Three years ago today, we attended parties, watched Batman and Harley Quinn in theaters, and celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog series’ by downloading or standing in line for SEGA’s Sonic Mania.
As gaming history tells us, studios haven’t been too kind to our beloved hedgehog. Gone were days of creativity, endless hours of fun, and the basic love of rings. Instead, markets were flooded with Poorly Design Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog), Make it Stop Sonic (Sonic Unleashed) Vertigo Sonic (Sonic Generations), Steroids Sonic (Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric) and whatever the hell this was…
However, SEGA carried on and decided to give Sonic another spin, I wasn’t too pleased with this decision. I cried unto the heavens screaming “why?” I hung my head in shame for what I expected would be one of the biggest gaming mistakes in 2017. However, I was a dumbass and did not know what greatness awaited. And unlike others, I am willing to admit my mistakes, I am willing to stand in front of people and renounce my technically legal crime; for Sonic Mania not only captured my heart but it snatched my childhood soul like a poorly sewn weave on an August 15th day.
Sonic Mania was beautiful from the very beginning, starting with its 2D animation sequence that transported me to a world of the 90s and I’m a kid again… before everything went to shit.
But, Sonic Mania was more than a game to me. It was a “thank you” to us for “hanging with SEGA despite the numerous times we’ve screwed you over.” It was forgiveness for all the terrible things that happened before (if only they knew what awaited us in 2020).
Though never promised they wouldn’t do it again (stares in mixed feelings over Sonic Forces) here is a metaphoric rainbow.
Even the name, Sonic Mania was a perfect way to describe this game. Merriam-Webster defines “mania” as:
- periods of great excitement and euphoria.
- an excessive enthusiasm or desire; an obsession.
It was a rare treat to see a game like this fall perfectly into this category. Why? Because while Sonic may have been created by SEGA, it feels like it was created by Sonic fans which technically was true. After all, it was developed by people who originally created Sonic fan projects. They painstakingly created a homage to their childhood while adding in funky fresh ideas and clever gaming with an old-school flair.
There was something artistic about the 16-bit Sonic and those bold bright colors. It never felt like it was trying too hard for your attention. Instead, it was a sign of prestige and honor. From the very beginning, Mania had this same feeling when those bright and beautifully bold colors splash onto the screen like a Jackson Pollack painting (expect you know what Pollock was trying to say…maybe it was like a colorful Banksy). It whisked you away to Green Hill Zone where those familiar loops and golden rings awaited to be collected.
While previous Sonic games encouraged speed which often resulted in disaster for an uncoordinated gamer like myself, Mania took the controlled chaos route. Yes, there were those uncertain crazy loops but the game also encouraged you to take your time and explore. By slowing down, I discovered newly added sections, secret coin locations, and opportunities to interact with the expanded environment (hey there, sexy wood chipper). There were moments when I was so lost in the game that I forgot I had to complete the level. Once I did, I was greeted by another level that was even better than the last.
As a lover of movies and TV shows (check out my reviews and interviews!), I fell in love with the new Studiopolis level. Bouncing on film reels created absolute delight and the flashbulbs and music felt like a throwback to old Hollywood (minus the blatant racism). Despite the randomness of the level’s inclusion, Sonic never felt out of place and the setting came off like an extension of the original game with even more exciting adventures to come.
There was Press Garden, which could only be described as magical. Light colors filled the screen as everything is covered with pink, airy, and light colors. I was taken aback and enthralled with the level of charm that poured through my screen. Compared to Studiopolis’ darker, jazzy, and more adult feel, Press Garden screamed at me to whisk my troubles away onto the pink leaves that floated around Sonic. There were moments I had to stop and just marvel at the game’s details, which quickly prompted Sonic to stare at me with his side-eye and the original “gurl, bye” foot tap.
Boss battles are the most delightful as they proved most innovative. While there are classic robots, SEGA had built upon their design and how each battle was executed, which keeps the game and each level refreshing. Ranging from weird to “wait.. what?,” there were puzzles, pattern memorization, wind speed, shooting and more.
Sonic Mania was not perfect. Even though the good outweighed the bad, there were frustrations and complications. However for a 25th-anniversary game, Sonic Mania should be the standard as to why developers reboot games, not just because of money, but to witness how happy games make people feel. Instead of ripping the original formula apart, reboots should build upon a game’s success. It reminded people why they fell in love with gaming, while also introducing a new generation to that same passion a game can create. Sonic Mania does both and more, was a game that had have you fighting to play with others and possibly your kids.
Happy birthday, Sonic Mania!