Sonic Mania has finally launched and many, including myself, claim it to be the best Sonic game in years. Mania is probably the first time in a while where I felt truly immersed in that sense of style, speed, and platforming that I fell in love all the way back in the early 90’s. But most importantly it proves that Sonic isn’t dead and shouldn’t be.
Being a Sonic fan in the modern world is extremely challenging. Recent games have been somewhere between mixed to great but mostly bad. Sonic 06 and Sonic Boom are the most prime examples of how a Sonic game can go terribly wrong thanks to clunky level design and feeling like an unfinished mess. So naturally a divide formed where fans of the old were completely dissatisfied with how the series turned out and newcomers trying to defend it because, well, they just love Sonic. It’s kind of like supporting your favorite sports team even though they never had a good season for a long time.
This has sparked multiple debates among gaming communities with plenty of critics such as the infamous Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw reviews of Zero Punctuation to major outlets such as IGN who claimed “Sonic was never good” and “Sonic needs to die”. People, mostly edgy gamers, unanimously agreed that there’s no solution to the franchise and that its style is considered dated and should just die.
Then Mania happened.
Mania is the solution and the proof us Sonic fans needed to silence the naysayers once and for all. This was the game we’ve been waiting for and even if you’re not a fan of 2D Sonic (yes, those exist), it’s still something we can use to shut them up. But if this does indeed prove that Sonic can work in the modern gaming world then what really is the problem?
The Problem Isn’t Sonic. It’s SEGA and Sonic Team
Mania proves another important point, one that honestly saddens me. SEGA and Sonic Team just don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. Like, I’m sorry, I know there are a lot of fans out there that would praise and defend those brands but let’s face it: they’re out of touch. They don’t understand what makes a Sonic game good and as a result continue to dish out disappointing experiments such as Sonic Lost World and Werehog sections of Unleashed. Their experience also seems to lack polish as plenty of levels, especially towards the end of their games, end up feeling rushed, broken, and frustrating. Like whenever I play Sonic Generations I always tend to stick to the earlier to mid sections for a reason. They’re just more fun.
SEGA should have also seen the disaster coming with Boom. Honestly, I’m not sure what they were thinking turning the game into a sort of Jack and Daxter experience which seems completely divorced of all the charm and fun that made Sonic memorable. Furthermore these additions to the brands end up fragmenting the fanbase even further. We now have Classic Sonic, Modern Sonic, and Boom Sonic. Some even claim Dreamcast Sonic to be his own category. That’s like 4 Sonic’s that fans have to deal with. Like how do you market that shit?
SEGA and Sonic Team kept adding obstacles and unnecessary changes that fans didn’t ask for. It’s almost like they enjoy creating problems so they can solve it when the problem shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
I can go on why SEGA and Sonic Team lack focus or how they can’t make interesting fun levels, but the bottom line is that they forgot. And in the process ended up reinventing the wheel.
I won’t lie, I did enjoy some modern Sonic games. The adventure series Sonic/Shadow levels were great and up until now have the best 3D movement for Sonic that actually demonstrates proper momentum. Generations was a lot of fun and I still occasionally go back to it. I just feel the movement is a bit slippery and the boost button just breaks the game. As for the rest I have nothing to say other than that they were forgettable at best.
SEGA and Sonic Team’s lack of focus is evident even up until today. Forces is treated as their big Sonic game with Mania as an appetizer while the rest of the community see the opposite. For the record I’m still looking forward to Forces but Mania will no doubt overshadow it which again, is something SEGA did not anticipate but should have.
I hope that from this experience SEGA is going to look at the feedback and take maters more seriously. The fact that Mania is the highest rated Sonic game in over a decade is a testament to that. Maybe that’s why they agreed to let fans make their next game to see where it goes? It’s a hunch but entirely possible.
Whether or not Forces will do good or bad, Mania has at the very least given Sonic fans something to hold on to and prove the franchise isn’t going anywhere.