Review: Sonic Mania (PS4)

Review: Sonic Mania (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platforms/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Sonic Mania
Format: Collector’s Edition / PSN (199 MB)
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Headcannon / PagodaWest Games
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Sonic Remix might be a better title for this product assuming that the moniker wasn’t already taken by one of the many forgettable games that have defined this franchise for over a decade.

The building blocks of the 16-bit Sonic games are broken down and rebuilt with a modern digital masonry that delivers a reworked sequel to the originals.

After dabbling in 3D, experimenting with half-baked narratives, and unsuccessfully attempting to revive the series’ popularity, Sonic Mania returns the blue blur to his roots and showcases a stellar mix of nostalgia and new features.

Gameplay:
At first glance, an uninformed player might mistake Sonic Mania for nothing more than an HD remaster of a game from the original trilogy.

As the first act of Green Hill Zone progresses, wistful nostalgia turns to delightful confusion. Without spoiling anything, the unexpected boss fights will surprise even the most hardcore Sonic fans and incorporate some Easter eggs from other SEGA properties.

Allowing the player to choose from three protagonists – Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles – gives purpose to the multiple navigable paths in many levels. Building upon the already impressive scale and verticality of the originals, places like Chemical Plant Zone and Hydrocity offer ideal and separate traversal options for each character’s unique abilities.

In addition to the familiar assets from the remixed zones fans will recognize, Sonic Mania introduces two original worlds that adequately harmonize with their inspirations. The 16-bit feel is recreated and perfected with the modern accoutrements we’d expect from today’s platformers. Sonic and pals control tighter and move smoother while retaining that 90s SEGA attitude.

The ever elusive Chaos Emeralds are expectedly locked away behind bonus rounds that task you with chasing down a UFO while turning ring collection into acceleration and added seconds to your clock. A more familiar bonus stage will teach you to master quick D-pad turns while gaining speed on the surface of a giant sphere, collecting blue balls and dodging red ones.

A time attack mode and an extras menu add longevity to the game and incentivize players to chase unlockables. Among the rewards of more moves and abilities for Sonic, the devs have tucked away a debug mode for the dedicated to fiddle with.

I can easily recommend Sonic Mania to those of us who grew to love him on the Genesis, but platformer enthusiasts without the specific frame of reference also have a great game to enjoy. Speeding through the levels while jumping on different robot species, collecting rings, and finding power-ups is more fun than ever with the added polish.

While Sonic may not be at the height of his fame, he remains recognizable among the newest generation of gamers. I still see the Sonic insignia on children’s clothing and his appearance alongside Mario on Nintendo platforms, although a blasphemous thought during the days of the console wars, has kept him relevant.

Likely having been introduced to him on Wii, DS, or even PS3, younger fans can now experience Sonic’s roots without emulation or digging out old hardware.

Visuals:
The graphics of the 16-bit era are showcased in all of their retro glory with some welcomed updates. Varying backdrops displaying everything from foliage to studio equipment beautifully populate the entirety of your modern widescreen. Sharper edges, smoother textures, and a rock solid framerate deliver us these visuals in an authentic but premium package. The option to add CRT video filters is available for the purists.

Releasing in the wake of a complete, from the ground up remake such as Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, the look of Sonic Mania might leave much to be desired by gamers looking for eye candy.

Possessing the visual appeal of a modern Indie done in the 16-bit vein rather than a brand new big budget platformer, the game does however understand its audience. The rising popularity of attempting to pay peerless homage to gaming’s golden age and the desire to resurrect yesteryear’s blockbusters ensures this game’s release into a welcoming, nostalgic climate.

Audio:
While Sonic’s speed and Genesis’s blast processing may have been nothing more than attractive marketing, it’s hard to argue that the soundtracks weren’t fantastic. Cleaned up and enjoyable at a higher quality, the music in Sonic Mania remains a highlight. Much like the overall theme of the product, remixed familiarity in the looping melodies makes them feel both new and original.

The first time I came across the idea of listening to video game music outside of playing the actual game it’s from, a Sonic soundtrack was involved. It seemed bizarre to me when a friend of mine burned Sonic’s music onto a CD and enjoyed it in his car. It did however cause me to gain an appreciation for the quality of the tunes and view them as viable entertainment even when separated from the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
Before the age of online connectivity, it was much more important to check that 2-player box on a game’s list of features. Even when a multiplayer mode seemed unnecessary, second player mechanics were oftentimes shoehorned in or tacked on in a limited, inconsequential manner.

Unfortunately, this has also been faithfully recreated in Sonic Mania. A passive player 2 can control Tails but is often left off screen and constantly killed. There are those incredibly clutch moments though, where Tales helps Sonic reach a ledge or plucks him out of water just before the foreboding drowning countdown reaches zero. Competitive mode does however turn every level into a fun split screen race to the finish.

Conclusion:
The book Console Wars by Blake J. Harris is a fantastic read chronicling the events and actions of the brilliant business minds responsible for Sonic’s status in the video game hall of fame. Once upon a time, Tom Kalinske and team managed to use the blue hedgehog to gain majority market share in a climate long dominated by Nintendo and their unbeatable Mario.

When analyzing the origins of Sonic Mania, I can’t help but draw a comparison to Kalinske’s passion for making SEGA great. Rather than destroying the fan project in its infancy or issuing a cease and desist order under copyright protection laws as Nintendo might have, SEGA adopted the idea and brought to market a much needed revival of possibly the only video game mascot that will ever claim a win over Mario.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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