Developer: PagodaWest Games/Headcannon
Review Context: Though I grew up with Nintendo, I became friends with people who had a Genesis over a SNES. I have played most of the Sonic games upon their release, and while most feel the series dropped in quality after Sonic & Knuckles, I still play the new Sonic games to see if they can get their groove back. I still consider Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to be my favorite of the series, but the ones on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS came the closest to bringing that classic gameplay back.
Date of Playthrough: August 17, 2017
Nintendo Switch version was ported by Tantalus Media
Right off the bat, this game is gorgeous. The HD visuals and smooth 60 frames makes the 16-bit look feel authentic with added options to use filters to give it the feel of playing on a CRT TV with the two options available. The CRT Soft option is when the console used to hook up using RCA cables, while the CRT Sharp option was for when the RF switch was used. These little additions are nice and makes the game feel more like a game I would play on Sega CD or Sega Saturn and not the Sega Genesis. When you access the bonus levels they give off how early 3D models were back in the day, including pop-ins for the enemies.
The sprite animation reuses some from older games, but is more fluid. Let me explain: When Sonic would climb in the old games the animation was stiff, but in Sonic Mania the animation is smooth. Even his idle animation has more detail added. If you want a good example, just watch the title screen with Sonic waving his finger. Speaking of openings, if you let it stay idle, you’re treated to an animated opening with your three characters (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles). Fans will notice the animation is done in the style of the opening to Sonic CD down to a tee. It’s always beautiful to see traditional animation being used as a medium
One of the biggest complaints to Sega trying to rekindle the spirit with Sonic 4 Episode 1 & 2 were the floaty controls with the added homing attacks featured in the 3D games. None of that is present here. The controls are tight and respond quickly. There is a new added feature known as the “Drop Dash.” While you’re in the air, you hold down jump to dash when you land on the ground. If there is one aspect about the controls I don’t like, it doesn’t come from the game but instead from the console. The lack of a D-pad on the Switch’s Joy Cons made me get a Pro Controller. To my surprise, the D-pad is too stiff for platforming. While I’m fine with using the analog stick, there were a lot of moments in the game where I failed making a jump when I could’ve made it using a working D-pad. If I had a choice, I feel I would fare better on the Playstation 4 version because of this little eyesore.
When you boot the game up, you are limited to just the Main story mode. You have multiple options to choose as you can play the game three ways. You can play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles. As an added option, you can play as Sonic with Tails. Each character has a trait to make the playthrough different. Sonic is fast and has the Drop Dash, Tails can fly for a limited time, while Knuckles can glide and climb walls. This brings back the days of playing as Knuckles in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 via Sonic and Knuckles. While many levels are remakes of fan favorites, different paths and elements are added to make the old levels feel new, with the original levels feeling like we’re playing deleted levels. That’s how legit the game is, when original levels feel like they belong in the game instead of trying to recreate the magic that Sonic 4 was guilty for. Considering that the timeline for this game takes place after Sonic & Knuckles, this let’s you know that Sega is okay with people forgetting about Sonic 4. Be sure to look out for Easter eggs of other Sega properties, including one I didn’t expect to happen in a boss battle.
As you progress you unlock additional modes for the game, including Time Attack, Competitive, and Extras. Time trials has you speed running through the levels (with a character of your choosing) you’ve unlocked for the fastest time, with your completion uploaded to the online leaderboard. Competitive is local two player races in the vein of Sonic 2 via split-screen. While some people are upset it is limited to local only, I feel added online multiplayer wouldn’t feel right with games like this, but that’s just me. When playing this mode, my friend and I had flashbacks of playing Sonic 2 at a friend’s house on a Saturday afternoon. Good times.
There are other extras to unlock if you can collect all seven chaos emeralds. There’s even a cheat code in 2017. However, there is one drawback to the Switch version. As of this writing, there is an issue with the Home button. When I’m on the main menu the Home button sometimes won’t work or it’ll bring up the Sleep mode option stuck. Other times when pressed the Home screen will pop up after a five second delay. So if you want to leave the game, you must start a game for the Home button to work.
The moment you hear the classic “Sega” line upon boot up you’re in for a treat of classic goodness. The soundtracks for the levels have been remade, while keeping the 16-bit tunes. What surprised me the most are the tunes for the new levels. The crew did a fantastic job of giving the levels they created for the game a classic vibe of how the levels would sound in the early 90s. Even on competitive mode, the announcer has an over-the-top tone when announcing the characters. I can’t comment enough on how well the sound fits with the game. I can only hope this game can give other gaming companies (console) a chance for a fan to make a game the fans want.
Similar Games Liked:
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN)
Sonic & Knuckles (GEN)