Sonic Mania Plus Review

Sonic Mania Plus Review from r/JoyConReviews



I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Sonic series with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 being my personal favorite. However, now that I’ve spent some time with Sonic Mania Plus, I’m having an internal debate on which is the superior Sonic game. Regardless of which will top my personal list, today I’d like to take a look at the joys of Sonic Mania Plus.

Retro Sonic Gameplay

Finally, after years of flirting with classic Sonic gameplay, Sega green-lit a project that really delivers an authentic, retro Sonic experience. The basics from the original hedgehog trilogy are all here: spin dashes, shields, rings, loop-de-loops, and special stages all make their long-awaited return. It feels great to control Sonic, especially when travelling at high speeds. Much like classic Sonic games, you will have to slow down and do some basic platforming, but the addition of the drop dash maneuver allows you to maintain, or regain momentum as needed. 

The bonus stage from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles makes its return, and is important if you want to unlock all of the game’s content, but it’s the special stages that make a bigger impact. These special stages are similar to those found in Sonic CD, but instead of destroying UFOs, you are chasing them down to collect the chaos emeralds they’re carrying. Collect them all to gain access to Super Sonic, the game’s final boss encounter, and the true ending. 

Incredible Level Design

In my opinion, Sonic Mania has the best level design of the entire series. While most stages have elements designed to make you travel at blinding speeds, the design philosophy mostly centers around crafting stages with flow. Part of that flow can be attributed to platform and enemy placement, as well as the useful drop dash technique. Levels are designed to encourage repeat plays, so the more you play, the better you can feel the flow. This design philosophy can be seen in both the remixed classic stages, as well as the new locales introduced in this iteration. The remixed stages aren’t necessarily carbon copies either, as each one introduces a new level mechanic in their second act. 

As for creativity’s sake, the developer is firing on all cylinders for the game’s new stages and boss encounters. Whether it be brand new level mechanics, or the “Mean Bean Machine” boss encounter, you don’t have to worry about the game feeling too familiar. As far as challenge goes, there is some to be found here. While the majority of the game provides a somewhat medium level of challenge, some of the boss fights will require some of those sweet 1UPs earned throughout the game. 

Gorgeous Presentation

Sonic Mania is not only a treat for fans of classic gameplay, but also for those of us that appreciate gorgeous, retro visuals and a rocking soundtrack. The classic levels look better than ever in HD, but it's in the new levels where the art really shines. In particular, I really dug the look of Mirage Saloon and Press Garden Zones. The game’s soundtrack is a mixture of classic themes, fantastic remixed versions of those themes, and a barrage of new music that feels right at home in the world of Sonic the Hedgehog. Lastly, the game features awesome 90s inspired menus and transitions that really capture the aesthetic of the era. 

Tons of Replay Value

Both the base version of Sonic Mania, and Sonic Mania Plus offer the player a ton of replay value. The base version has multiple characters including Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, as well as time attack, and unlockables to keep the player busy. The big addition in Sonic Mania Plus is the game’s Encore Mode, which forces you to select one of two new characters, Mighty the Armadillo, or Ray the Flying Squirrel, as Sonic’s partner. Both new characters offer new ways to play the game. Mighty can pound the ground, while Ray can glide across the sky. You act as a tag team and can switch between characters throughout this mode. You can also collect other characters to join you on the journey, with each essentially acting as an additional life. This mode also remixes the game’s levels, and offers a bit more challenge for those that are able to breeze through the game’s story.

Conclusion

Sonic Mania Plus is currently my favourite Sonic the Hedgehog game and is arguably the best Sonic game ever made. It blends nostalgia with new elements to create an unforgettable experience. The physical version of Sonic Mania Plus is especially great because you get a neat artbook, reversible box art that makes it look like a Sega Genesis game, and all the game’s DLC. This game is a must play for fans of Sonic the Hedgehog. 

Final Score: +4

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