Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch – game supplied for review
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Now, I never played the original release of Sonic Mania when it came out almost a year ago. When it was released, there was a significant demand for a physical-media release of the game, which hadn’t been anticipated. So, the developers added content, characters and some other cool value-add bits, called it Sonic Mania Plus, and did a physical release of it.
But, before I get stuck into this review I’d like to share a story with you.
The year was 1992. I was still in Primary school. My Dad had to go on a business trip to the United States, and he took full advantage of the duty-free system that the world used at that point to acquire me a Sega Game Gear for what was undeniably the surprise of the year for me. Because he was tech savvy (or had encountered a good salesman in the departure lounge of the airport) he had also picked me up a game, Sonic 2, and six AA batteries. Upon receiving this gift, I spend the next 4-6 hours playing Sonic 2 on the Game Gear non-stop. I was only foiled by battery life. Sonic 2 remained the only cartridge I had for about the next 4 months (until Christmas) and even then, it was my go-to for as long as I had the game gear. In time, I managed to pick up a Mega Drive II. Between Sonic and Mortal Kombat, I didn’t put the controller down until I figured out that girls existed.
So, knowing that about me now, you can probably imagine the smile that crept onto my face when I launched Sonic Mania Plus on the Nintendo Switch and was greeted with the white screen, blue SEGA logo and the announcement of “SAY-GAH!”. I had to fight a powerful urge to send a couple messages to my folks back in the UK and ask whether my Game Gear was buried in the loft somewhere.
This theme more or less continued as I launched the main mode of the game and was greeted with the familiar music and scenery of the Green Hill Zone, and firing through the first level I was reminded of all of the things that I loved about the original games from way-back-when. This is the essence of what SEGA has been trying to capture in this game. They have invested heavily in nostalgia, and they have brought in people who are deeply passionate about the original game to help them realise that investment. I believe that it has paid off.
If you’re familiar with the earlier Sonic games, then you will no doubt get a nostalgic buzz when you get stuck into this game. It’s as easy as the originals to play and brings back the same sense of pace and original-but-beautifully-done pixel graphics. It flatters your memory of the original game, heck it’s even got the CRT filters that you can enable if you’re looking to relive your glory days (I did. I still died heaps).
One thing that your memory may have supressed about this game is the challenge, and sometimes the quite frankly questionable deaths you will receive at the hands of a few of the baddies in the game (or if you simply propel yourself into a spike trap or get squashed by some moving pieces of a level). This game is not without its moments of frustration, but even that is a true homage to the original games. Also, that music that kicks in when you’re underwater triggered an involuntary panic mode for me that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time!
Once you’re done feeling nostalgic and get stuck into this game properly though, you will find a fast-paced platformer with expanded character options including Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel, as well as Sonic, Tails, & Knuckles. Along with that, there are a couple of new game modes, including an Encore mode, and a competitive multiplayer mode which supports up to 4 players on a single screen.
Ultimately, it all adds up to a modern classic, in every sense of the word. Also, the fact that it’s been put on the switch without compromising on any of the parts that make it a great game is a huge benefit.
From me, this is an easy 9.0 / 10 and a great modern addition to any gaming system. It’s not often that nostalgia pays off, but I would say that SEGA took the right approach here, by making sure that the people who were most passionate about the Sonic franchise were involved.