So when the original Sonic Mania came out last year, I gave it a score of 4.5 out of 5 noting that it was a vast improvement over failed Sonic offerings from years before (cough hack Rise of Lyric cough hack) and a wondrous return to his retro ways.
I noted, “Sonic Mania continues to buck the trend of bringing back a classic the right way, like Doom before it. But the team doesn’t forget the heritage of which Sonic was based on, and keeps his 16-bit roots completely intact, while introducing fresh new ideas that fit our hero like a glove. It’s insanely fun to play, despite some mild frustrations, and it’s great to have 16-bit Sonic looking and sounding better than ever. It’s a great return for a hero that was in desperate need of one, and it gives me high hopes that Sega may just right this ship yet. It’s easily one of the best games this year.”
Well, now I just feel silly. Not that I regret anything I wrote about Sonic Mania, but with Plus, the game’s original team has gone back and improved upon the formula immensely. It’s one of the best “director’s cuts” that you’ll ever see, not to mention a quintessential example of how to revert back to a simple yet great formula. It somehow makes the original game look old-hat. And I thought that was impossible.
First off, everything about the original game is here. If you’re worried that something got cut to make room for Plus, don’t be. All the levels you loved from the original are still intact, including those funky remixes of Flying Battery Zone and Chemical Plant Zone that I love so much.
What’s really great about this new edition, however, is Encore Mode. It goes right alongside Mania Mode, offering reworked versions of previous levels along with the debut of Angel Island from Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Although all of our favorite stages aren’t here, there’s more than enough here to keep nostalgic gamers busy.
What’s more, the boss battles are a little more exciting this time around; and the ability to swap between two characters, Donkey Kong Country style, is pretty amazing. Yes, a character tags along with you like Tails did back in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (grumble), but they serve a greater purpose here.
There’s more to the game than that, though. Time Trials now lets you save and play back your best runs to show off to others. (No social features here, but it’s pretty neat anyway.) There are also “secret” gameplay options that can be unlocked which slightly but effectively enhance gameplay, like using the special dash from Sonic CD. Awesome.
But I’ll tell you, the competition mode is nothing short of amazing. Here, you can race up to four players in split-screen in a full-on race for the finish. Two player was manic enough and playing this mode on a small screen can be a bit confusing. On the big-screen though, this Sonic Mania Plus mode is magic and makes for an ultimate party experience. Grab your friends because you won’t want to miss this one.
Other than that, the game’s gone through some slightly notable fixes. The gameplay feels more in sync with the classic Sonic games of old, even though the original Mania was perfectly fine; and both of the new characters, Mighty and Ray, add some great elements to the game, particularly with Ray’s cape-like swooping abilities. They’re just as much fun to play as the older favorites so don’t be afraid to mix things up.
Also, Sonic Mania Plus still looks and sounds amazing. Christian Whitehead, the mastermind behind Sonic CD’s revival years ago, returns with the Mania development team to make everything look refined, right down to the 16-bit style graphics and remixed soundtrack. It’s wonderful, both on the go and in docked mode. Plus, some of these melodies just stick in your head. I could seriously listen to the Flying Battery theme for hours. In fact, I have.
And if you can, it doesn’t hurt to go all out for the physical version. Sure, you can add Encore mode for $5 and get all the extras with your original copy. But the new boxed edition comes with some nice extras. The foil cover with glowing artwork is pretty cool; the art book offers a decent look behind-the-scenes; and the reversible Sega Genesis box art is awesome. All that’s missing is a box that screams “SEGA!” when you open it up.
As I said in my previous review, Sonic Mania is all about channeling that old-school goodness in the best way possible. But Plus improves upon that with key additions that extend the game to further greatness. It’s more fun to play than it’s ever been; it looks and sounds spectacular; the extras are bountiful and add extraordinary replay value; and the physical version actually makes you want to hunt it down in favor of a digital release. It really is the total package, and probably the most quintessential Sonic the Hedgehog game since Sonic 3 released years ago. (Yes, I loved that game, deal with it.)
Now that Sonic has gotten this incredible treatment, I once again implore Sega to give other classics a shot. A remixed Streets of Rage would be the stuff of legend. Heck, I’ll even take a new Vectorman at this point. What do you say?!0comments
WWG’s Score: 5/5
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.