After years of ups and downs, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sega are back on track. With two successful films, the delight (and sometimes disappointment) of fans with Sonic Frontiers, and now a new 2D opus that harkens back to the franchise’s roots, there’s much to rejoice about. Sonic, the iconic blue mascot, has rarely been this active, and the result of their latest endeavor is bound to bring a smile to fans’ faces.
A Familiar Yet Exciting Experience
The announcement of Sonic’s return to a 2D adventure during the Summer Game Fest came as a delightful surprise. It’s hard not to feel a surge of excitement, but for devoted Sonic fans, the journey has been riddled with disappointments.
So, cautious optimism was the order of the day until the game could be experienced firsthand. And now, after spending half an hour in the company of the speedy hedgehog, we can confirm that the anticipation of a Sonic Mania-level experience is entirely within reach.
Although the demo offered several playable characters, each with their own unique abilities, we chose to focus on Sonic and Knuckles (apologies to Tails and Amy).
A Return to Classic Sonic
Right from the start, Sonic Superstars delivers a strong sense of nostalgia by capturing the essence of old-school 2D Sonic gameplay. The movements, speed, and controls all come together to transport players back to the 16-bit era. These aspects have long been subject to criticism within the Sonic community, finding solace only in the release of Sonic Mania back in 2017.
The demo showcased two zones, Bridge Island Zone and Speed Jungle Area, both offering numerous branching paths that perfectly complement the exhilarating speed. Everything moves swiftly, in all directions, granting players a true sense of freedom—an expectation inherent to any Sonic game.
A Plethora of Mini-Games
Sonic Superstars offers a variety of mini-games, some presented in 3D. While a few successfully tap into our nostalgia, others fall short—the emerald-related mini-games, in particular. Nevertheless, these diversions encourage players to explore every nook and cranny, steering them away from rushing straight to the end of each level.
After a thrilling encounter with Robotnik, which concludes the first zone already teeming with diversity, we emerged with a sense of relief. While finding an equivalent in the realm of mustachioed competition may be challenging, SEGA seems poised to successfully recapture the essence of classic 2D Sonic.
Embracing the Modern World
Sonic Superstars doesn’t shy away from innovation while playing it safe. Rather than offering purely 2D levels, the game cleverly incorporates perspective to add a new dimension to the experience. For instance, players can run up and down walls in the background, dodge enemies, and collect rings.
The two levels available for testing showcased a notable increase in verticality. Springs and acceleration ramps contribute to a gradual surge in speed. Moreover, the game introduces a significant novelty: the powers of the famed Chaos Emeralds.
As seen in the trailer during the conference, Sonic and his friends can now transform or activate the abilities of the emeralds. After an underwhelming mini-game that involves swinging from bubble to bubble within a limited time, acquiring an emerald grants special powers.
Using a radial menu accessible by pressing a trigger, players can transform their character into a watery form to scale waterfalls or create a clone to overcome obstacles. Although we didn’t have ample time to explore the second level fully, parts of it were shrouded in darkness, illuminated only by a persistent butterfly that followed our every move.
Sonic Superstars strikes a remarkable balance between the timeless appeal of classic 2D Sonic and introducing modern elements into the mix. The increased verticality, the empowering Chaos Emerald abilities, and the skillful utilization of perspective all contribute to a fresh and original experience that is shaping up to be a highly satisfying addition to the blue hedgehog’s adventures.
Revolutionizing Sonic Gameplay: From unique Chaos Emerald powers to intricate multi-layered stages, Sonic Superstars redefines platform gaming. Explore our detailed critique to grasp how the title harmonizes the essence of classic Sonic with innovative twists.