If you’re anything like me and haven’t touched a Sonic game since the Sega Genesis days, then Sonic Mania and its return to the good old days of simple, but effective side-scrolling platforming probably sounded pretty good to you too. I’ve never really played any of the later 3D Sonic games, so I don’t really know if they’re as bad as everyone says and can’t compare this to them, but I know I like good old Sonic games, and that this sure feels like one of those.
Sonic Mania is mostly made up of a selection of “best of” classic levels, which are not only remastered for HD, but have also been greatly expanded and improved upon. Each level is now a massive multi-pathed labyrinth (even more so than some of them already were), yet they’re all relatively simple to navigate. There may be an intimidating number of forks in the road (and even more ways to approach things if you play as Knuckles or Tails, but they all lead to the same goal in the end, so there’s a lot of replayability potential there.
There is also a set of completely new zones added into the mix, each of which feels so fun and natural that they seem like they could have been found in some dusty vault of unused Genesis levels. All together there are 12 zones in the game, with 2 acts each, making for a grand total of 24 levels, making this quite long for a 2D Sonic game.
There is also now a boss at the end of every single stage, instead of just at the end of each zone like the old days. So that’s over 24 bosses to smash your way through, again, being made up of a mix of new and old. Like the new levels, the new bosses are pretty creatively designed for the most part, and make for a lot of fun and memorable moments throughout your relatively long journey.
There’s also a huge pile of bonus stages and special stages to be found in each level. The bonus stages actually get frustratingly difficult pretty quickly, but luckily the medals obtained from them are entirely optional and only serve to unlock some basic bonuses in the extras menu. The special stages though, they’re the usual bit of tricky chaos emerald hunting, which of course you’ll need to collect all of if you want to get to the real ending of the game. This is going to seem stressful at first, as these stages can be a bit difficult to find sometimes and you only get a single try before that particular portal is closed off for the rest of your playthrough. Luckily, once you beat the game once normally you unlock the option to select stages and infinitely replay special stages so you can just jump back to an earlier level to get what you’re missing and then quickly jump back to the last zone.
Although…it’s not going to be quite THAT easy. Getting all 7 chaos emeralds unlocks the ability to change into Super Sonic, and what you’ll need to do to get to that real final boss fight is get to the normal final boss and beat him while you’re in Super Sonic form. Getting to him at the end of the stage with enough rings to power up and then beating him before your rings run out is tougher than it sounds, and once you do that you’ll still have to deal with a pretty nasty real final boss. It’s a tough feat to accomplish and it’s kind of a strange jump in difficulty compared to the rest of the game, but again, it’s also optional so it’s up to you whether you want to deal with that frustration or not.
Overall, it’s exactly what I wanted from this game though. A revisiting of happier Sonic times, with heaping helpings of everything that made the classic games so great, that I thought would scratch that Sonic itch I’ve been feeling lately, but has actually just made me want to go back and play all the old ones again even more.
P.S. where was the Sonic Spinball tribute level though?!? (Was I the only one that really liked that game?)