Once upon a time, there was a hedgehog. Not your typical, run-of-the-mill, found-at-the-bottom of the garden, likes-bread –and-milk kind of hedgehog, but instead an awesome, blue-coloured ass-kicking, badnik-fighting, Robotnik-smashing machine that captured the hearts and minds of an entiregaming generation.
This is, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog. Perhaps only beaten by the great god of gaming mascots,(none other than Mario himself) in terms of popularity, Sonic rode the hype wave like nobody else during the 1990s. He was cool. He was unique. While Mario jumped between blocks with timed precision, Sonic threw caution to the wind, hurtling at breakneck speeds through levels unlike any other.
Growing up as a kid in the 90s with a shiny Sega Megadrive/Genesis in your home almost guarantees that you, at some point, played and loved Sonic. It was hard not to; Sonic managed to squeeze fourcore games into the life of the console, with several spinoffs where he did everything from bounce around a pinball machine to giving his arch-nemesis, Dr Robotnik, his own bean machine.
Success was everywhere for Sonic. He was drowning in gold rings, with all the chilli dogs he couldever want. He even had his own cartoon! Surely the future was bright for the fastest hedgehog onthe planet Mobius? Unfortunately, this is mostly not the case. Fast forward to 2016, and while Sonic is still relevant and churns out games every so often, his star doesn’t burn anywhere near as brightly as Mario’s does anymore. Sonic is like that great relative you see every so often, but they’ve got a bit old and frail over the years and they’re not quite as fun as you remember.
As a Sonic fan, having stuck with the series from its humble beginnings on the Megadrive up until modern times, it can be hard. There’s been some absolute stinkers of games that have been released; most recently Sonic Boom failed to set anyone alight, while the less said about the disastrous Sonic 06 (shudders), the better. There’s been brief glimpses of hope; Sonic Unleashed proved that 3D Sonic could work, but then ruined it by tacking on a fighting game to the breakneck daytime running levels. Sonic Generations fared better, combining together the gameplay of the original games with the newer mechanics from Unleashed.
Despite what these games did right, there’s still so much with most Sonic games. In many ways, he’s become the joke of the industry; frequent any comments board after a new game is announced, and you’ll see the vast majority of people either reacting with indifference, vain hope or completely trashing Sonic into the stratosphere. That’s fine – I’m the same. However, I fall often into the vain hope category, hoping and praying that the glory days of Sonic (which I remember so fondly) could truly live again. I’d almost given up hope.......almost, and then…
Sonic Mania was announced.
What Once Was Old is New Again
This year is the 25th anniversary of Sonic. To celebrate, Sega announced two new games; an untitled, what-seems-to-be sequel to Sonic Generations, and a brand new, original title known as Sonic Mania. Sonic Mania is looking to be something special; despite being a brand new title, destined for next-gen platforms, Mania looks to be the true sequel to Sonic and Knuckles that we just never got. Developed by Christian Whitehead, a hardcore Sonic fan who has for years worked tirelessly on fan-made projects of Sonic, Sonic Mania evokes all the hallmarks of old Sonic. Gone are the 3D environments and cast of unlikeable characters; returning are classic levels, reimagined, brand new bosses and – of course – that oh-so-familiar 2D gameplay.
The early footage looks absolutely fantastic; you’ve only got to take a look at this video to get feels like you’ve never had about a Sonic game for the past 10 years.
Remember Sonic 4? Yes, technically, these were 2D Sonic games and were designed to be a direct sequel to the originals. But they just weren’t. In playing these games, Sonic just didn’t feel right. The physics were off, the speed was wrong, and the level design was uninspired. Sonic Mania, on the other hand, looks like it plays exactly like the originals. Sonic floats in the sky long after leaping off a hill; he hurtles at speed through objects and his physics seem to be absolutely spot on. This is all thanks to the amazing work of Christian Whitehead and his Retro Engine, specifically made to recreate classic Sonic gameplay.
It’s no wonder Sega snapped up this fan and put him to work making a true Sonic game. For the first time in years, the reveal of a Sonic game didn’t fill a comments section with negative comments. In fact, many people were almost joyful; this is the Sonic game we always wanted and –finally – it seems like Sega are listening to those who cry out for a return to the glory days of Sonic.
In looking to the past, analysing what was right, and investing in a new, updated experience for the modern gamer, Sega has made Sonic relevant again. He’s coming out of the shadows.
Sonic Mania could truly be the speed boost that this series needs.
Article by Dan Curtis. Follow Dan on Twitter at @FrostedSloth
Dan's online link: http://factory-sealed.com