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Sonic Mania Plus Retrospective


SadVlad

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When Mania released on consoles on August 15th 2017 it was something special at the time. It was both revolutionary and a faithful adaptation of classic entries within the franchise. With Generations before it having mixed reception, and the disappointing turnout of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 episodes 1 & 2, it was looking like the 2d landscape would never retain its former glory.

 But when Sega teamed up with Whitehead(The man that created the overwhelmingly successful mobile port of Sonic CD) they managed to create a game that was entirely new, and plentifully rich in new design, mechanics, vibrant colors and animations. But what stood out the most was the engaging gameplay, and eventually, with the release of Mania Plus/Encore(July 17th 2018), the re-introduction of Mighty and Ray.

For a lot of Sonic fans, this was their first experience with the duo. Alongside the two new character additions, we were given Encore mode. A unique experience where players could collect, and switch out characters on the fly. This also replaced the lives system. To where, when a character would be knocked out, players would switch to the next. To which you would have to rescue them again, or players would fail the stage if all characters were defeated.

As for the story, the overall monologue is short and sweet with no voice acting, and very short cutscenes which are at the beginning and end of the game. Followed by some character interactions throughout the game. Eggman alongside his Hard-boiled Heavies, are causing chaos throughout time and it's up to Sonic and co. to stop them, warping through multiple zones along the way. Another welcomed feature of this game is that now, there is a boss at the end of every stage instead of just the one boss following each zone. 

Also, transitioning in between levels is done through a quick animation that makes the world's and levels feel tied together. There is a balanced mixture of new and familiar worlds to make things feel fresh and unique. Even with the inclusion of returning zones, they manage to feel new, with remixed music and an array of new gimmicks and mechanics scattered around each zone. From battling it out in a level of Mean Bean Machine, to fighting fake versions Bean, Fang, and Bark, there is enough variety on every level to keep players on there toes each and every stage.

At the time and even to this day, I feel like this modern Sonic entry stands out as a true staple and an absolute masterpiece in Sonic's video game history. A true revival to a struggling series at the time, in my opinion. I didn't think the franchise was dying, being a fan of dozens of otherwise poorly received Sonic titles such as Heroes and the Shadow the Hedgehog game. But this was definitely a much needed, and successful footnote in the catalog of Sonic games.

In 2017 I would of rated this game a resounding 10 all across the board. As it stands in 2024, I give it a 9.5. I cannot find any gripes about this title, and the only reason I don't give it a perfect score to this day is to leave room for improvement. Because when it comes to Sonic the Hedgehog, the sky is the limit and things can only get better and better.

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Dreadknux

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Great retrospective. I think Sonic Mania is definitely one of those games that have stood the test of time really well. And with Plus specifically, you reminded me about that new take on the lives system - it's kind of genius really.

I think many game developers who worked on classic/long-running franchises like Sonic, Mario, Crash etc have struggled with the transition from old-school "lives" to a more appropriate 'modern' system. Sonic Origins using 'coins' instead of 1ups is a bit of a wonky hack (but understandable given that you're working with old games), but thinking back on it Mania Plus' 'Encore' system is probably one of the most elegant tweaks I've seen on this. It definitely deserves more credit for it.

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