It’s been quarter of a century since a little blue hedgehog ran into our lives with a sonic boom! Since then he’s collected countless rings, defeated hundreds of enemies and against all odds always saved the day. His journey has been one full of many highs and some lows as he’s spin-dashed through various consoles in various forms but in our hearts we all hoped upon hope for a return of the super peelout across a good old fashioned platformer… and it’s finally happened.
A demo version of Sonic Mania was made available at the Summer of Sonic Convention on 6th August in London and the response from fans was overwhelmingly positive. The game is a collaboration between Sega, Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, and PagodaWest games. Forget Nintendo exclusives and Hedgehog engine, the game has been stripped back to how it used to be and it’s beautiful. There are of course obvious differences. The sound is crisper and cleaner whilst the classic sound tracks are reproduced in HD quality but not changed like they were in Generations. The movements of Sonic are still essentially the same (with the addition of new move “Drop Dash”) but he seems to be different this time around. Fine tuned mechanics? Possibly. The levels are a joy to play. Again they are kept close to the original and while changes have been made, particularly to the backgrounds, where mountains and waterfalls now have shape and form rather than just coloured pixels. It may be a far cry from the super HD levels of Sonic 4 a few years ago but if I’m honest I much rather prefer it.
Of course I’m not saying that the remixed soundtracks of Generations or HD graphics in episode four are bad, but it is incredibly nice to be back to the basics. The levels are nicely laid out too. They seem bigger but not overwhelming and even Greenhill has a few surprises along the way. Remember the twisty path from Emerald Hill in Sonic Two? That’s in there, and the electric, fire and bubble shields from Sonic Three make an appearance too. While there are some new surprises in there I didn’t find the levels particularly hard but more, interesting,’ – after all, seasoned gamers know the sonic games inside out. Because of this, it was nice that they threw in some twists and turns and whilst the new levels took some getting used to, they didn’t look or feel out of place at all. I felt at one point like I was playing Freedom Planet with a different sprite, and honestly I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Sonic’s overall move-set such as jumping and the peelout are taken straight out of the later games that Christian Whitehead worked on, putting his definitive stamp on it.
With release slated for Spring 2017 is there any love for the blue blur out there? I think yes. Summer of Sonic and Sonic Boom events proved that and many of the old school fans will be happy with this. Many people believe Sonic games don’t have a place in today’s video game market. Current head of Sonic Team, Takeshi Iizuka doesn’t think so. “In film there are realistic films, war films but also Pixar and Disney” he said, “that’s a really dreamy and fantastical world that they draw up- they are completely independent genres and they can co-exist and there’s a fan base for both types of film.”
We have high hopes for this game but won’t know for definite until we get a chance to play through in Spring next year. The game is set to release on PS4, Xbox One and PC simultaneously before the new Sonic game is released towards the end of 2017… not bad for one little hedgehog.
Still unstoppable after 25 years…