Mario or Sonic?
I’ve always found that to be an odd question. It turns out that long before I realised that I could like both PlayStation and Xbox, I’d already figured out that these two gaming stalwarts could and should be enjoyed on their own merits.
Nintendo’s careful stewardship of their plucky plumber has seen him sustain a huge level of popularity. From 2D to 3D, Mario has been continually reinvented with near constant success. Unfortunately our dear blue hedgehog has not been so fortunate; for every Sonic Generations there’s a Sonic Unleashed. Even when SEGA went back to the original story line with Sonic 4, they botched it. Between the design and the lack of momentum, it didn’t feel right.
As part of their ongoing 25th anniversary celebrations, SEGA turned to the long running and highly impressive Sonic fan community to get themselves back on track (you can read a very well written and detailed account of this here). Years of experience modding and rebuilding games, as well as making their own, has created a group of people who not only ‘get’ how a Sonic game should feel, but are fully capable of creating it. So how did they do?
To begin with, this post from Penny Arcade sums up my feelings in extremely heartfelt fashion.
Using Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Sonic & Knuckles as its basis, Mania is exactly the game you want it to be – a true successor to the original series that contains everything you needed, plus plenty that you didn’t know you wanted. The game nails it’s aim of falling between the Mega Drive and Saturn from a technical viewpoint.
It’s a tricky balancing act that the dev team—Christian Whitehead, Headcannon and PagodaWest Games—have pulled off with aplomb. In fact, this is the first Sonic game that has made me sit back in my chair and exclaim “bloody hell, I wasn’t expecting that”. I turned to my wife countless times to get her to look at what was going on. If you know your Sonic you’re in for a real treat.
I’ll be honest with you for a second, and know this is from a place of love. For all their talk of speed – I’m looking at you Marble Zone – a lot of Sonic levels aren’t that quick. Mania is so fast at times that I struggled to keep track of where I was going!
Beyond telling you that the level design and soundtrack is top notch, it would be wrong of me to dive into details of Sonic Mania and spoil things that you really should see for the first time yourself, but I will give you one example of how faithful this game is.
Very little in gaming is as satisfying as barreling through a level at top speed, avoiding spikes, bouncing off Badniks, and watching as Tails manages to kill himself…again. Seriously, the attention to detail is so high that Tails is still utterly inept as your partner.
Sonic Mania has been crafted with a level of love and passion that you don’t often see. It’s a true celebration of the character, before ‘attitude’ and an increasingly crazy roster of characters ruined it all. SEGA made a brave decision and should be given a lot of credit.
And by the way, check out this trailer for the game. This is hands down the best Sonic has ever looked in any form.