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Sonic Mania

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#1 uiruki

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Posted 15 August 2017 - 09:39 PM

23 years later, it's finally here - a proper new 2D Sonic.



I think we've all got some idea of the story by now - an Aussie coder by the name of Christian Whitehead started out messing around trying to recreate Sonic 3, then Sonic CD, then got picked up by Sega to actually do it (the PS3 and iOS versions), and now with some other known Sonic game modders Sega have put out a new Sonic game. Well, it's not all new, strictly speaking; half of the zones are 'classic' ones where the first half is a sort of greatest hits of that zone plus others similar. Green Hill Zone steps out into Emerald and Mushroom Hill Zones, for example. Then for Act 2 they build further and include those one-shot gimmicks that give levels individual character and help make Sonic what it is.


On topic of what makes Sonic Sonic, the way he handles feels very much like the classic games. Sonic still pushes off gradually from a standing start, he still has that slightly momentous in-air handling, and most importantly the way he interacts with slopes is kept intact. Sonic is best when it's bursty speed followed by the game asking for precision and then doling out rewards (and level position) based on how you keep him under control. It's not uncommon to see three branching paths from a high speed jump, or to be catapulted vertically past a ring box which you totally could have reached if you'd taken it a little slower or positioned yourself a little better. There are still sudden deaths, but they're not as common as you think; the big killer for me has been being crushed, as the collision detection is still very much on the Mega Drive version's side of exacting. Special mention to the blocks in Chemical Plant Zone which remain a pixel too narrow for Sonic to fit standing; got me once there.


In terms of special stages, you have two: first there's Blue Sphere available from checkpoints, which provide medals that unlock stuff ingame (the first one I got gave me Sonic CD's standing start). These play the same as on Megadrive but twice as smooth. The second are kind of like the Mega CD version's UFO chase but this time you only chase one UFO and it's all polygons! Fun but they don't allow much room for error as you're against the clock.


Talk of polygons brings me onto the game's look overall. At first glance it looks like it could be done on Saturn but I think it's a bit too much for it; there are a few too many polygons on the backgrounds, Sonic has a little too much animation, there are a few too many rings flying around when you get hit and the special stages are just a little too detailed to work on the Saturn at 60. The DC could do all of that easily though, and everything has this solid look to it that you'd expect from the Dreamcast. Performance-wise, apart from a few dropped frames manifesting as slowdown in the special stages on Switch, it runs fine. The game runs in a proper internal 240p resolution so although there's plenty of sprite rotation it doesn't suffer from the "pixels of different sizes" effect you get in a lot of neo-retro games. Further testament to the care and attention given to the game by Taxman and his cohort.


Moving on to the audio, the sound effects are correct! Music is handled by an enthusiast remixer and the sound he's gone for feels to me like what an arranged version of a Sonic game would sound like (or a Saturn version) in the mid-90s; all bright synths mixed in with original tracks and the odd bit of sampled guitar. It fits in perfectly; no Jun Senoue and his shit slap bass fetish or that guy from Orgy here.


I'm just a few zones in but this is basically what I've been waiting for. The last Sonic game I got any enjoyment from was Sonic Adventure (and that could easily be put down to the old "defend your purchase" mindset) and nothing since has really hit for me - not Colours, and not Generations, though Rush came close (probably because of the soundtrack). This does though.

#2 TheShend


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Posted 16 August 2017 - 12:26 PM

I've had a small crack at the very first zone and like what I see already. Can't wait to see what they've done.

#3 qazimod


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Posted 16 August 2017 - 01:13 PM

I think I've seen most of the zones now (although I'm nowhere near good enough for the new special stages) and agree that it's generally pretty good. The look of the thing is spot-on and the music is pretty much fantastic on every stage. I think that people hating on "modern" Sonics are a bit harsh - even without my bizarre defence of Adventure, I love some of the stuff done in the DS and GBA games - but this is the most enjoyable Sonic game I've played since Rush. The "physics" feel fine, there's no homing attack :P ... everything works as you'd expect. There's an interesting "learning curve" to the levels which might be irritating at first but quickly becomes enjoyable - seeing new things introduced in zones and wondering how you're supposed to interact with them eventually becomes rewarding once it all "clicks".


I like the return of the special stages, although the one on CD can be kind of unforgiving when you make one mistake and then have no hope of doing the thing in time - I much prefer the classic blue/red spheres of S3&K's stages. There are some great surprises in the regular stages - one "boss battle" in Chemical Plant is a fun burst of nostalgia but not in the way you might think! Taking a bit of a break from it for now as I have a few other new releases keeping me distracted and I don't want to hurry through this, but I'll be back for those missing emeralds. Perhaps.

#4 shadowman

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 11:07 PM

9 levels in now, this is right up there with Mega Man 9 in terms of how sequels to classic games should be treated. Going back to the MD template seems to have worked perfectly, but I guess it helps the people making the game clearly love and respect the franchise. The remixed levels are brilliant fun, with them almost feeling like brand new levels in many instances, and the new levels have been incredibly solid as well. Levels are huge but not instant death traps like later Sonic games.


Audio is a standout here as well, with all of the music being of the highest quality, I love both the remixes and brand new tunes. The bosses have been excellent as well, with some really great nods to past Sonic games (some of which very obscure). I really hope this does well enough to get a sequel with more original levels - but I'd not say no to more remixed classic levels either as the ones here are so good. 10/10 for me.

#5 shadowman

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 06:57 PM

And finished. The game is consistently excellent throughout the entirety of the game, bosses are really solid as well and so are the choice in levels. I've still got a whole lot of stuff to do on the game (chaos emeralds etc.)


Definitely in the running for my game of the year, almost certainly my soundtrack of the year (that's a two horse race between Sonic and Persona). Really shows up Sonic Team though. I liked Colours and Generations as games, but they never got close to how good Mania is, I really hope the Mania team get to make a couple more Sonic games with ample time and budget, as they really knocked it out of the park with this one. 

Edited by shadowman, 17 August 2017 - 06:57 PM.

#6 uiruki

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 11:24 PM

Cleared all the zones.


I think this is really top drawer stuff; it gets right exactly the same stuff that the earliest Sonic games get right. The way the levels are structured teach you the gimmicks naturally, there are exploration and performance related bonuses and most of all, the self-play parts (certainly towards the end) very clearly take you safely through an area but often skip you past things. As a result every level feels new, while simultaneously familiar and while you can gilde through fairly easily the game is constantly calling to you - "how do you think you get this?" "here's a chance to get an emerald, but you missed it!" "you're doing fine, but you could be doing better".


In the end I only really have two complaints. The first is inconsistent punishment for errors; crushing was once again the main way I died in this, while you can dance around on spikes without worrying. I'm not asking for a return to the Sonic 1 two-hit combo but it makes a few areas disproportionately risky - though it's apparent they've tried to design around it. The second is the special stages. I was never a fan of Blue Sphere and it just comes up too often. The Chaos Emerald one is better but I'm not really happy with the handling as it doesn't feel enough like a 2D or a 3D game. Again, that also suffers from the inconsistent punishment issue with the out-of-bounds ender.

#7 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 11:13 PM

I found myself looking forwards to this as soon as the animated intro hit the internet, but... I dunno now. The first couple of stages, I loved. The Puyo Puyo boss was inspired, too. But there's Sonic bullshit in here - enemies placed at the end of what are effectively auto-scrolling sections that are impossible to avoid unless you already know they're there, the occasionally buggy death (I've died a couple of times from spin dashing to the edge of the screen, even though on my next life I've found that there wasn't actually anything there to kill me), that fucking Metal Sonic boss (I swear there are moments when it's impossible not to get hit on the race sections). There's also the entirety of the flying stage, which controls horrendously, imo.


But then I get to something like the Sonic the Fighters boss and it's difficult not to find myself smiling again.

I've not shouted "BULLSHIT" at the television as much in a long time, though. I keep hearing people saying that some of the things that are annoying me have always been present in Sonic, but that's not the case - Sonic 1 was pretty much bullshit-free.

It does look and sound glorious, mind.

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