I believe I’ve mentioned in past articles that I didn’t own a SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis in my younger days. This wasn’t because I didn’t want one, far from it. I always enjoyed any stolen moments I could acquire on the Mega Drive, if I was ever lucky enough to come across one in a shop or at a friend’s house. But alas, I was but a mere child with no money of my own, and my parents weren’t going to buy me one, so my Mega Drive playing minutes were fated to be short and sweet.
My undisputed favourite game whenever the opportunity to play a Mega Drive presented itself was Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It was, and indeed still is, a game which differentiates SEGA’s console from Nintendo’s SNES. Instantly playable, eternally charming and unapologetically fast, Sonic 2 was not only my personal favourite Sonic game, but you could also make a reasonable argument that it was the best Sonic game ever.
However, I now believe Sonic Mania to have taken its noble crown.
Sonic Mania is a game thoroughly deserving of all the assorted hype and plaudits it has been receiving. GR’s very own William Worrall gave the game a superlative 95 out of 100, and I’d struggle to make too many objections with his review.
It’s a game that achieves the one-two punch of being both true to the original games in the series whilst also having its own unique identity. Graphically it’s bright, colourful and beautifully drawn. Gameplay-wise, it’s instantly playable from the off, with simple and instinctive controls that players of all ages could get to grips with. And the music is lovingly composed, with remixes of previous famous level themes to go alongside the remixed levels themselves.
I’ve been having literally buckets of fun playing Sonic Mania, and when you add into the equation the fact you can play as three different characters, all with their own unique abilities, I’ve also found the game to have plenty of longevity and replay value as well.
I’ve been spending most of my time playing as Tails on his own actually, mainly due to the fact that he can perform a rudimentary doggie paddle whilst in water. This is not only adorable but also comes in quite useful in areas with a lot of potentially treacherous watery graves, such as the Chemical Plant Zone.
Knuckles has also seen some decent play time, but the old issue of him having a lower jump than the other two characters does sometimes rear its ugly head, usually in boss battles, and can be a source of frustration. That being said, I think the levels have been designed well enough that none of the three characters feel particularly out of place.
One suggestion I would have to potentially improve things would be for you to be able to select which of the three characters you’d like to play as at the start of every level, in conjunction to each of them also having their own individual campaigns. I think this would bring both a layer of strategy to the game whilst also making it feel like a big adventure that includes the entire Sonic crew.
It’s always a bit strange for me to see companies like SEGA marketing nostalgia like this these days, especially considering that when I grew up in the 90s, the lad culture that surrounded video games tended to sneer at anything that was older than a week. It was an age when retro-styled games, even the good ones, tended to find themselves on the end of lower scores than they deserved for the simple crime of not being modern enough.
I’m personally glad we live in a more nuanced time whereby you can release a game like Sonic Mania and it will then be judged on its own merits, as opposed to solely on its modernity. I think what Sonic Mania and the recent Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy also highlight is that there is definitely still a market for platformer games out there, be they 2D or 3D. I’d say that the 2D platformer, when done right, is probably my favourite video game genre. Yes, bad ones can be excruciating and dull, but when you get it right, they can be addictive and compulsive animals that keep dragging you back again and again.
Sonic 2 is definitely a game that falls into that category. I still go back and play it pretty regularly and enjoy it immensely. I can see myself coming back and doing similar with Sonic Mania as well as the years tick on. I think what I like so much about Sonic Mania is that it integrates the better elements of both Sonic 2 and 3 to make an overall superior game. I never really took to Sonic 3 in all honesty. I don’t think it was a bad game, and it certainly progressed the series in a lot of ways, but it just wasn’t as fun as Sonic 2 was for me. Sonic Mania is able to make use of the Sonic 3’s advancements whilst still retaining the charm found in Sonic 2.
If you haven’t played Sonic Mania yet, I strongly suggest you give it a look, especially if you consider yourself a fan of the 2D Sonic games. It’s disappointing that it hasn’t enjoyed a physical release, but it won’t take up an especially big chunk of your hard drive, and it’s definitely worth your time from both a graphical and gameplay perspective.
Thanks for reading
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave