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Sonic Mania Reviews/Impressions Thread

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26 minutes ago, Indigo Rush said:

Sky Chase is restrictive and effectively becomes an auto-scrolling level, which I really don't like, especially in a Sonic game where the pace should be influenced by the player's skill and familiarity with the level, not forced upon you. This is why the least popular moments of Sonic (the rising water in Chemical Plant, or literally any moment where you're forced to stop to wait for an elevator or moving platform) are so disliked. Sky Chase is basically a level based entirely on that premise, and I don't care for it. It would've made for a neat mini-game or at least a portion of that Zone rather than 95% of it. 

I enjoy auto-scrolling levels often enough in games, so I guess that's why I don't mind them. But I can understand your point of view why you don't like them now.

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The plane section in Mirage Saloon - and the sometimes unpredictable hitboxes of the Caterkiller miniboss - I don't find particularly enjoyable, either; I only played the game recently and this is a genuine first impression.  However, I do think the game was entirely within its rights to do a Sky Chase and Marble Garden boss homage, given the nature of the project.  I appreciate that, though not how they actually play.

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Mirage Saloon 1 is short and sweet enough that I don't mind it on repeated playthroughs, and I still kinda like it. I also liked Sky Chase in Sonic 2 due to coming off the frustrating Metropolis and before the annoying Wing Fortress, so this is basically a more interesting variation of it.

Mirage Saloon is my overall favorite original zone in Mania for its acts and music, and having unique acts for Knuckles and Encore mode really sweetens the whole deal for me.

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When I finished Sonic Mania Plus I felt exhausted. I had known the game inside for months before I got to that point, and Encore Mode hadn’t done much to change that. I pulled back and realized I had put in 60 hours on the game since release. More than double last year’s “Objectively better” Super Mario Odyssey. I was just burned out. I had played the game far past what was normally my limit for Sonic and games in general. I realized this was the last time I was going to touch the game for a long time, might as well write up my thoughts.

There's a lot in here so uh, just a heads up.

Spoiler

 

Presentation wise this game hits it out the park. The spritework doesn’t hold the visuals back in a major way at all. There’s lots of character and charm conveyed through the minimalist animations. This applies to Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles moreso than Mighty and Ray, though. Their sprites look “off” in a way someone with no real technical knowledge on art an animation can really explain. The environments are fantastic with a lot of the little details added making old locations almost feel new.  Tee Lopes brings in the best soundtrack in a long time with both amazing new tracks and remixes that can stand up to the original compositions. 

The only part of the presentation I’m down on is the story, and it feels a little weird to pick on Sonic Mania for this because it’s not really the point of the game. Just want to clarify that I’m not expecting animated cutscenes with full dialogue or anything like that. I just prefer that if a Sonic game is gonna go minimalist, that they lean into environmental storytelling and unravelling the world as you play ala 3 and Sonic CD, rather than feeling like just a set of levels you kind of go through just because. The zone transitions are still there, and a lot of them are fun in their way to genuinely tie so many different locales together without stepping on any toes, but they lean HARD on those phantom ruby warps to make it happen. 

Despite how familiar it all looks I noticed from the jump that there’s a lot of refinement going on under the hood. The game is appropriately critical of it’s predecessors in key areas, especially in regards to level design. The tiered level design is still here, but the idea of punishing players for taking the lower paths has been done away with entirely. There isn’t a sense of heightened danger on the lower paths with a lot of the rewards kept away higher up. Instead, shit worth seeing is just kind of everywhere. Entire, gigantic segments of level design are easily skippable in this game. One playthrough isn’t nearly enough to see everything a Sonic Mania level has to offer. It’s like 4 or 5 levels in the average platformer gleefully stacked on top of eachother. Gimmicks and obstacles that require careful work or exploitation of physics to master are introduced and dropped just as quickly. The game is practically begging you to come back and master it so you can move through any part of these levels fluidly and see what kind of secrets you can find.

A lot of old levels are used in the game and with them comes old level gimmicks, but they’re usually used with new ideas tandem to keep you on your nose and make levels that feel really fresh. “Act 1” is usually a literal throwback, including taking whole chunks of the level design from the original games. These levels don't do much for me to be honest, but the “Act 2s” and the original zones is where the team really shines. My favorite stretch of this game was when they followed up the mindblowingly beautiful and creative Press Garden stage with their take on Stardust Speedway, which was streamlined and polished to such a fine sheen that the clunky, sloppy original stage from Sonic CD was practically pushed out of my memory. 

These levels are too massive with too many nuances for me to commit to speedrunning, but I thing getting the highest score at the end that I possibly can is just as fun to me. I’d love a “Score Attack” mode to go along with the Time Attack. 

The commitment to accessibility in the level design kind of goes both ways. There’s a lot of bits especially in the first half of the game where you’ just kind of watch Sonic burst forward and maneuver through some kind of flashy gimmick on his own with little interaction on your part. This isn’t anything new for a Sonic game released after 1998, though, and it’s way less prominent than it is in the other newer Sonic titles. There are also just levels that feel like duds compared to others. The block of Mirage Saloon and Hydro City in the middle of the game is a big momentum killer, for me. The gimmicky first act of Mirage Saloon just goes against everything the game does well and Hydrocity feels like the level with the least new to say. In a lot of ways, it feels significantly worse than the OG. This is the only level I'd really say that about, though. Levels like Lava Reef feel on par, but are missing something without the context of the game they came from. Oil Ocean and Stardust Speedway take levels that really didn't work before and turns them into triumphs.


Sonic was given a critical change too with the addition of the drop dash, and this is the best addition to Sonic’s arsenal..ever? It’s such a small thing that makes the game feel so much better to play once I learned how to apply it. Using it to give myself a burst of speed on the ground or to quickly pivot and change directions makes Sonic’s playstyle so much more smooth than it once was. 

Tails and Knuckles end up feeling left out to dry in the wake of this, though. There’s no real attempt to smooth out how they play to the same degree, so they end up feeling way more boring than Sonic as a result. They’re more geared toward exploration, but Sonic Mania’s level design is so sharp that you can essentially get anywhere in the level you want to with Sonic with enough skill and knowledge. There are almost no exclusive sections for either character to speak of, so there’s not a real incentive to replay the game with them. I’ve played this game a dozen times now and the only playthrough I ever started with Tails is still unfinished. 

The last “negative” is the boss design, which is hit or miss. Some of them prioritize being cinematic over being fun or interesting, leading to long stretches of downtime or time spent dodging attacks. They remind me of Modern Sonic bosses instead of classic ones. I liked being able to get the edge up over classic bosses in clever ways but they’re not dynamic enough  for that here. You are very much waiting for your “turn” to get a hit in a lot of the time, and it makes the bosses a lot less dynamic than the levels in a way that sticks out to me. 

As for the Mania Plus stuff...
 
Encore Mode in general ended up feeling kind of dry for me Trying to keep the characters I liked the most alive and at the head of the pack was fun and added a little bit of suspense, but the level layout changes were minor. There were a few levels where I didn’t notice anything was “off” aside from the ring placements.  It feels really half baked, and a lot of the palate changes seemingly being changed for the sake of it without regards to whether it actually looks good doesn’t help. The whole thing felt half baked. It was 5 bucks, sure, so it’s not like I feel ripped off or anything, but I would have payed more for something fresher, like a new stage. By the end of it I understood IGN’s score and probably would have rated the whole thing lower myself. There's some fixes here like a new "Mirage Saloon Act 1" that functions as a platforming stage and the new pinball bonus stage that I wish were just patched into the main campaign. Just focusing all their time on buffering out flaws with Mania Mode and includin the tag mode as an option probably would have been ideal for me, but it doesn't sound as attractive as Encore Mode on paper, so I understand why they didn't do it. 

Mighty and Ray are two different sides of the same coin. Mighty’s ability ends up feeling clunky and kind of one note like Tails and Knuckles. He has some utility toward beginners since he can with stand spikes and small projectiles with his shell, but his actual ability leaves a lot to be desired. The hammer drop takes out tougher enemies in a fun and satisfying way but it doesn’t have a whole lot of utility for movement. Again, he’s a good pick for newer players, so I think it was a good idea to add him to the game overall, but it doesn’t do a whole lot for me. 


Ray is great though. The glide is like a harder version of Knuckles’s flight ability with a bigger, better payoff. It also combines with the core rolling mechanics to create a really fun playstyle that opens up opportunities for shortcuts pretty much everywhere if you learn how to use itIt slides into it’s own niche perfectly. I never thought I’d say this, but Ray is the second most fun character to play as in the game besides Sonic himself. It’s a little busted being able to skip over levels, but that’s part of the fun. I’d rather them go for fun over balance, always. New characters need to be more like Ray and less like Mighty.
 

Again, the core aspects of this game are rock solid and make it insanely replayable, but there are odds and ends everywhere that don’t really work for me. It’s one of the best Sonic games due to the sheer strength of it’s core design and aesthetic, but it’s not my favorite due to a lot of these things just adding up to a game I have less fun replaying than, say, Sonic 3. This is just personal taste talking, but I want Sonic games to feel new  instead of just self referential and celebratory. Sonic Mania’s deep cuts are fantastic and suit what the game is going for, but the splashes of new that are there got me so much more excited than another trip to Hydrocity. 

It’s weird with how much I like this game and how much time I put into it that I’ve come out of it saying that I want something way different from this next time, but..yeah. Surprise me. A new setting that makes me curious and want to learn more about the world. More drastic changes to the core design. New characters with new gimmicks and playstyles. Don't be afraid to take a second look at Tails and Knuckles and see what you could add to make them more fluid. Don’t just listen to the cagey classic fans that can’t see past the original games. Do more wild shit they’d turn their nose up at the sound of like Oil Ocean.

Sonic Mania is really good, and it mostly makes me excited for the future. There's also a fear in that, though, that the series could become too complacent and keep looking toward the past. Let's hope the next game pushes the envelope further. Just from what I saw from this game I know this team would be willing to pull that off, but who knows if they'll get the opportunity. 

 


 

 

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5 hours ago, Wraith said:

There's some fixes here like a new "Mirage Saloon Act 1" that functions as a platforming stage and the new pinball bonus stage that I wish were just patched into the main campaign.

The act isn't, but the pinball bonus stage is accessible in Mania mode once you have all gold medallions (effectively barring you from having to see Blue Sphere outside of the Extras menu ever again). And there's apparently a new sound test code that unlocks all medallions for the uninitiated.

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1 hour ago, Sean said:

The act isn't, but the pinball bonus stage is accessible in Mania mode once you have all gold medallions (effectively barring you from having to see Blue Sphere outside of the Extras menu ever again). And there's apparently a new sound test code that unlocks all medallions for the uninitiated.

I didn't know this. I'll be sure to mess with the cheat codes next time I play the game...whenever that ends up being.

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On 7/27/2018 at 6:59 AM, FFWF said:

The plane section in Mirage Saloon - and the sometimes unpredictable hitboxes of the Caterkiller miniboss - I don't find particularly enjoyable, either; I only played the game recently and this is a genuine first impression.  However, I do think the game was entirely within its rights to do a Sky Chase and Marble Garden boss homage, given the nature of the project.  I appreciate that, though not how they actually play.

That boss is one of the worst in the game, in my opinion. The hitbox is just garbage, and it's a painfully slow fight that the game tends to dictate the pace of a bit too stringently, in a level that is already about mandating the player's pace, which just feels so antithetical to Sonic. It's the same reason I dislike the original Sky Chase. Autoscrollers just have no business in a game all about building and maintaining momentum.

Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again, mechanically speaking Sky Chase is not that great. Going too fast drops you off that plane and there's no reason that should be the case at all. Thank god Encore does away with that act.

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So, Sonic Mania. A game I've had no interest in (Or any Sonic game past 06 for that matter) that was built on the foundation of the old Megadrive games, which I've never played to completion, and some of which I've never played at all. The only Classic game I've experienced was Sonic Blast, and therefore, my experience with said games is very limited. In other words, expect a bunch of confusion and misconceptions.

Now, honestly, the game plays surprisingly well, without the difficulty spikes that 2D platformers (At least the ones I've played, like Megaman X or Ristar) of that era are known for, and with surprisingly fluent and fun level design. The game keeps you going and lets you carry momentum, if you're skilled enough, and that's perfectly fine, except that I'm not that good at it, but whatever. That said, Mania seems to be way less interested in being a platformer, and more in being fast and cool. You rarely have to do anything precise, but considering how much momentum Sonic builds up, I would guess that doing precise platforming in a game like this would be a nightmare.


The new ability of Sonic's, A.K.A the Drop Dash I found surprisingly useful, with it being a strange combination of the Bounce attack from 06 and the Spin Dash from the Classics, that charges up in the air and lets you drop and dash, as the name implies. It's fun, it's satisfying, and I hope they'll bring it back someday. I can easily imagine this working in a 3D game.

Knuckles has his usual shtick - climbing on walls, breaking walls without using the Spin Dash, and gliding (Still find this ability very bizarre, BTW). 

However, while Sonic I found very fun to play as (And Knuckles... Okay at best), Tails... Not so much. He can fly, sure, but his flight ability breaks the game and is also incredibly slow. He's easy mode on steroids, and he completely annihilates all the challenge the game could potentially give. 

Now, the levels were... Mixed, to say the least. I loved stages like Press Garden and Titanic Monarch, and got a "Meh" reaction out of levels like Green Hill or Hydro City. I've heard some stages were recycled from the older games, and I can see why that's a problem to some people, but I didn't really find it all that offensive (But that's mostly because I haven't played the old ones that much). That said, I did find Green Hill to be sort of unimaginative (I mean, really, every damn Sonic game starts on a beach/tropical level. Why not mix things up for once?), and the usage of old badniks like the Lava Reef/Red Volcano dinosaur and the Green Hill wasps and piranhas definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, come on, make'em bigger, give'em machine guns, set them on fire, anything will do.

The bosses... Eh, they were okay. They've certainly never felt like a threat, but that's mostly due do the lack of buildup for any of them. That said, I did find the Green Hill chase fun, with Eggman dropping bombs and constantly trying to crush you using his machine's arms. He still acts clownish, but now he has that mad energy, that makes him feel less like a loser, and more like a Looney Tunes villain. As for the Eggman robots... They're okay. The Egg-Officer (Or whatever Studiopolis' boss's name was) and the Egg-Knight riding a robotic ladybug were fun, but then there were bosses like the Egg-Ninja and the Egg-Wizard, that just... Stood there, delivering attacks in a static room. Come on, that's some DOS platformer-level bullcrap! Isn't Sonic meant to be a fast platformer, where the key to winning is to keep the speed up? But, whatever, that's just my nitpicks.

The story... I didn't care much for it, really. Eggman gets some crystal, that can warp people through time and space, stop him. It's fine for a game like this, and I have nothing to say about it. The betrayal of the Egg-King in the end was kind of surprising, but seeing how many bad guys have double-crossed Eggman throughout the franchise's life span, I wasn't shocked by this. What I was shocked by, however, is the fact that Eggman doesn't escape the crumbling Titanic Monarch in the bad ending. Now, I don't know about you, but to me this is a staple of Classic Sonic's bad endings, and the lack of it here genuinely caught me off guard. Nice one, Sega!

And, now that I've mentioned the good and bad endings, I should also bring up the Chaos Emeralds and the Special Stages. Now, the special stages are okay, and honestly kinda remind me of Sonic Blast's special stages, where you have to catch up to the chaos emerald, (at least as far as I can remember). Getting all seven grants you character a Super Form, and... It's not really worth it. Not only does it drain your rings, but it also, again, destroys all the fun and challenge of the game. You don't have to worry about spikes, bosses or enemies, the only thing you have to worry about is your rings (And there's plenty of rings in the game, so yeah). Awkward true final boss aside, the emeralds don't really have a point.

And, that's Sonic Mania. Flawed, but still great game, that can be fun for a playthrough or two, and is a great time killer. Do I want a sequel to this? Absolutely, just as long as it doesn't take over the franchise (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE 2D games, but 3D deserves some love too). But, for now I guess we'll have to enjoy the Plus DLC, which I haven't bought, because it doesn't give too much bite for my buck.

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1 hour ago, TheUltimateHedgy said:

Come on, that's some DOS platformer-level bullcrap! Isn't Sonic meant to be a fast platformer, where the key to winning is to keep the speed up? 

[...]

(Don't get me wrong, I LOVE 2D games, but 3D deserves some love too).

Urm.... Even in the boost games.

Aren't the majority of the boss fights a slower paced arena like encounters?

Also how can you say 3D games need some love too when Forces came out after Mania. And prior yo Mania there was nothing but 3D games going back to Sonic 4?

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36 minutes ago, Mayor D said:

Also how can you say 3D games need some love too when Forces came out after Mania. And prior yo Mania there was nothing but 3D games going back to Sonic 4?

A major point of contention with Forces and the boost style in general is the abundance of 2D sections, whether that be fully 2D Classic Sonic or partial 2D in Modern Sonic, Avatar, and Shadow. As for the ratio of 2D/3D games since Sonic 4 which I'll go ahead and say episode 1 in 2010, not counting non platforming spin offs like Transformed and the Olympic Games:

3D: Colors

       Generations

       Lost World

       Lost World 3DS

       Rise of Lyric

2D: Colors DS

       Generations 3DS

       Sonic 4 II

       Sonic Jump

       Shattered Crystal

       Runners

       Fire & Ice

       Runners Adventure

That's clearly more 2D especially given how much of say Colors and Generations are 2D even though they have 3D in them. 

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50 minutes ago, Mayor D said:

Urm.... Even in the boost games.

Aren't the majority of the boss fights a slower paced arena like encounters?

No...?

The only proper boost/Modern fights I recall taking place in an arena like area, and I mean as in proper Modern!Sonic, not Werehog/Classic/any other gimmick was Zavok in Forces, and a few of the generic copy/paste fights in Colours. 

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3 minutes ago, GentlemanX said:

2D:

       Sonic Jump

       Runners

       Runners Adventure

Come on man if you're gonna count Runners, Runners Adventure, and Sonic-fuckin'-Jump as 2D platformers you have to at least put games like Dash, Dash 2, and Forces Speed Battle as 3D platformers.

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1 minute ago, GentlemanX said:

I included them because I quickly glanced at SNN which called them such. I could remove all of them and 2D content would still dominate the ratio. That's my point.

No they wouldn't, you get rid of them and the list is a clean 5 to 5:

3D: Colors

       Generations

       Lost World

       Lost World 3DS

       Rise of Lyric

2D: Colors DS

       Generations 3DS

       Sonic 4 II

       Shattered Crystal

       Fire & Ice

 

And either way the 3D list is 100% Main-Line Sonic titles, while the 2D list is either 3DS ports or spin-offs.

Every main-line Sonic game has been primary 3D with 2D in it.

Most spin-offs are 2D games which are typically met with mixed rep.

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11 hours ago, TheUltimateHedgy said:

The Egg-Officer (Or whatever Studiopolis' boss's name was) and the Egg-Knight riding a robotic ladybug were fun, but then there were bosses like the Egg-Ninja and the Egg-Wizard, that just... Stood there, delivering attacks in a static room. Come on, that's some DOS platformer-level bullcrap! Isn't Sonic meant to be a fast platformer, where the key to winning is to keep the speed up? But, whatever, that's just my nitpicks.


 

No. The key to winning is platforming. Speed is just the result of platforming well and maintaining your momentum. Sonic is meant to be a fast paced game, but since its inception, being fast was the result of you as a player learning the levels and getting good, it was not the singular thing you needed to win.

If you had said that maintaining momentum into a boss places more emphasis on carrying a level's pacing then, yeah, I'd agree. But, whatever, that's just my nitpicks.

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I must say that the only thing preventing me from playing Mania Plus on a daily basis is having it on a PC in the warmest room of my house (summer is really hot in Spain xD). I wish they ported it to Android soon, but I'm likely getting a Switch on Christmas, so I'll play it a lot by then.

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