Happy 28th Birthday to me for pre-ordering Sonic Mania!
For starters I have been pretty hard on Sega and Sonic Team for the whole year of 2017 so far. Some of the criticisms that I myself have presented to the Sonic franchise have been at least somewhat valid (I hope) and I feel that it's been time for gamers to start being more honest with Sega and Sonic Team about how they feel about the Sonic franchise as a whole, both 2D and 3D.
With that said, I have been keeping a close eye on Sonic Mania for many months in 2017, and the news I have been getting has come across as nothing but positive. Everything that led up to Mania's release has been a refreshing, reassuring spin on the Sonic content we've been getting in recent years. The marketing campaign that went in to Mania has been very impressive, and the closer we got to the release date of August 15th the more convinced I became that I ABSOLUTELY needed to pre-order this game. August 15th, the day before my 28th Birthday, August 16th. What are the odds?
Controls - 20 out of 20 points
Pretty much flawless, by all accounts. If you're familiar with the original Sonic Genesis games of yesteryear, you should have no problem at all getting used to the controls of Mania. This game is built off the platform of Sonic 1 through Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Mania instantly reminds you of how cool it was to just plug in and play the Genesis games. You could go through an entire sitting of a couple hours and play a Sonic Genesis game with joy. You can Spin Dash, and now you can Drop Dash, which is the only mini-bummer of this game. The times of when you need to use the new Drop Dash ability as Sonic are a mystery, though the ability itself is really cool.
You can play as Sonic, Tails or Knuckles right off the bat and they play just as you remembered them playing in the Genesis games. This sense of familiarity is such a strong plus.
Graphics - 20 out of 20 points
Wow. Beautiful. Wonderful. Amazing. Without going too much into this, if you have already played Sonic Mania, then you should already know how stylistic and breath-taking the graphics of Sonic Mania are. It's a hybrid of the Genesis style of graphics and a 32-bit look, somewhat reminding gamers of the Sega 32X days. I'm sure you remember Knuckles Chaotix, right? The art that went into this game deserves some sort of end of year award. Seriously.
Music - 20 out of 20 points
You will immediately feel right at home as a Sonic fan when playing through Mania because the music soundtracks immediately get you to realize just how creative and catchy Sonic soundtracks usually are. These soundtracks are fitting for the environments they attach themselves to, and for the old reliable zones that we all know and loves, the soundtracks for these zones are remixed in such a way that could possibly blow your mind. Give credit to the music producer of the Mania team for this because he knocked this category out of the park!
Replayability Factor - 20 out of 20 points
There is no doubt about what I'm going to say here. This game is absolutely, positively worth replaying again and again. Here's one good reason why Mania gets an A+ in Replayability Value; the order of the mini-bosses and bosses you fight in Mania is NOT always the same. This means that you could be facing different foes such as the various Hard Boiled Heavies, or Dr. Eggman himself in drastically different orders depending on who you play as, and possibly depending on how fast (or slow) you complete a stage.
What also helps the Replayability in Mania are the Bonus and Special Stages that are scattered throughout the game. You quickly familiarize yourself with the challenge of having to collect many Blue Spheres in a maze, but then you will also have to retrain yourself to complete a daring mission of catching a fleeing aircraft in a race track. This latter stage should remind gamers of Special Stages that we've seen in games like Sonic CD and Sonic Heroes. This Special Stage concept is excellent, the execution of it is great, and most importantly, these additions keep you motivated to play.
11 Bonus Points for Creativity
As an aspiring game dev myself, I definitely appreciate it when I see creative freedom being put on display in a game. I advocate for creativity, I encourage it and I humbly challenge other aspiring game devs to put their creativity out there in game projects. What Christian "Taxman" Whitehead, Headcannon and PagodaWest Games did for Sonic Mania is a textbook example of being able to use enough creativity in a video game and showcasing what they know about the Sonic Universe.
Seriously, I could also say that the levels of creativity used in this game are "off the charts", "blasted past the outfield fence for a home run", and "top of the mountain quality". Sonic Mania is THAT good, whether you play this game as a Sonic fan or not.
Overall Score: 91 out of 100 points (11 Bonus Points)
I have never felt more happy about playing a new Sonic game that I have for Sonic Mania, and late last week on the 11th I made the decision (at the last minute, really) to pre-order this game. It turns out that Sonic Mania was by far one of the best gaming purchase decisions I have ever made. Sonic Mania blew me the crap away, to put it somewhat bluntly. Sure, it's just a 2D side-scrolling platforming game at the end of the day, but it's not just that. It's a call to remember what Sonic used to be, and that he used to be one of the best video game characters in history. Sonic and his friends can reach that status again if Sega allows Sonic Mania to be used as a building block for future 2D Sonic installments.
While the jury is still out on the future of Modern 3D Sonic games, which is another story altogether, Classic 2D Sonic is officially back like a boss. Sonic Mania is already going to be one of the best video games in history when this is said and done. A fitting Happy Birthday gift to myself!