Sonic Mania Review – Back in the Zone
Christian Whitehead brings the Blue Blur back into stardom with Sonic Mania for all current-gen consoles and PC. The classic “SEGA” logo and sound welcome you into the hedgehog’s biggest adventure yet. Even the title screen harkens back to the 16-bit era with Sonic wagging his finger side to side, showing his ‘tude is in tact.
Starting up the story gives you access to play as either the Sonic and Tails combo, Sonic, Tails, or even Knuckles, which is more than enough to satisfy any Sonic fan from the 90’s. Sonic runs quick, Tails can temporarily fly, and Knuckles can scale up walls and glide. No other new gimmicks aside from the drop-dash are showcased and I happily welcome my favorite blue mascot going back to the basics of the series.The drop-dash lets you drop from a jump directly into a dash that keeps momentum going when jumping around. This is the Sonic mechanic we’ve all been needing since 1991. If you enjoyed the classic trilogy on the Genesis and Sonic CD then you’re in luck because the game’s physics are exactly what you remember them to be.
The game begins with Dr. Eggman (Robotnik in my book) digging up the Phantom Ruby from Angel Island (again more nostalgia for the old-timers) and wants to conquer the planet, as usual. Sonic and Tails, or whatever character you choose to play, follows the plump antagonist to foil his plans, getting us into the action right away.
Sonic Mania’s introductory zone is the classic Green Hill Zone, complete with the inclusion of the original theme song. I’ll give you a moment to soak in the nostalgia. Anyway, as you play through the act, you’ll notice things aren’t exactly the same. The entirety of the stage is remixed which makes the level feel familiar, but entirely fresh. Different routes all lead to the goal, making the replayability factor extremely high as each act in the 12 zones add multiple routes of their own.
The game plays perfectly, and the sprites are beautifully animated. Sonic has never looked this good, and it’s all thanks to the high definition pixel art from Tom Fry. The gameplay is paired up with beautifully scored tunes from Sonic’s golden years and the inclusion of remixed versions of classic tunes only makes the soundtrack that much better. Seriously, check out Chemical Plant Zone’s Act 2 song, you wont regret it.
Special stages return in the form of “capture the UFO” where Sonic must gain coins and blue spheres to ramp up his speed to capture the UFO that, obviously, has obtained one of the seven chaos emeralds. Aside from these stages, you also get the return of Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s blue spheres, which is exactly the same as before, not too great. Both add a nice break into the Blue Blur’s platforming and are easily avoidable if the special stages don’t interest you.
Tons of secrets and easter eggs are littered throughout Sonic Mania to pay fan service to those of us who grew up playing Sonic the Hedgehog on our SEGA Genesis. This demonstrates that Christian Whitehead was the perfect individual to bring back the Blue Blur for fans of classic Sonic and a new generation of Sonic fans. Hopefully SEGA keeps Whitehead around to lead Sonic to new heights in the future.