Sonic Mania (PagodaWest Games/Headcannon, 2017) was a hit, there’s no doubt about it; within a year, the game sold over one million copies. A physical edition, Sonic Mania Plus, was later released in 2018 featuring all the updates and downloadable content (DLC), and some nifty extras like a reversible sleeve that featured classic nineties-inspired artwork. In addition, Sonic Mania Adventures (2018) had a nice little five episode run online alongside a few bonus episodes along the way to keep the game alive in the minds of fans and the general public. However, since Sonic Mania released, we’ve heard very little about a sequel; in 2018, Takashi Iizuka stated that a sequel was not likely to happen as “it feels like we did everything we could for the Sonic Mania project”. With 2020 being touted as the “Year of Sonic” and some major announcements planned to take place in the run up to Sonic’s 30th anniversary, I think it’s only fair to hope that Sonic Mania 2 is on the cards for a 2021 release.
With that in mind, or just for a laugh, today I’m going to talk about a few key features I’d like to see in a potential Sonic Mania sequel…
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good HD reimaging of Sonic’s classic Zones as much as the next person but, if SEGA have proven anything about their understanding of Sonic it’s recent years, it’s that they rely way too much on the same familiar Zones.
Sonic Mania, admittedly, mixed it up a bit with the likes of Flying Battery Zone and Oil Ocean Zone but we still saw yet another rendition of both Green Hill and Chemical Plant Zone, which both featured heavily in Sonic Forces (Sonic Team, 2017) and that released in the same year! Regardless, I would still like to see some classic Zones make a comeback but SEGA really need to start taking some chances; why not use Emerald Hill Zone, or combine it with Hill Top or Aquatic Ruin Zone, for the traditional grassy-fun opening level? Why not use Scrap Brain Zone instead of Chemical Plant, or bring back Ice Cap and Marble Garden Zone?
One of the things I did like about Sonic Mania, which also cropped up in Sonic Generations (ibid, 2011), was the use of gameplay gimmicks being incorporated into other Sonic Zones and I feel like this would be a great way to go in Sonic Mania 2. If you’re going to do Scrap Brain Zone, for example, throw in some of the steam-based mechanics from Metropolis Zone; if you’re bringing back Spring Yard Zone, toss in some of the pinball mechanics from Toxic Caves; if you’re making new Zones (and you absolutely should), splice in the dreaded barrel from Casino Night or the light-based mechanics from Sandopolis Zone. There are so many great levels and gimmicks from the last thirty-five years of Sonic’s life and returning again and again to Green Hill and Chemical Plant would be very disappointing, even if those Zones were mixed up with new mechanics. Go new, or outside the box, to show some real narrative and aesthetic growth.
Okay, I know I’m in the minority with this one but I like Sonic’s extended cast of characters; they’re fun and colourful and each one has a unique gimmick that has been either poorly utilised, undervalued, or simply slapped onto Sonic either through his base moveset or through the use of Wisps. Why include Tails as a playable character when Sonic can “Hover!!”
Sonic Mania did a great thing by finally (finally) bringing back Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel; not only did they come back but they were far more than Sonic reskins and their individual abilities and personalities really came through thanks to their unique gameplay mechanics and Sonic Mania’s gorgeous sprite animation. For Sonic Mania 2, they absolutely should include both of these characters right off the bat; it really irks me when DLC characters are still DLC in a sequel. Maybe have them unlocked along the way after defeating bosses, like in Sonic Advance 2 (Dimps/Sonic Team, 2002); in fact, I would look to the Sonic Advance (ibid, 2001 to 2004) series for a lot of inspiration for a Sonic Mania sequel in two very specific ways:
First of all, Amy Rose should definitely be a playable character. She apparently missed out on being included in the first game because “she’s the only one without a kind of gameplay-oriented “power”” but she did show up in Sonic Mania Adventures and, honestly, it is a crime that she wasn’t included in Sonic Mania not just because six playable characters makes a lot more sense than five but also because she’s just as much a part of Sonic’s history as Metal Sonic and he was included.
Amy should feature in much the same way she played in Sonic Advance but tweaked slightly; have her hop by default and twirl around in a Spin Attack with her Piko-PIko Hammer when you press the button again, similar to Sonic’s Insta-Shield. Holding down and X would see her rev up on the spot, like in Sonic Advance but, when the button is released, she should blast away swinging her hammer to attack enemies. I’d like to see Amy be a bit more floaty, kind of like Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo EAD, 1988), to basically make her an “easy mode” character for younger players and to compensate for her moving slower and jumping lower.
Secondly, Sonic Mania 2 should really capitalise on its expanded roster to build upon the team-based gameplay seen in Knuckles’ Chaotix (SEGA, 1995), Sonic Advance 3 (specifically), and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II (Dimps/Sonic Team, 2012). This means that not only would we finally be able to play as Sonic and Knuckles, or Knuckles and Tails, but we’d also be able to team up any two characters for co-operative play and to utilise some unique co-op mechanics.
For example, playing co-op with Tails would be pretty much the same for every character (Tails can carry his partner while flying or swimming) but teaming with Knuckles would see characters jump onto his back to glide across gaps and use his immense strength to bash through walls. Teaming with Sonic could involve the use of a faster speed dash or a general increase in speed and jumping power, which would be great for Knuckles and Amy. Mighty, meanwhile, could jump ahead of his partner to shield them with his shell and use his slam to break through areas of the ground, while Ray could use his bushy tail to swat his partner up in the air and help them swing across vines and ledges.
Given that multiple different character variations were included as part of Sonic Mania Plus’s “Encore Mode”, I would definitely include this co-op gameplay right from the off, if only to add some variety to the gameplay and to, hopefully, refine and perfect this mechanic, which has always had a lot of potential but never quite been that great in execution.
So I think I’ve made a convincing argument that Amy, at the very least, needs to be a playable character in Sonic Mania 2 but why stop there? The one thing SEGA should not take away from Sonic Mania is that players only want to play as Sonic; the developers definitely should totally use the sequel as a means to bring in some more classic Sonic characters like Metal Sonic (most likely only available until after completing the main story mode), Espio the Chameleon, and Vector the Crocodile as DLC.
Espio and Vector looked so wacky and had some unique twists to their gameplay in Knuckles’ Chaotix that I would love to see turn up again, like Epsio’s Spinning Top Attack and Vector’s weird cartwheel-spin-thing. Let’s take this further, though, and have Espio incorporate the wall-jumps from Knuckles’ Chaotix and, by holding X alone, turn invisible/translucent for a brief period while Vector could gobble up enemies and spit them out as a projectile like Yoshi, perhaps. Teaming with Vector would see him launch the player in an arc, while Espio would toss them upwards, in a variation of the “Hold!” team-ups from Knuckles’ Chaotix.
You could make a case for also including Charmy Bee but I always found is tiny (miniscule, even) size in Knuckles’ Chaotix a bit of an issue; I would either redesign him to be about the size of Tails or relegate him to a power-up that can be obtained by breaking a Monitor. He could then buzz around the player and automatically attack nearby enemies, similar to Cheese in the Sonic Advance games, until the player takes a hit.
As for Metal Sonic, I would have him be a faster, slippery variation of Sonic but with a couple of changes; pressing A to jump and then A again could see him blast off a magnetic pulse that attracts nearby Golden Rings and destroys any Badniks onscreen (it would be useless against bosses, however). Pressing down and A would see him charge up his booster and blast forward in a variation of the modern Boost mechanic, smashing through enemies as he goes, and teaming with Metal could see him form a brief barrier that protects the player and deflects projectiles.
As a bonus, I would also like to see SEGA delve into the obscure and resurrect the Feel, the rabbit character that was the original concept for Sonic. Feel would basically play exactly like Ristar only he’d use his stretchy ears to grab and attack enemies rather than his hands; he could also use his ears as a kind of charged pounce when teaming with him.
One thing I liked about Sonic Mania was the variety in the boss battles; similar to those seen in Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), boss battles were generally big, varied, and with specific tricks being required to beat them. I mean, we even had a mini game borrowed from Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Compile/SEGA, 1993), which I really did not expect!
In Sonic Mania 2, I’d like to see more of the same but with a greater focus on Doctor Eggman; the Hard-Boiled Heavies were fun but it didn’t really feel like we battled against Eggman enough in the first game. Given that the Heavies seem to have been a one-and-done deal, I don’t expect to see them return in the sequel; instead, I’m hoping we’ll see Eggman hop into some massive, mental mechas.
Without one exception, however; I’d like to see Sonic Mania 2 take some more inspiration from Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble (Aspect, 1994) and feature Bean, Bark, and Nack/Fang as sub-bosses who hound the player constantly throughout the game. It was great to see them appear in the first game but, this time, I’d like to see them get a bigger spotlight for a change (if not as sub-bosses then, at the very least, as rivals to contend with in Special Stages for the Chaos Emeralds).
Speaking of Special Stages, and Triple Trouble, I’d like to see Sonic Mania 2 mix up the format for each Special Stage; the half-pipe, rotating maze, and races against UFOs are great but, sometimes, it feels like SEGA fall back on these classic tropes way too often rather than try something new.
No two Special Stages were the same in Sonic’s Game Gear outings and I’d like to see that format return; perhaps one stage is a rotating maze, another is a variation of the half-pipe in a race against Fang, another is the Blue Sphere stage, or Sonic is racing on Rocket Boots. This is also a great opportunity to weave in gameplay mechanics form other Zones and spin-off games, like snowboarding or, perhaps, even a mini game inspired by the Sonic Drift (SEGA/Arc System Works, 1994 to 1995) videogames. Either way, I feel that including Bean, Bark, and Fang as a team of mercenaries either working for Eggman or as wild cards after the Chaos Emeralds means that they should be involved in Special Stages, at the very least, and not sticking to one standard for the Special Stages would add a bit more variety and challenge to acquiring Chaos Emeralds.
One of the biggest disappointments of Sonic Mania Plus for me was that the Sonic Mania Adventures shorts weren’t included in the bonus features; to be fair, they hadn’t finished making them when the game released but, still, it felt like a missed opportunity to not include them and like the definitive collection of all Sonic Mania materials wasn’t quite as “definitive” as it could have been.
Going forward, I’d really like to see the developers use this animation style to tell the game’s story in the same way Sonic CD used anime sequences. As much as I love Sonic Mania’s sprite animations, the opening, ending, act transitions (which should be included after every Zone right off the bat this time), and interludes should all use animated cutscenes. I wouldn’t use any voice acting, though; just rely on music, sound effects, and grunts rather than ruin the mystique.
I loved Sonic Mania and the extra features included in Plus really added to the experience but it definitely felt like the developers could do even more; “Encore Mode” was great, for example, but there weren’t any Achievements tied to it, which kind of takes away some of the incentive to play the mode.
Obviously they’ll want to keep something back for DLC but, for starters, Sonic Mania needs to be, at least, twice as big as its predecessor; that might mean adding more Zones, or more Acts to Zones, and including features like day, night, and seasonal cycles/variants to the Zones. Maybe they game will utilise a similar time/space hopping mechanic to Sonic CD and allow us to travel to different time point sin certain Zones so we could finally play Wood Zone while playing Metropolis Zone.
The Time Trials are an obvious inclusion and allowing us to replay the Special Stages and mini games was great but maybe the developers could include a Challenge Mode that has players play Zones in reverse, or forced to collect a certain number of Rings or destroy a number of enemies; perhaps take inspiration from the bonus missions in Sonic Generations where other characters challenge the player to a race or something as simple as a boss rush mode. Either way, this would add a nice extra layer of replayability to the game and open up the options for some more Achievements to be added.
Personally, I feel like if SEGA don’t produce a Sonic Mania sequel then they’re fools; the first game was everything long-time fans have been clamouring and begging for for years and it did really well. To not capitalise on that success is crazy to me; we should have seen similar follow-ups to other iconic SEGA franchises, and a Sonic Mania 2, long before now but, instead, we’re left with Sonic’s mobile titles while we wait for the inevitable next 2.5/3D Sonic game to cause division within the fanbase.
Leave a comment below with your thoughts on Sonic Mania? Would you like to see a sequel? Do you think we’ll even ever get a sequel? And what else do you think SEGA have in store for Sonic 2021?