Life hasn’t been easy for a Sonic fan ever since the demise of the Dreamcast in 2001. Sega has released a few good games ever since then, such as the Sonic Advance games and Sonic Colors, but the past years have been pretty dark for the blue hedgehog, with titles ranging from boring (whatever that game with the werewolf was) from abysmal (ugh, Sonic Boom). In order to try to make ammends, Sega had an actually pretty good idea: hire actual Sonic fans, people who were involved in free web-based fan games over the past year, for the next game in the series, an actual throwback to Sonic‘s old roots, the days in which he reigned supreme and made that Italian plumber eat a lot of dust. The wait is over, friends: here’s Sonic Mania, and it’s even better than you would have expected.
After being greeted with a cartoonish cutscene which automatically fills anyone’s heart with nostalgic joy and pure happiness, you’ll be quickly transported back to an old familiar place: Green Hill Zone. Everything looks just like it was back in the first Sonic, but also better in every single aspect. The graphics are simply superb, with a fantastic use of color, improve pixels, a huge increase in speed (gotta go fast afterall!), and most importantly, a huge improvement in Sonic’s animations. Sonic and his pals have received a fantastic animation overhaul, and it’s just a complete blast to look at how smoothly they perform all of their actions. This is definitely not just another Mega Drive Sonic with a few new stages, this looks equally nostalgic and refreshing. To top it off, some bonus stages feature a polygonal Sonic, something I can only imagine being a nod to how a proper Sonic game would have looked like in the Sega Saturn. Does it feel out of place in a game like this? Yes, a little bit. Did I care about it? Not that much.
Sonic also plays as good as ever. The 2D Sonic have never been complex in terms of controls, and Mania follows the trend. You’ll basically just use the d-pad (or analog stick) and just one jump button, as easy as it could possibly be. Everything is as responsive as it should be, you’ll never going to complain about the controls as you would in other more recent Sonic games. Sure, you’ll still end up hitting an enemy or a trap without even having time to react given the character’s speed, but that’s exactly what those games have always been about: either be slow and careful, planning your steps and exploring every bit of the level, or just go completely nuts and as fast as possible, reacting to obstacles if possible.
Sonic Mania‘s best department is its sound. Oh my goodness, its soundtrack is AMAZING. Flawless. Ten outta ten. Just like the rest of the game, the developers mastefully bring back the great tunes from previous stages such as Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone with amazing rearrangements, but also create amazing new tracks for the new zones, with much richer instrumentations and effects, without losing the charm and style of the older stages.
If there are things I’d pick as negatives in order not to look like a completely awed fanboy, I’d say that Sonic Mania‘s bonus stages are still a bit underwhelming, and that a few bosses are very annoying to beat. Boss fights have never been a strong aspect in older titles, usually resorting to jumping onto a ball-shaped robot three to five times in order to destroy, and it’s no different here. While some are downright annoying, there is one phenomenal boss battle in Chemical Plant Zone. I won’t enter into details, it’s best for you to see the surprise for yourselves.
Any of those complaints can’t possibly tarnish this game in any way. It’s still incredibly fun and infectiously charming, to the point you won’t replay stages only in order to get an achievement or two, but because they were such a joy to play that you’ll want to experience them over and over again. This is something very few games can achieve.
There’s no other way to say it. This is not only the best Sonic ever made since Sega became a third-party company. This game can easily be considered the best Sonic game of all time. You read it right, ladies and gentlemen. We’re looking at an instant classic over here, and I can’t recommend it enough.
This is the Sonic we need and we deserve. Close this window and go buy it right now if you still haven’t!
Sonic Mania is also available on PS4, PC, and Switch.