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Sonic Superstars Review

by Matthew Zawodniak - December 18, 2023, 10:10 pm EST
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We tried to reach for the stars, and they still look pretty far.

I have tried so hard to like Sonic Superstars.

Superstars makes a great first impression as it nails the physics and controls that go into a 2D Sonic game. Sonic—at least in his side-scrolling incarnations—is one of the only platforming protagonists that has a heavy emphasis on momentum. Once he starts moving he can be difficult to control with precision, so actually speeding through a stage takes careful thought and practice to be able to do successfully.

This style of platforming may have a barrier to entry, but it’s what gives the classic Sonic franchise its core appeal since the player is rewarded for improving their own skill at the game—the better you are as a player, the more exciting the game will be in return. Nailing the feel of Sonic’s movement is ‘the hard part’ in making a 2D Sonic since nothing else matters if it doesn’t feel just right, and this is the area where Superstars is most successful. The movement and physics in Superstars feel perfectly in line with Sonic’s classic Genesis games, and that makes the many ways the game drops the ball with many other crucial aspects all the more disappointing.

Sonic Superstars is a death by a thousand cuts, and the first of those cuts is in the visible space around Sonic during gameplay. Simply put the camera is too close to Sonic, making it difficult for the player to see what’s coming up in front of them. This appears to be an issue with level design; Sonic himself is more or less the same size on screen as he was in the Genesis games, but everything else in the world is scaled up to seem so much bigger than him. Because of this the game often feels claustrophobic and cluttered, which flips around into feeling like too many critical details are just off-screen whenever the stages open up to allow more breathing room.

The biggest problem with the game that kills any chance I’ll be revisiting it in the future is the excruciatingly long boss fights. In most 2D Sonic games bosses can be attacked repeatedly in sequence, and if you’re particularly skilled you can finish many fights in a matter of seconds. This is not the case in Superstars where every single boss is designed to allow you to get exactly one hit in before it enters a long period of invincibility. Rather than the matter of seconds that a fight could take in previous games, Superstars’ bosses can be several minutes long when played perfectly (and God help you if you screw up and have to start the fight from the beginning). The bosses are not fun, and they add so much time onto a given playthrough that the threat of having to do them again is enough to stop me from ever replaying the levels preceding them.

There’s nothing but additional grievances to be found in the small stuff. The superpowers you gain from collecting Chaos Emeralds aren’t well-integrated into the game design—presumably because it’s possible to miss all of them entirely—and feel either too situational or too overpowered to be fun (and since they can only be used once per checkpoint the overpowered ones don’t even help much with boss fights). The online battle mode that serves as the only place you can use the customizable robot character that the game’s collectible medals are for feels tacked on like a relic from the days when every game needed to be able to advertise some form of multiplayer; not that it matters since there’s no one playing online to be matched up with anyway. Even the soundtrack is a letdown—a rarity for even the worst Sonic games—feeling more like an imitation of the classic Genesis soundtracks rather than an iteration of them.

After its strong first impression I quickly started to see the cracks in Sonic Superstars, but I kept pushing forward in the hopes that when all was said and done the game would rise above its flaws. This never happened; the more I dug into the game, desperately hoping for it to pull everything off in the end, the more frustrated I became as I realized it was never going to do that. I don’t like to directly compare a game from a totally different franchise in a review, but given how Superstars released only three days before Super Mario Bros. Wonder, it feels inevitable. Super Mario Bros. Wonder nailed its gameplay while reimagining Mario’s look for a new era, setting what could be a new standard for its franchise for years to come. Meanwhile Sonic Superstars looks back, basing its look on the animated shorts accompanying the retro aesthetic of Sonic Mania and Sonic Origins. Superstars should’ve been the new standard to live up to Sonic’s Genesis run, which just makes it sad that the game fails to even match the standard that was set over twenty years ago.


  • Excellent physics and game feel
  • Boss fights are excruciatingly long
  • Gameplay camera is zoomed in too much
  • So few things in this game come together in a satisfying way

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Game Profile

Genre Action
Developer Sega
Players1 - 4
Online1 - 8

Worldwide Releases

na: Sonic Superstars
Release Oct 17, 2023

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