Game Corner: Sonic Mania 2 Wish List


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…

Less Classic Zones

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.

Ah, good, it’s Green Hill…again…

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?

Using old gimmicks into new Zones is a great idea.

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.

Don’t Drop DLC Characters

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!!

Bust those two out as quickly as possible!

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:

Just take the flower, Sonic!

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.

Sonic Advance provides a blueprint of how Amy could play.

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.

Team moves have promise that Sonic Mania 2 could expand upon.

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.

Add MORE Playable Characters

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 would make great additions.

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.

Charmy’s tiny size makes him perfect as a Cheese-like projectile.

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.

Toss in Metal as a playable character!

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.

Why not include Feel and have him play like Ristar?

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.

Bigger, Better Boss Battles

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!

I wouldn’t expect to see the Hard-Boiled Heavies return.

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.

Fang and his buddies need a bigger spotlight.

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).

Mix Up the Special Stages

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.

I’d like to see some variety in the Special Stages.

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.

Incorporate Animation

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.

We seriously need more of this slick animation!

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.

More Content

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.

Even subtle extra content is extra content.

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.

Some missions could help spice things up.

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?

Game Corner: Mighty and Ray: The Original Triple Threat


For years now, the Sonic fan community has generally had one thing in common: a desire to see long-forgotten characters from the past return to modern Sonic titles. Characters such as Fang the Sniper/Nack the Weasel, Bean the Dynamite, Bark the Polar Bear, Mighty the Armadillo, and Ray the Flying Squirrel have, for too long, been absent from the Sonic franchise and many, such as myself, have been begging for their return for a long time now. In recent years, SEGA have been fanning this desire and almost trolling the fan community; wanted posters featuring Mighty, Ray, Bean, Bark, and Fang were featured prominently in Sonic Generations (Sonic Team, 2011) yet the characters did not actually appear in the title. Even more recently, Bean, Bark, and Fang all appeared as illusions cast by the Heavy Magician in Sonic Mania (PagodaWest Games/Headcannon/SEGA, 2017), which appeared to be the closest we would ever get to seeing them return to Sonic canon.

Mighty and Ray have made a dramatic return to the franchise, and even have merchandise now!

However, Sonic Mania Plus (ibid, 2018), an expanded and updated version of Sonic Mania, offered a glimmer of hope: for the first time in decades, Mighty and Ray returned to the series as playable characters. Not only that, the two featured prominently in Sonic Mania Adventures (Hesse, 2018), a series of short animated episodes designed to promote the videogame. For me, this was extremely exciting. As a kid, I got the chance to visit SEGA World in London and was lucky enough to be one of the few to actually play SEGASonic The Hedgehog (SEGA AM2/SEGA, 1993); while I don’t recall playing as Mighty or Ray, the fact that this is one of the few Sonic titles to never receive a port of any kind imbues both characters with a sense of mystery and desire. Later, of course, Mighty would make a return in Knuckles’ Chaotix (SEGA, 1995), here as a poorly-veiled substitute for Sonic himself. This is obviously pretty ironic considering that an armadillo was one of the first rejected concepts for the character that would eventually become Sonic and yet, like with SEGASonic The Hedgehog, the fact that Knuckles’ Chaotix has never received a port keeps the character from being openly accessible to modern players. Indeed, when the Chaotix did return for Sonic Heroes (Sonic Team USA, 2003), Mighty was nowhere to be seen and was not acknowledged in any way, despite the fact that he easily could have been incorporated as a victim of kidnapping.

Mighty and Ray were recurring and prominent characters in the Sonic comic books.

However, over the years, both Mighty and Ray were featured regularly in both Sonic the Comic (StC) in the UK and in Sonic the Hedgehog, the long-running comic book series published by Archie Comics in the US. While Ray did not appear in StC, Mighty debuted in issue 52 in the story “Total Chaotix”; in StC, Mighty is the short-tempered muscle of the group, here cast as the designated guardians of the Special Zone. Mighty, who often came to blows with his team mates, was primarily known for his brute strength rather than his speed and agility, as depicted in Knuckles’ Chaotix. Meanwhile, in Archie’s Sonic comics, Mighty first appeared in their loose adaptation of Knuckles’ Chaotix, published in November 1995. This version of Mighty, while also super strong, was more of a pacifist who was originally born into a family of thieves and was deeply devoted to his younger sister (like most Archie Sonic characters, Mighty was lumbered with an extensive family tree) and his best friend, Ray, whom he treated like a younger brother. Speaking of, Ray debuted in issue 26 of Knuckles the Echidna, featuring in a flashback that served as a loose adaptation of SEGASonic the Hedgehog. Lost in a space between dimensions for years, Ray was finally reunited with his friends and joined the Chaotix as a junior member. Ray, a timid youngster who suffered from a stutter, eventually gained a redesign (alongside Mighty) to better fit in with the post-Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998) designs of the cast and proved to be a tough and resourceful Freedom Fighter. Sonic Mania Adventures, while simplistic in its design and narrative, maintained the strong brotherly bond between Mighty and Ray that was a staple of the Archie comics. In “& Knuckles”, Ray is desperately searching for Mighty, who has gone missing, and the two are reunited in “Mighty and Ray”. Mighty willingly throws himself between Ray and Metal Sonic to defend him and uses his brute strength to hurl a boulder at the robot. When Metal takes Ray hostage, Mighty reluctantly hands over the Chaos Emerald he has in order to spare his friend and the two quickly head out to join Sonic and Tails in regaining their lost jewel. Very quickly, in just one short episode, we very clearly see the friendly bond between the two and their personalities. I’ve always found it interesting that, back when they were building up to the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SEGA, 1994), SEGA held one of their famous internal competitions to come up with a design for a new character.

With his prehensile tail and gliding abilities, Ray could very well have replaced Tails.

This would, of course, eventually become Knuckles the Echidna but they could just as easily have revived Mighty as the guardian of the floating Angel Island. Similarly, although SEGASonic the Hedgehog released some time after Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992), it isn’t exactly inconceivable that the result of their internal design for Sonic’s sidekick would have resulted in Ray’s early debut and his replacing of Tails. Therefore, imagine, if you will, a slightly different turn of events. Instead of Yasushi Yamaguchi dreaming up the plucky two-tailed fox, Manabu Kusunoki’s Ray is submitted and approved for Sonic 2. Remember that, in Sonic 2, Tails never carried Sonic and, instead, controlled exactly the same; therefore, all Ray would be required to do would be to jump, roll, Spin Dash, and glide down from the heavens in two-player mode. Therefore, Ray would fit in really well with Sonic 2’s restrictions. In Sonic 3, though, Tails obviously carried Sonic in two-player modes and for the Marble Garden Zone boss. It’s difficult to imagine Ray being capable of this, so that aspect of the videogame would ultimately have been lost, however it’s very easy to see Ray borrowing Tails’ swimming mechanic, Knuckles’ glide to manoeuvre around stages, and possibly some kind of swinging mechanic using his bushy tail. While the absence of full-on flight would have been lost from the Triple Threat’s moveset in subsequent 3D titles, Ray could easily have adopted the 3D gliding of Knuckles and possibly even a spring-loaded jump of sorts

Mighty can smash like Knuckles, and his wall-jump helps him scale vertical surfaces.

Mighty, meanwhile, is slightly simpler; like Knuckles, he would have bashed through walls and boulders by running or jumping into them and, if possible, incorporated his dropping bash to smash through boulders beneath him. Mighty could also have kept his wall jumping mechanic from Knuckles’ Chaotix, which could have been implemented in ways that compensated for the loss of Tails’ flight, and potentially even have deflected all projectiles when rolled into a ball. In later 3D titles, Mighty could have kept the physical attacks used by Knuckles and, eventually, have evolved into a brawling/hack-and-slash hybrid similar to that seen in the Werehog in Sonic Unleashed (Sonic Team, 2008). Remember that, in both cases, Mighty and Ray would have exactly the same personalities and character traits as Knuckles and Tails, respectively, so much of the characterisation these two have been given in the comics and Sonic Mania Adventures would instead be supplanted with those seen in Tails and Knuckles. Just as it is easy to imagine Tails and Knuckles adopting some of the mechanics now assigned to Sonic (the bounce, the stomp, the wall jumping, some of the other Wisp abilities), so too can I easily see these being adopted by Ray and Mighty. Ultimately, however, this alternative timeline featuring Sonic, Ray, and Mighty as the Triple Threat would have meant the loss of two of the franchise’s more visually striking and engaging characters.

The gang’s finally all back together!

In the end, as sad as I am that Amy Rose didn’t make the cut for Sonic Mania Plus, I am absolutely overjoyed to see Mighty and Ray finally return to the series. Their sprites are absolutely gorgeous in the videogame and their animation in Sonic Mania Adventures is truly heart-warming. Going forward, I would be completely on board for their return in future 2D/2.5D Sonic titles and, better yet, the mainstream 3D videogames and, if we can finally have these little guys back as playable characters, there’s still hope that, one shining day, Fang will finally return as, at the very least, a secondary antagonist.

Game Corner: Sonic Forces (Xbox One)

SonicForces Logo

So, as may already be apparent, I am a pretty big fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. I am, by no means, a “Sonic Apologist” though; I am more than capable of admitting to and pointing out flaws in individual videogames and the franchise as a whole. However, unlike what appears to be the majority of Sonic fans (seriously, is there a more toxic fan community that the one adopted by Sonic fans?), I tend to be quite pleased with most Sonic titles. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, these days, I generally ask little from my videogames than a fun, engaging, pick-up-and-play experience that has some depth but not an infinite amount of depth. It probably also helps that I rarely, if ever, buy videogames first-hand on launch day and therefore spend less money per purchase so have less to complain about. With that in mind, I recently completed Sonic Forces (Sonic Team, 2017) for the Xbox One and figured I would share my thoughts on it. Created to commemorate Sonic’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Sonic Forces ostensibly positions itself as a loose sequel to Sonic Generations (ibid, 2011) and Sonic: Lost World (ibid, 2013) and was developed and released within the development and launch of the massively successful Sonic Mania (PagodaWest Games/Headcannon, 2017), a videogame that successfully (and finally) returned Sonic to his high-speed 2D roots.

SonicForces Good
It’ll take two Sonic’s and a randomer to save the world!

Sonic Forces, in comparison, sees players once again take control of “Modern Sonic” in 3D and 2.5D action stages and “Classic Sonic” (now retconned as being from “Another dimension” rather than being Modern Sonic’s past self) in 2.5D platforming sections. Players can also create their own custom Avatar from a variety of options, a feature that seems to have replaced the arguably more sensible idea of playing as the Sonic Boom iteration of Sonic. Narratively, Sonic Forces attempts to be the darkest in the series since Shadow the Hedgehog (SEGA Studio USA, 2005); during a routine battle against Doctor Eggman, Sonic is attacked and defeated by Eggman’s latest creation/ally (the exact specifics are a little…blurry, to say the least), Infinite, a villain so dark and emo that you’ll went to throw on a dirty black hoody and bust out some Taking Back Sunday while crying over that girl who cheated on you and writing badly composed poetry every time he’s on screen. Infinite appears to possess the Phantom Ruby from Sonic Mania and uses its reality-warping powers to conjure multiple illusions of some of Sonic’s greatest foes (Chaos Zero, Shadow the Hedgehog, Zavok, and Metal Sonic).

SonicForces Evil
Two of these will not feature as bosses…

With Sonic defeated, Eggman and his forces overrun the entire world and take control, leaving the world’s hopes in the hands of a rag-tag resistance led by Miles “Tails” Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, and (most of) Sonic’s other friends and allies. Vastly outnumbered, they recruit a rookie to help the cause (the player’s Avatar) and, randomly, Classic Sonic, and set out to first rescue Sonic from the Death Egg and then put a stop to Eggman’s nefarious regime.

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Boost through stages at break-neck speed as Modern Sonic.

If you’ve played Sonic Generations, then you’ll be immediately familiar with Sonic Forces. Ditching the poorly-conceived “run button” of Sonic: Lost World, Sonic Forces once again sees players smash robots, collect Golden Rings, and collect Wisps to fill up a Boost meter as Modern Sonic. When the meter fills up, you can hold down the Boost button and blast through enemies and stages at break-neck speed; Modern Sonic can also utilise the now-classic Homing Attack to target enemies and other objects and team up with the player’s Avatar to perform a Double Boost or allow the Avatar to attack enemies.

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Struggle with dodgy controls as Classic Sonic!

Classic Sonic, meanwhile, can no longer collect Elemental Shields or be assigned different abilities like he could in Sonic Generations, but he does have the Drop-Dash from Sonic Mania (which I honestly used even less than in Sonic Mania, if that’s even possible). As in Sonic Generations, Classic Sonic feels very heavy and floaty and sluggish, especially compared to Modern Sonic’s gameplay and the picture-perfect controls of Sonic Mania and his inclusion in the videogame is an odd question mark for me as he doesn’t really factor into the plot that heavily.

SonicForces Avatar Creation
Create your own fan characters with the Avatar creation tool!

Players can create their own Avatar from seven species: hedgehog, dog, cat, bird, bear, wolf, and rabbit. You can customise the Avatar’s skin colour, fur colour, eye shape and colour, ear type, and pile all sorts of clothing and accessories onto them. For a fan community that loves to create recolours and their own characters, this is a fun opportunity to create your own Sonic character, with quite a few options to choose from, but the function does have a few limitations. Firstly, you can apply hats, gloves, and shoes to your Avatar but you cannot recolour them; secondly, you cannot alter their height or width (so you can’t create fatter Avatars); and, thirdly, most of the clothing and accessories must be unlocked by completing Missions during gameplay.

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Try to not fly off stages using the Avatar’s Wispons!

You can use the Avatar function to create close approximations of Sonic characters, but they’ll never be perfect; for example, clothing for Tails, Knuckles, Shadow, and Amy Rose are available but you can’t really create any of them in picture-perfect detail. The Avatars attack using a whip-like lasso that allows them to do a poor-man’s Homing Attack and can be equipped with a variety of “Wispons”, gun-like devices that are powered by Wisps and allow the Avatar to perform awkward variations of Sonic’s Wisp abilities from Sonic Colours (Sonic Team, 2010). I say “awkward” because many of these abilities can cause the Avatar to go shooting off the stage and to their death or have a slight delay that cause you to take damage; honestly, I don’t really know why Wisps are even still a thing in the Sonic franchise.

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Mash that button for a Double Boost!

As mentioned earlier, you can complete a variety of Missions to unlock clothing and accessories for your Avatars, additional features for Wispons, and bonus stages. Some Missions are stupidly simple, like switching your Avatar’s footwear, and others are more tricky, like completing stages within a time limit. You’ll also be tasked with completing random SOS Missions; occasionally, a blue, green, or red SOS signal will pop up from a stage you’ve previously completed and you can revisit the stage to complete the Mission. These range from finding and freeing prisoners from familiar-looking prison pods, completing stages with your Avatar, or completing them with a random Avatar. Ironically, considering Sonic Forces continues the annoying trend of modern Sonic titles to hand hold you through every arbitrary function (“Press X to jump!” springs instantly to mind), you only ever get one notification about which colour equates to which SOS Mission, so you’ll have to make sure you know what you have to do or you might blast through a stage in record time only to fail the Mission like an idiot because you forgot what the red signal meant. Both Sonics can still collect Red Rings in stages; collecting these allows you to get Achievements and unlocks bonus stages. Bonus stages consist of annoying tasks like dodging lasers and making it through small stages where platforms randomly vanish beneath you, but collecting the Red Rings can be a fun task as it encourages exploration.

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The level of graphic detail is quite high.

Graphically, Sonic Forces is gorgeous; running on an updated version of the Hedgehog Engine, you’ll marvel at the level of detail and layers in every stage. Blasting through Green Hill as it’s attacked by giant mechs or through a city under attack by Death Egg Robots is a real thrill and there’s clearly been a lot of thought put into the presentation. Gameplay-wise, there are still times when control gives way to automation (dash pads, boost pads, loop-de-loops, and quick-time events all take control away from the player) but, honestly, I didn’t really care because the game is all about speed and going forward so I am happy to be propelled along as long as it’s not into a bottomless pit. Despite my disappointment at having to play through Green Hill and Chemical Plant again, stages are fun and surprisingly layered; players can take multiple paths in many levels, some of them only accessible when you have certain Wispons equipped, others by simply using the Homing Attack, and they’re short enough that they never become tedious or boring. Indeed, the longest stages are saved for later in the game and, by then, it’s a real sign that the difficulty has ramped up a bit. For me, though, having fun stages to play in short-to-medium bursts makes for a far more enjoyable experience and really assists in speed runs.

SonicForces Story
Sonic Forces‘ story is quite weak.

On a slightly related note, acquiring trophies/achievements is a blast in Sonic Forces, largely thanks to the short stages and the ease of their requirements; if you like getting trophies/achievements without much effort then you’ll love Sonic Forces. I know that I was so encouraged by how many I popped in my first playthrough that I was more than happy to try some of the more difficult ones and the game really lends itself to a pick-up-and-play mentality. Narratively though…oh boy. This is perhaps the weakest aspect of Sonic Forces; when the videogame uses CGI cutscenes, its amazing and, as always, Sonic Team excel in this area (graphically, anyway; the script still leaves a lot to be desired). Unfortunately, a great deal of the plot is told through talking heads on the world map or through simple white text on a black background. Quite how Eggman acquired the Phantom Ruby is never really explored and Infinite’s back-story (largely told in the free DLC, “Episode Shadow”) is paper thin; he got beaten up by Shadow and has apparently become some kind of weird cyborg-thing. It’s a neat twist to see Eggman win right from the start but there’s never a real sense of urgency or threat; you blast though stages and Eggman’s underlings with very little fear of failure.

SonicForces Boss
Bosses, at least, are larger, layered, and fun to battle.

As for bosses, there’s a surprising lack of them here. You’ll do battle with Zavok, Eggman, Metal Sonic, and Infinite but Chaos Zero is depressingly taking out in a cutscene…by Classic Sonic…with one move…and you never battle against Shadow. Boss battles take three forms; either you battle on a 2.5D arena, race down an infinite highway towards the opponent, or take them on from a slightly skewed overhead perspective. Bosses have a variety of attacks and forms/stages, which can make them challenging but not too difficult, and sometimes require you to team up with the Avatar to win the day. There’s honestly a lot to like about Sonic Forces if you ignore the writing and the poorly-conceived plot; gameplay is fun, action-packed, and blasts along at a decent speed. It’s fun to create Avatars, unlock new gear for them, and to pop trophies/achievements. I do feel like more could have been done, though; honestly, Sonic Team really should have included Boom-Sonic as the third character (maybe include the Avatar function as well, though) because the Avatar is so blatantly and clearly there in place of him that it just feels weird. I also would have liked to see the ability to more accurately create Avatars of other Sonic characters and greater customisation in the Avatar function; it works but it feels very limited at times.

On the plus side, it’s really easy to get S-ranks if you blast through as fast as possible and don’t die, which is great for me, and I didn’t encounter that many cheap deaths or glitches while playing. Sure, sometimes you blast along so fast (especially as free DLC Super Sonic) that you’ll over shoot jumps, pits, or automated sections and fall to your death but I never glitched through anything or found any oddities and the game also ditches the lives system so you don’t have to worry about running out of tries. As great as Sonic Mania was at bringing Sonic back to his roots, I feel like the universal praise for that game has tainted the reception of Sonic Forces and that people are all-too-ready to tear apart the modern, Boost-heavy emphasis of 3D Sonic titles to focus on the positives. I feel there’s room for both, especially given how little funding and development is needed to make a top-notch 2D Sonic game compared to a Triple A 3D title; I just hope that Sonic Team either introduce more of Sonic’s cast back into the 3D games as playable characters or, at least, work on Classic Sonic’s gameplay as he feels jarringly slow and sluggish compared to his Modern counterpart.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Game Corner: Sonic Mania


Announced at the commemoration of Sonic’s 25th anniversary, Sonic Mania (Headcannon/PagodaWest Games, 2017) is a side-scrolling, two-dimensional platformer in the spirit and style of Sonic’s original 1990s outings. Headed up by Christian “Taxman” Whitehead, in collaboration with notable members of the Sonic fangaming community, Sonic Mania sets out to be the true sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (Sonic Team, 1994) that Sonic fans have been clamouring for for over a decade. Sonic Mania opens almost exactly the same way as Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (ibid), with Sonic and Tails flying in the Tornado towards Angel Island. Sonic’s bad luck with the floating haven continues as he immediately runs into a group of Eggrobos who unearth a mysterious gemstone (the Phantom Ruby), which blasts them all through space (and, possibly, time) back to the Green Hill Zone, where the Eggrobos have been transformed into more powerful variants, the Hard-Boiled Heavies.

The Phantom Ruby empowers the Hard-Boiled Heavies.

From there, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles (whose encounter with the Eggrobos takes place as they flee with the Phantom Ruby) must travel through twelve zones in pursuit of Doctor Eggman, battling his Hard-Boiled Heavies, in their quest to obtain the seven Chaos Emeralds and put a stop to them wreaking havoc with the Phantom Ruby. Players can choose to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles in a solo adventure or team-up as Sonic and Tails in two-player simultaneous mode. Each character plays differently but exactly as they did in Sonic 3 & Knuckles; Sonic is the fastest and can perform a Drop-Dash, where he instantly drops into a Spin Dash attack, Tails can fly and swim for a limited time (in a welcome twist, solo players using Sonic and Tails can command Tails to fly and then have him carry Sonic around), while Knuckles has the shortest jump, can glide, and can bash through certain breakable walls that the other two characters can’t. As in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, playing as Knuckles will take players on slightly different paths and even involve battling slightly different bosses. As always, players must collect Golden Rings to survive enemy attacks and hazards, break open monitors to acquire shields (the Water, Fire, and Electricity variants also afford Sonic the ability to bounce, blast, and double-jump, respectively), enter Bonus Stages stylised like Sonic 3 & Knuckles’s Blue Sphere stages by passing checkpoints with over twenty-five Rings, and leap into hidden Giant Rings to enter Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sonic Team, 1993) style Special Stages.

Make no mistake, the Special Stages are no push-over!

In these Special Stages, players must collect Blue Spheres to increase their speed but also collect Golden Rings to add to the strict time limit in order to chase down a UFO holding a Chaos Emerald. Mastering these stages is the game’s hardest challenge as turns are tight, time is extremely limited, hazards are plentiful, and the UFOs do not give up their prize easily. If you try to get cute and run in the opposite direction, you’ll find yourself out of luck as the programmers thought of that and it’s basically impossible. The first thing you’ll notice when playing Sonic Mania is that it is simply gorgeous to look at; the attention to detail is staggering. Backgrounds and environments are vibrant and colourful, full of life and little details that long-time fans will delight in spotting. The game features eight zones lovingly recreated from classic Sonic titles but expanded and given additional gameplay twists and mechanics, many derived from other Sonic gameplay mechanics (for example, Stardust Speedway features the pulleys from Marble Garden Zone, Flying Battery Zone is amalgamated with Wing Fortress Zone, and Mirage Saloon Zone features the Tornado as in Sky Chase Zone). In the case of the Mirage Saloon Zone, the programmers derived the aesthetics from cancelled desert levels from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sonic Team/SEGA Technical Institute, 1992) and Sonic CD.

Dust Hill and Desert Dazzle are finally realised.

The fan service doesn’t stop there, though. Chemical Plant Zone features a boss battle ripped straight from Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Compile/SEGA, 1993). Also, Sonic not only races against Metal Sonic in the Stardust Speedway Zone once more, but also has to battle an endless army of Silver Sonic’s from the Master System/Game Gear version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA/Aspect, 1992).

I certainly didn’t expect this inclusion!

Finally, in perhaps the greatest piece of fan service I have ever witnessed, players will encounter and battle against Fang the Sniper/Nack the Weasel, Bean the Dynamite, and Bark the Polar Bear, three characters long missing from the franchise since 1996. Fans have been literally begging to see these three characters return to the franchise though, up until now, the best we got were some brief homages in Sonic Generations (Sonic Team, 2011). To be fair, their depiction in Sonic Mania looks to be more of an illusion created by the Heavy Magician Hard-Boiled Heavy but the joy I felt upon seeing these three finally return, in glorious sprite form, cannot be understated; the fat little ten-year-old in me was literally geeking out right there.

Fang/Nack, Bean, and Bark make their welcome return at last!

Sonic Mania features numerous endings, with the best ending obviously coming once players have collected all seven Chaos Emeralds. Blue Sphere bonus stages award players with either a silver or a gold medal which unlock additional bonus features (Sonic 3 & Knuckles’s Insta-Shield, Sonic CD’s Super Peel-Out, “& Knuckles Mode” to allow players to play as Sonic and Knuckles, Tails and Knuckles, or even Knuckles and Knuckles(!), a Debug Mode, and a Sound Test). Unfortunately, you are not allowed to save your progress when using these bonus features, which is one of the game’s biggest flaws.

A love letter to the past.

Another is the plot. Honestly, there isn’t much more plot here than there was in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, with the gist of it being expertly told through in-game animations. However, given that this game takes place a short time after Sonic 3 & Knuckles, it makes no sense for Angel Island to be floating on the ocean again. It was also a bit of a contrivance to see the Phantom Ruby being unearthed on Angel Island, a place already known for being home to the Master Emerald; I would’ve preferred to see it be discovered in one of the new in-game locations.

Play as Knuckles and Knuckles…and be rescued by Knuckles!

Furthermore, not every zone ends with an in-game transition to the next, making for a jarringly inconsistent experience at times as the Hard-Boiled Heavies disappear from the plot mid-way through the game. Finally, I can’t be the only one a bit annoyed to see Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone so soon after their recreations in Sonic Generations; I would’ve liked to have seen more emphasis on Emerald Hill Zone and maybe Mystic Cave Zone (possible with some Underground Zone and mechanical influences) and, while I loved seeing Lava Reef Zone return, the programmers maybe missed a trick by not incorporating some elements from Marble Zone and Sonic 2’s Hidden Palace Zone here. These really are very minor issues, though, as the game plays flawlessly; the controls are just as tight and reliable as they were in classic Sonic titles. There are no cheap deaths or bottomless pits here (well, very few…I only ever fell down maybe two, actually) and the game is exhilaratingly fast and extremely fun to play, while also being very challenging. The ways in which classic zones are remixed add a new layer to the game as even seasoned veterans like myself cannot be sure of what they’re going to encounter. Every boss battle involves a bit of strategy; there is far more to each encounter that just bouncing on Eggman’s head. Honestly, Sonic Mania is a must-buy not just for long-time Sonic fans but for anyone who enjoys beautiful graphics, crisp controls, and a fun, challenging gameplay. From the Sonic CD-inspired animated introduction to the eye-wateringly exquisite graphics and attention to detail in every single element of the sprites and backgrounds, to the remixed levels and soundtrack, Sonic Mania delivers on every single level. Finally, after over a decade of waiting and enduring lacklustre attempts at recapturing Sonic’s classic gameplay, SEGA have done the smartest thing they ever could and handed the keys to a group of developers with a real love and passion for the franchise and Sonic Mania exudes that from every aspect of its presentation.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.