I'm glad they aired on the easy side, rather than say... trying to get too cute. These are devs, after all, that has seen endless permutations of the Wrecker Checker ball to make it more difficult, or sonic fan games built around having insane boss fights, and really? Sonic games really aren't so much designed around having really challenging and intricate bosses. I feel that's one of Freedom Planet's strong points thanks to the mechanics that game has over the sonic games and why I don't think the two series compare together so well.


http://shc.sonicresearch.org/sonic/history15/23 if you want to see what Sonic looks like with balls to the wall crazy boss fights? here's a good example.

oh, and good luck.

oh, and the insta-shield gives Sonic a few iFrames. that might be really helpful.

lolmonadeAugust 16, 2017

3 levels into the game.  Generally agree with the tone and opinion of the review.  Still don't personally think the boss battles are an issue one way or another.


I've loved how the redone soundtracks (both original and remixed versions) feel so much fuller, robust.  And the game looks fantastic.

ClexYoshiAugust 16, 2017

Tee Lopes is amazing, huh? he's got a TON of Sonic Remixes on his Youtube channel.

Anyhow, I really hope they patch the MAJOR problems this game causes in the switch UI.

CaterkillerMatthew Osborne, Contributing WriterAugust 16, 2017

Oh my god Sonic and Knuckles?! Really?! This is Ridley in Smash tier for me! I can't believe they did it! My dream since I was in the 3rd grade!


The review here is great and about 6 zones in I am absolutely loving whats going on with the bosses. I feel like the first one is more epic than Tails carrying Sonic in Marble Garden. Even that under water chase gave me some epic feels. I like how they play and whats going on, it's the design of some of the machines that I don't agree with 100%.

ClexYoshiAugust 17, 2017

You're in for a real treat in about-well, I suppose you're already there considering your post is a day old, but I have to question... for a guy who takes his forum name from a badnick, how did you feel about the whole of Mirage Saloon?

CaterkillerMatthew Osborne, Contributing WriterAugust 19, 2017

I loved it is about all I can say lol! I've always loved the design of Caterkiller badnicks, I just wish it was purple instead of Pink. Where did that Pink color come from anyway? Is it a reference from some other Sonic game?

motangAugust 24, 2017

Fun game, finally Sonic got a good game, though it took a long time for it.

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Switch

Game Profile

Genre Action
Developer Sega
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Sonic Mania
Release Aug 15, 2017
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone

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