“By the mania, for the mania”; these were the words Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka used to describe the recently released Sonic Mania, a full-blown throwback to the Blue Blur’s games of the early 1990s that was officially published by Sega, but developed by an indie team composed of lifelong Sonic aficionados with a history of creating fangames. In other words, this game was made specifically with people like me in mind, for I am a “Sonic Maniac” myself.
Sonic Mania has received critical acclaim since launching, with many praising the game as one of, if not the series’ absolute best. I consider myself among those who agree with this consensus, and as such, will be focused more on my personal experiences surrounding the game (and series in general) as opposed to a straight-up review.
I have been a Sonic fan since kindergarten, when I played some of the earlier 3D titles (the Adventure duology, Sonic Heroes, etc.) on my GameCube, and was instantly enamored by the slick, fast gameplay, as well as the ever-expanding world and cast of characters surrounding the franchise. I eventually gained access to the 2D-era games of the ’90s as well via a compilation known as the Sonic Mega Collection, where I fell in love with the “holy grail” that is the original trilogy.
I have since kept up with the hedgehog’s outings, and while I do enjoy many of the more modern titles, I will acknowledge Sonic’s occasional misstep, the worst of which I feel was 2014’s Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, which made me legitimately concerned for the series’ future, assuming there was one, as no news on an upcoming installment was released in a long time.
That all changed at Comic-Con 2016, when Sonic Mania was announced to great fanfare. I vividly remember watching the reveal trailer (see below) in absolute amazement; not only did it hearken back to the original set of games, graphics and all, but it was being developed by the same people who made near-perfect ports of the first two games for iOS! Call me overly sentimental, but I may have shed a tear of joy as I saw the beautifully-animated Sonic pose at the end of the trailer.
Waiting for this game to come out was absolutely grueling, so imagine my frustration when the release dated was delayed from this spring to just three weeks ago. All was forgiven, however, once the game turned out to be well worth the hype. From the pinball-esque physics to the godly soundtrack, Mania hit all the right notes, and then some; even my biggest concern regarding the game, that it was confirmed to rely primarily on “remixes” of older levels, was averted, and I ended up looking forward to seeing how the development team shook up each of my childhood favorites. I had a wide, dumb grin on my face the entire time I was playing, and it truly felt like I got to be a kid one last time before moving off to college.
If someone my age is looking for a game to broaden their horizons past the stereotypical shooter and sports genres, Sonic Mania is definitely a good place to start, being a fairly straightforward side-scroller. Despite a newcomer not being able to understand the many obscure references slipped into the game (all of which I squealed with elation at), it is still a very fun time in its own right, and a great way to “convert” them into a Sonic fan.