I’ve been a Sonic fan since I picked up a controller. From the chimes of SEGA to the opening drum beats of the first game, I was hooked. Going fast was all I wanted to do. Each Mega Drive instalment was devoured after school or on weekends. Always after homework… I thought this could last forever. However, that wasn’t to be. The last 20 years (it’s really been that long), has been a frustrating time for fans of the Blue Blur. The 3D era hasn’t been kind. So, after years of anger at terrible gimmicks, glitches and anger fuelled rants about Big the sodding Cat, we arrive at Sonic Mania.
We start at Green Hill Zone. It’s in two dimensions and looks much like it did in 1991, except you can chose Sonic, Tails or Knuckles as your starter. Nostalgia is a popular theme through Sonic Mania. Although levels seem familiar, they have been rejigged. To begin with this threw me. It was a harder game than I was expecting because I was working against muscle memory. Once I kept pushing forward and got used to reacting rather than retracing, it got easier and more enjoyable.
Most of the game’s 13 levels were present in previous titles. There are 4 new levels, and these felt like instant classics. Running through Studiopolis Zone had the same nostalgic feeling as Green Hill Zone even though it is fresh off the development line. Sonic Mania follows the same set up as the golden age, 2 acts with a boss at the end. 7 Chaos Emeralds to collect by finishing special stages. These too have been remixed into something new. Smashing the halfpipe set up of Sonic 2 with UFOs of CD gives you a good idea of what to expect.
Thoughts on Sonic Mania
Sonic Mania felt more of a fan created mod that could cause Sega’s solicitors to get a big payday. Which is not too far from the truth. This wasn’t created by the usual Sonic Team but Christian Whitehead, a developer whose previous work includes remastering Sonic 1 & 2 for mobile phones. He also rebuilt Sonic CD from the ground up for Xbox 360 & PS3 (all commissioned by Sega, just in case any legal department is reading this). It’s fair to say he’s a fan of old Sonic games.
I really enjoyed Sonic Mania when I got over the issue of this being a new game, not a best of. It was somewhat deliberate that it was the first game off my list. Christian Whitehead and his development team have managed to do what Sonic team couldn’t; give Sonic fans what they’ve wanted since Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Will Sonic Team look at the performance of Mania and listen to their fans? Probably not, but at the very least I have a new Sonic game to tide me over for the next 20 years.