My first console video game was Sonic the Hedgehog in 1992, and from the first moment I played, I was hooked.
Sonic 2 and 3 came later, and then Sega released their next console, the Saturn. And, aside from a few spin-off games, Sonic was nowhere to be seen until the Dreamcast in 1998, with a very different 3D game.
But, what if Sega had released a real sequel to Sonic 3 on the Saturn in 1995? Sonic Mania, released last week, is the answer to that question.
Sonic Mania is a true labor of love. Head programmers Christian Whitehead and Simon Thomley got their start by taking the original Sonic games, disassembling them, and creating all new levels. Eventually, they branched out by writing a new game engine for games like Sonic, which Sega used for the iPhone release of Sonic CD. The music composer for the game, Tee Lopes, has been sharing his arrangements of classic Sonic Tunes on YouTube for almost a decade. Everyone in charge of this game was making the game they had been waiting for Sega to make.
And it shows - everything is crafted with care. The game plays at a butter-smooth 60 frames per second, with colors more vibrant and abundant than the old Genesis hardware was capable of. The upgrade to widescreen helps Sonic’s classic gameplay, giving players a little more time to see upcoming obstacles. The game controls even better than the originals, and gives Sonic a new ability - called the drop dash - to keep you moving fast through the stages. Sonic Mania is the longest in the series, too, with 26 stages, of which most are much larger than those in previous games.
The best improvement over the classic games is in the end-of-stage boss battles. Each one takes a different strategy, and there is far more variety than just “hit this guy 8 times” that was most often seen previously.
This game is exactly what fans have been clamoring for - especially the fans that were hired to make the game. I feel like I’ve been waiting for Sonic Mania for more than two decades, and somehow, finally, I’ve gotten exactly what I wanted.