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Sonic Mania Review - PS4

Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:46 pm
by SomeGuyWithASega
No new topics here since 2010...yikes.
I pretty much had to get the PS4 version of Mania, because none of my crap PCs can run Mania, except for one good one that I don't see very often, and I don't have an XBox One or Switch. And since I'm getting the game, and I'm a huge Sonic fan, why not go all the way and get the Collector's Edition as well?

Before we dive in the actual game, let's go over the Collector's Edition and what you get for $90 CAD; a metallic collector's card, the game itself via a piece of paper with a downloadable code on it (that expires!), a fake Sonic Mania Genesis cartridge that reveals a (plastic) gold ring inside when the contacts are pulled on, and last but not least, a Collector's Edition statue of Classic Sonic standing on top of a Sega Genesis. Slide the power switch to hear the "Say-guh" jingle from the classic games, though it requires 2 AA batteries to do this. As for downsides, the LED on the statue doesn't power on, but there are tutorials on the Internet to make it work. Second, although the sculpt and paint job of the statue is quite nice, Sonic's left eye looks a bit slanted at different angles.

Image provided by IGN. They're great at making Sonic stuff look awkward.

Overall, the Collector's Edition is a nice package, but I'd only recommend it to hardcore Sonic fans and collectors.


And now, the game itself. As always, the game will be ranked out of 20 from 5 different categories; Gameplay, Presentation, Graphics, Sound, and Replay Value. The five scores combined will result in the final score, out of 100. For example, if the game got 10/20 in every category, the final score would be 50/100.



So, Sonic Mania. If this were a regular review of the game by "professional" critics, it would say that "the blue bur had a hard time transitioning to 3D, and that bringing back the god-like 2D formula was a wonderful decision". While I can agree with Classic Sonic's full return being great and all, Sonic's 3D career wasn't that bad.

Despite the obvious sticks in the mud like 06 and Shadow, they came close to a bulls-eye with Sonic Adventure, with great gameplay & soundtrack, and a decent story that knows it's a game about a hedgehog travelling at supersonic speeds. I don't like SA2 nearly as much, but I can see tons of effort that was made to make a fitting sequel. Heroes was alright, Unleashed looked stunning and had an incredible soundtrack, as well as good gameplay; Colors & Generations trimmed Unleashed's fat while keeping the good aspects and sticking with them, and Lost World was...well, okay, but had a good soundtrack once again.

But that doesn't matter; 2D Sonic is back in Sonic Mania, with Christian Whitehead at the helm, the person that re-coded Sonic CD, 1 & 2 from the ground up and ported them to iOS and Android (also PC and consoles in the case of CD). Running on Taxman's own Retro Engine, Mania looks and plays more beautiful and seamless than ever before. Tee Lopes was in charge of the soundtrack, and did an incredible job with it, especially the brand-new tracks. But enough gushing; let's get into the story.

Oh, and there will be spoilers.


Sonic Mania starts off with Sonic and Tails investigating something happening on Angel Island. It appears to be Eggrobos stealing the Phantom Ruby, a special emerald capable of warping time and space. This ruby belongs to the Phantom King, and both him and Robotnik want to use it to destroy the world. What ends up happening is Sonic, Tails & Knuckles going through zones old and new to defeat both Robotnik's various machines and new villains named the Hard-Boiled Heavies.

*Ending spoilers here*

show spoiler»

There are a total of 13 zones in the game, including the true ending zone. Out of these zones, only 5 are new; Studiopolis, Press Garden, Mirage Saloon, Titanic Monarch, and Egg Reverie. The other 8 return from the Genesis/Sega CD era Sonic games; Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Flying Battery, Stardust Speedway, Hydrocity, Oil Ocean, Lava Reef and Metallic Madness. I wish there was a bit more of the new, especially since we've seen quite a few variations of some of these in the past already, but I'll let it fly this time.

Even if the zone's setpieces seem familiar to the originals, there are plenty of things that are completely new or recycled and mixed from other stages. Stardust Speedway now has the pulleys from Marble Garden Act 2, for example. This helps the zones still give off a fresh vibe while being familiar simultaneously.

Stardust Speedway Act 1

And while the new zones need to be more plentiful, what we got is still marvelous. Each separate Act in these zones puts a new spin on things that completely refreshes the previous Act; Studiopolis serves as a great example. What starts out as a film studio with projectors, director's chairs and popcorn machines culminates into a grandiose variation with TV studio, gumball machine and gambling elements. The amount of artistic talent invigorated into the game is staggering.

Studiopolis Acts 1 & 2

The sprite work itself is great as well. Each animation in the game is jam-packed with frames, making for a much smoother look than the Genesis titles could ever dream of. The animation while going down slopes and through loops has been modified to rotate the sprite, making it look less jittery than it did before. Everything in each and every zone in the game flows together flawlessly.
Not to mention that the game is in widescreen and full HD.

Sonic's ledge animation from Sonic 1 & Mania

Since this is a game celebrating Sonic & Sega's past, there are tons of references snuck into the game which serves as a nice callback for long-time fans. There are signs in Studiopolis saying "GENESIS DOES", "TO BE THIS GOOD TAKES AGES", "Pink Bot" and "LOCK-ON TECHNOLOGY", Mirage Saloon Act 1 is based off of Sky Chase from Sonic 2, with the Sky Chase theme cleverly snuck in the theme to it, and the Chemical Plant Act 2 boss is a throwback to Mean Bean Machine, or Puyo Puyo if you want the original Japanese name. Even Knuckles' Chaotix gets referenced by way of the Blue Ring monitor, which turns your rings into larger ones to pick up easier after being hit.

While these references are nice, they can sometimes get in the way of normal gameplay, such as the Chemical Plant boss explained earlier. The boss is a dramatic & sudden gameplay change without warning, which could throw off new players. However, these moments are few and far between, and the intended demographic should still be able to jump in just fine.

Studiopolis Act 1 with "Pink Bot" sign

Speaking of the gameplay, let's discuss that; the true Classic gameplay is finally back, physics and all. Gone are the days of rolling down hills resulting in absolutely no momentum, and stopping right when you stop pressing the directional pad. Sonic handles exactly how he did in the Genesis games, as well as sporting a new move called the Drop Dash, performed by holding down the jump button mid-air. Once you start using it, it's kind of hard to go back to the Genesis titles due to the lack of it.

And mercifully, one of the most defining aspects of the classic titles, the physics, return in their purest form here. Rolling down hills makes you go faster, rolling up and down adjacent slopes makes Sonic gain air and momentum, and so on. To me, the physics and how the levels apply it are some of the most important things in the 2D games. It gave Sonic its own feel, and made it feel much ahead of Mario on inferior hardware. There's a reason why the platform-focused stages in Sonic 1 are people's least favourite-- they don't make much use of Sonic's momentum, and even outright take it away in the case of Labyrinth, or the physics at all. Thankfully, while Mania has its more difficult stages, it takes great use of both of these whenever it can.

The physics in Mania successfully mimic those seen in the classics.

The level design in Mania is very complex with lots of hidden pathways and opportunity for exploration, yet I didn't find myself lost in it once, not even on my first playthrough. There weren't even any arrows telling me where to go; following the natural path of the level was enough to get me through, and that is how each level is consistently constructed. Not to say there weren't any cheap moments; most notably the rotating blocks in Chemical Plant Act 1 crushing you upon entering, and the many things that Titanic Monarch, the final zone, throws at you, especially the long platforms moving up and down found across both acts.

Titanic Monarch Act 2

Special Stages also return in the game in two forms;


1. Blue Sphere - The special stages from Sonic 3 return when jumping in the circle of stars above a checkpoint with 25 rings, a la Sonic 2. The stages are beautifully remastered with high definition and silky smooth 60 FPS. Medals can be won here as well; a silver medal is granted for completing the stage, and a gold medal is granted for getting a Perfect bonus in the stage by collecting every ring in it before finishing. Complete all the Blue Sphere stages to play them any time you want from the Extras menu, as well as brand-new Blue Sphere stages that introduce new types of spheres from Whitehead's earlier projects.


2. 3D Special Stage - These are the real special stages that give you a shot at a Chaos Emerald, and they use polygons too! These are accessed a la Sonic 3, with giant 3D rings placed in locations throughout the levels. In the Special Stages, you control Sonic on an F-Zero style track, chasing down a UFO holding a Chaos Emerald. You start off at Mach 1 speed and increase your speed by collecting Blue Spheres on the track that boost the meter. Rings are also collected for extra time. The goal is to avoid the obstacles in your way and catch up to the UFO to obtain the Emerald. My best advice for these stages is to cut corners and sharp turns as much as you can, focus on either rings to get more time or spheres to gain speed, depending on the situation, and take as many shortcuts when you feel safe to.

While the improved framerate helps for the Blue Sphere stages, I still don't like them too much for being overly complicated or cryptic. On the other hand, I love the new 3D special stages; just the right amount of difficulty for old and new players.

And finally, the soundtrack. What can I say that hasn't been said before? Tee Lopes did an amazing job with both the old and new stages, breathing life into what was already great to begin with, along with creating new tunes that still blow me away. Among my favourites are Studiopolis Act 1, Press Garden Act 2, Mirage Saloon Act 1 K and Act 2, Metallic Madness Act 2, Titanic Monarch Act 1, and the Hard-Boiled Heavies theme, "Hi-Spec Robo Go!" It helps even more that a D.A. Garden is unlockable in the game, giving access to every song in the game at your leisure.

Unlockable D.A. Garden


Sonic Mania is shaping up to be a very impressive game, but what do the scores say?

Gameplay: 18

Classic Sonic is at its finest here, even on par with, or better than the best the Genesis classics could offer.

Presentation: 17

Very good overall, but some of the zones are, somewhat glaringly, missing transitions. Still very solid presentation, though.

Graphics: 18

With great sprite work & memorable callbacks to previous games, Mania has done an amazing job updating the classics for an undeniably awesome retro feel.

Sound: 19

Almost each and every track consistently fits its corresponding levels while also being an absolute treat for the ears.

Replay Value: 16

The extra content won't keep you busy forever, and there isn't any DLC at the moment, but Mania is still worth replaying just for the great main content it offers.

Final Score: 88/100


-Sonic, Sonic CD