Posted June 15, 2017 by Andrew Cathie in Feature

E3 2017: Sonic Mania Remixes Your Heart (Hands-on)

Over the years, Sonic the Hedgehog has gone from being a tour de force in the early years of SEGA to being somewhat of a shadow of its former self. Personally, having grown up with a SEGA Mega Drive as my main early gaming platform, some of my fondest early gaming memories are of Sonic the Hedgehog. So, seeing the missteps the franchise has taken in recent years, and the downturn in positive gamer sentiment towards it, leaves me disappointed. Especially, as 2D Sonic games have continued to be fantastic on platforms such as the GBA and DS. Sonic Mania promises to continue that trend of fantastic 2D Sonic games and acts as both a love letter to the earlier games, as well as a brand new entry in the series. Adam went hands on with the game on the E3 show floor and walked away extremely hyped for the game.

Adam was able to go hands on with 3 different levels from the game, but before we get into those, let’s talk about how Sonic Mania looks and plays. We all know that controls are the real defining feature of any 2D platformer. If your controls are bad, the game is a bust, no matter how good the rest of the game is. You’ll be happy to know that the controls in Sonic Mania are utterly perfect. The feel as wonderful as they did in the original 2D Sonic games and they’re a pleasure to use. The attention to detail shown in the graphics and level design is just as wonderful as well. Sprites have extra frames of animation that look great. Little touches like landing on a stool in Mirage Saloon and seeing Sonic spinning around on it, nervously on his toes like he might fall off is adorable. These little touches speak of the level of dedication developers Headcannon, PagodaWest Games and Australian Christian Whitehead are putting into the game.

The first level Adam got to try was Green Hill Zone 2, which has been remixed from what you may remember. For instance, the level now contains totem poles in the background parallax, which are actually from prototypes of Sonic 1. Easter eggs like this abound throughout the levels. Fire shields and electric shields have also been added to this zone, despite coming from the later Sonic 3. The lightning shield is able to attract rings, while the fire shield can propel Sonic forwards and kill enemies. It also has unexpected environmental effects – remember the rotating spiky wooden bridges from Sonic 1? If you touch them with a fire shield, they burn away revealing secret areas. The zone ends with a boss encounter, which is actually Eggman’s robot from the end of Sonic 2. This is all meant to show fans that Sonic Mania is a max of what they remember, but with a twist that can shake things up, and it does it perfectly.

The second level Adam got to play through was Chemical Zone Act 2, which he was shown in response to a comment he made about the verticality of Knuckles Chaotix’s levels being a detriment. This is a level that uses verticality in a much better way – there are pools of liquid that can be altered by Sonic bouncing on giant syringes. One injection will turn the pool from a deadly liquid to a blue bounceable surface. Another injection and the liquid becomes a super bouncy green, allowing Sonic to reach new levels. There are lots of multiple pathways throughout the level, from chutes that can send you one way or the other, to choices to bounce higher or keep moving forward. It brings an extra element of replayability to the game, beyond just going back for a faster time or collecting more rings.

The last level that Adam got to try out was Mirage Saloon, a brand new level created specifically for Sonic Mania. Mirage Saloon is an original concept and has lots of references to weird Sonic stuff, like Nack the Weaseal and Bean the Duck from Sonic Triple Trouble and Sonic the Fighters. There is also a unique enemy in the levels, which chases after Sonic by rolling into a ball and following you. If you’re not prepared to retaliate at the right time it can easily catch you off guard and cause you to lose your precious rings.

If you’ve been waiting for a great Sonic game to come again, it’s looking like Sonic Mania is exactly what you want. The controls are fantastic and the graphics are lovingly created and highly detailed. Everything Adam tried successfully mashed together elements from Sonic games of different generations, creating a remix worthy of Girltalk. Make sure to keep an eye out when Sonic Mania launches on August 15th.

Andrew Cathie

Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.


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