Title: Sonic Mania
Developer: Christian Whitehead, Headcanon, PagodaWest Games
Release Date: 8/29/17
Platform: Switch, PS4, Xbox one, Steam
Sonic Mania is a return to form classic 2D Sonic game. Taking elements from Sonic 1, 2, and 3, Sonic Mania has everything that made the old games memorable.
Sonic Mania is the direct sequel to Sonic 3 and Knuckles. After defeating Dr. Eggman and stopping his plans for the Death Egg, Sonic and Tails leave Angel Island. However, They soon receive a distress signal, luring them to return. They arrive only to find a group of Eggman’s elite robots called the Hard-Boiled Heavies excavating a mysterious new gem called the Phantom Ruby. The Ruby sends Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and the robots through time back to Green Hill and the adventure begins. Play as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles as you try and stop Eggman from using the Phantom Ruby. As you play through Mania Mode, small cutscenes will play after certain stages, progressing the story.
Sonic Mania has stages from Sonic 1, 2, CD, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles as well as brand new stages. My first criticism of Sonic Mania is the lack of new stages. Only four new stages were made for Mania, the rest are returning stages. While that’s not necessarily bad, I would have liked to see more new stages as they were some of my favorites in the game. Classic 2D Sonic gameplay returns. The controls are tight and responsive never slowing down the game. The goal of each act remains the same, get to the end and jump on the capsule to release the animals. Zooming through the stages feels the best as there are no obstacles to suddenly stop your momentum. The new stages bring brand new mechanics that make the game fun to play. For example, in Press Garden Zone, areas are blocked off by big blocks of ice. In order to progress Sonic has to pass through a wall of mist that freezes him in a block of ice that can destroy other blocks of ice blocking the path. The original items from past Sonic games make a return. All shields(Regular, Water, Fire and Lighting) are back. Tails and knuckles cannot use the special ability of the shields, because of course, they will either fly or glide. Other classic items make a return like speed boots, invincibility, rings, and Eggman item boxes. One new item in Mania is the ring saver, an item box with a blue ring on it. Getting this item will combine your regular rings into giant rings making them easier to catch again, once you get hit.
In Mania Mode you can access two mini games. The first mini game is the blue sphere mini game, which can be accessed once you have 30 rings and hit a goal post. The stages start out easy as you collect blue spheres with no obstacles and very few red spheres, which if collected will end the mini game. However, as you complete more and more blue sphere stages the difficulty rises increasing the number of hazards and red spheres. Once you complete a blue sphere stage, you will receive a silver medal. If you can collect every ring in that blue sphere stage you will receive gold medal. Medals are used to unlock additional content in the extras menu.
The second type of mini game are the Special stages. Similar to Sonic 3, the Special stages are accessed through giant rings found throughout the zones. Unlike Sonic 3, however, the giant rings in Mania are 3D and much harder to find. The special stages in Mania are a mix between Sonic R and Sonic CD. The player must catch a U.F.O holding a chaos emerald in a 3D Sonic R style race. On the track are blue spheres and rings. Blue spheres will increase your speed once enough are collected. The player starts in Mach 1 and can increase their speed to Mach 2 and 3, with Mach 3 being the highest speed attainable. Rings in special stages act as time. The player must collect rings to continue the mini game. As the player loops the course the blue spheres will replenish themselves, however, rings will not. Item spheres will appear on the course that contain blue spheres upgrades that will fill your speed bar halfway. These items spheres will usually be in dangerous places that challenge the player to test their skill and luck in exchange for a possible ring out. Other hazards will prevent the player from succeeding such as mines and spike balls that will cause the player to lose rings and end time more quickly. The stages progressively get more and more difficult as you collect more chaos emeralds.
Surprisingly enough, the boss battles in Sonic Mania are actually fun! In previous Sonic games, the boss battles were tedious and annoying. They were always on the spectrum of extremely easy or extremely difficult. The boss battles in Mania are engaging and have no pitfalls, allowing the player to completely focus on the boss itself. There are three kinds of bosses in Mania: Eggman, Eggman robots, and the Hard boiled heavies. Eggman robots are simple boss battles usually appearing after act 1. They are simple bosses they you just pummel until they are defeated. Hard boiled Heavies are new bosses featured in Mania. They require much more skill and precision to defeat than the Eggman robots. You must wait for the right time to strike, or you will take damage. Due to their unique abilities each hard boiled heavy requires a different strategy than the last. Eggman himself will appear at the end of act 2. Eggman’s boss battles are no longer the same old boring encounters that they were in previous sonic games. Instead of hitting him until he explodes, the player will have to find his weakness to defeat him.
The soundtrack of Mania is the best of any 2D Sonic game. A wide variety of genres are featured in Mania. Mirage Saloon Zone has western music and Stardust Speedway features a calming smooth jazz. The first act of the returning stages feature music very close to its original track. It may sound slightly different, but it’s clear that they’re sticking to the original formula. The second act features a remix of the original music track. These remixes are some of the best music in the game, because they take the old songs and truly refresh them. Additionally, the music for the new stages perfectly fit into their themes . Most notably, the music of Studiopolis act 2 makes you feel as if you are standing behind the scenes of a TV production. The boss themes in Mania are also fantastic. The theme for the hard boiled heavies sounds like a lost track for Jet Set Radio. It’s funky and upbeat, completing the atmosphere of the boss encounter.
Sonic Mania has the best visuals of any 2D Sonic game. Each zone is full of color, never making any stage feel boring or drab. The animations are smooth and fluid bringing the characters to life. The characters’ personalities are clearly presented through their movements and actions. Everything was bright and crisp, especially on the Nintendo Switch.
Sonic Mania also has a Time Attack mode. Time attack is a single player mode where the player can speed run any level as long as both acts of the zone were completed in Mania mode. There is a starting line in the beginning of the stage that will start the timer once you pass it and a goal at the end of the stage that will stop the timer. Time Attack is great way to explore the stage to find the best route for Mania mode.
Competition Mode is the local versus mode. Only two players can play at a time. All three characters are available to play, you can even choose to pick the same character. You can’t play every stage from Mania mode even if you complete the game however, only a few stages are available to play. Scoring is based on time, rings, items, and enemies defeated. You can have up to a max of 12 rounds, each of which make for fast-paced, hectic action as you and your friend race for the goal.
Sonic Mania is the best classic 2D Sonic game, combining the best features of the iconic original titles. Every playthrough is fun and engaging. The developers have remixed the formula enough that nothing feels cheap or boring, but exciting.The music is fantastic and upbeat, the additional modes are great extra content, and the various boss battles are my favorite part of the experience. If you’re a Sonic fan, then I highly recommend playing Sonic Mania. Even if you’re not a Sonic fan, then I suggest you still pick it up. Sonic Mania maintains the look and feel of a classic Sonic game, but it fixes their problems, giving the best aspects of the franchise some new life. Sonic Mania delivers hours of content and fun, everything a Sonic game should have for the low price of $20.00.