• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.

As a longtime skeptic of 2D Sonic, I finally "get it" with Sonic Mania

Neiteio

Member
After completing Sonic Mania and replaying its many levels, I've been reflecting on the experience so far, and I keep concluding: This game is amazing. Currently my No. 2 GOTY, between Zelda: BotW (No. 1) and Resident Evil VII (No. 3).

This is the best possible outcome, too, since I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it. I knew the art and animation and music would be worth the price of admission, so I felt either way it would be money/time well-spent. But I wasn't sure I'd enjoy the gameplay. This concern was based on my playtime with the Genesis original, back in the day, and my misunderstanding of the game's focus.

Before, 2D Sonic games would make me feel conflicted, presenting me with multiple paths in enormous levels that my inner completionist wanted to explore 100%, but leading me into pinball sequences that encouraged me to go fast and would lock me out of many areas. This felt "wrong" to me as someone reared on Mario games, where you can generally see everything and do everything on your first try, if you're thorough.

But with Sonic Mania, I think I finally "get it."

First, you need to accept that you won't see everything a level has to offer your first time through. This is actually great because it adds to the replay value, allowing you to revisit the levels at a later time (or even with a different character or pair of characters) and effectively get a new experience. So right from the onset you need to accept there is no "right" path — just the path you choose to pursue, and all other paths can be explored later. Of course, you can also stick to the path you did before and simply clear it more efficiently, your speed growing with your mastery of the level. This is also perfectly valid.

Second, rather than thinking of Sonic and friends as characters who "gotta go fast," I've come to think of them as characters who generally take things slow, but who can use their speed to reach different parts of the level. In other words, I focused on light exploration first, finding what I could, followed by selective uses of speed to, say, reach the top of a steep incline, or to navigate the loops and corkscrews that connect different parts of the level.

Third, I realize now that part of what makes these games so addictive is the constant push and pull of the player being completely in control one moment, and relinquishing control to the mercy of pinball physics the next. There's something exhilarating about this give and take between the player and the game, where the payoff to each pixel-perfect platforming segment is a spectacular pinball sequence that may be mostly flash with varying degrees of interaction, but is still rewarding in its spectacle, and in the gargantuan sense of scale it gives each stage as you see how they all fit together.

In a way, levels in 2D Sonic feel more comparable to sandbox-style 3D Mario worlds translated into 2D. These are some of the most immense and immersive settings I've ever experienced in a 2D platformer... And what continues to astonish me is the avalanche of ideas present in each level. There are 24 levels in the game — not counting alternate takes such as Knuckles' Mirage Saloon Act 1 — and each level has a wealth of one-off traversal mechanics and platforming challenges you won't see anywhere else, not to mention unique backgrounds, music, enemies, bosses, etc.

There's a sense of imagination and inventiveness that propels you forward the first time through, and that continues to entertain when replaying each stage, where you can better appreciate how intricately everything fits together, enabling amazing speed runs if only you're open-minded enough to see the opportunities, and reflexive enough to execute on them.

I love every zone in this game. I can tell there's a lot of fan service in this game, the meaning of which is lost on me since I simply don't have that much familiarity with the franchise. But as someone who really only knew Green Hill and Chemical Plant going in, and for whom everything else was new, I have to say nothing felt out of place, and each level felt consistent in its design and presentation. I loved every moment — and I'm very curious what kind of zones existed in other Sonic games.

So, to those sitting on the fence because these games didn't click before, I'd recommend giving Sonic Mania a chance, and maybe approaching it with the mindset I did. You might discover one of your favorite games this year. :)
 
Sonic Mania is the best 2D Sonic game by quite a bit.
I think it's mostly thanks to being widescreen and being reworked to feel less cheap.
You can actually see what's coming and react to it.
The iOS were better than the originals too, but touch screen controlls are a no-go.
I think the 3DS 3D version is the same screen size as the original? Looks nice, but not widescreen which hurts.
New levels are fantastic and the bonus stages are handled much better as well.

Sonic Utopia is the game to make me "get" Sonic's momentum, though. Especially crouching and running into enemies. The Drop down spin is a great addition too.
 

RRockman

Banned
You absolutely got it. Sonic isn't about speed, it's about harassing momentum.

No, speed is still a large part of Sonic, it's just that people assumed that was the WHOLE IDEA, rather than it being a larger part of the equation that makes up a great platformer.
 

Sami+

Member
Sonic Mania is the best 2D Sonic game by quite a bit.
I think it's mostly thanks to being widescreen and being reworked to feel less cheap.
You can actually see what's coming and react to it.
The iOS were better than the originals too, but touch screen controlls are a no-go.
I think the 3DS 3D version is the same screen size as the original? Looks nice, but not widescreen which hurts.
New levels are fantastic and the bonus stages are handled much better as well.

Sonic Utopia is the game to make me "get" Sonic's momentum, though. Especially crouching and running into enemies. The Drop down spin is a great addition too.





Perfection. Utopia is just so god damn good. Want a full game like it sooooo bad.
 

Sciz

Member
You really need to back up and play Sonic 3 & Knuckles now. It's the game that Mania strives to be and surpass.
 

wouwie

Member
Interesting. I love platform games but never really tried Sonic for the same reasons as you mentioned. So i'm thinking i should give this another go and try Sonic Mania.
 

maxcriden

Member
Interesting. I love platform games but never really tried Sonic for the same reasons as you mentioned. So i'm thinking i should give this another go and try Sonic Mania.

Ditto! I played a bit of Sonic Advance and maybe a little of a couple other Sonic games over the years, but never got much into it. Thanks for the excellent write-up as always. Definitely interested to check out Mania now.
 

jon bones

hot hot hanuman-on-man action
I feel the exact opposite - Mania confirmed what I always suspected: Sonic games just aren't very good.

As a kid I was more forgiving, but they just feel... off to play. Always have.

Playing the Rayman Legends demo or a Mario game really makes it glaring, too.
 

RRockman

Banned
I feel the exact opposite - Mania confirmed what I always suspected: Sonic games just aren't very good.

As a kid I was more forgiving, but they just feel... off to play. Always have.

Playing the Rayman Legends demo or a Mario game really makes it glaring, too.

This really feels more like personal preference rather than them objectively being bad :/ your examples interesting to me because I enjoy both of those series, but I actually like rayman more when it's slower paced rather than its current incarnation.
 

jon bones

hot hot hanuman-on-man action
This really feels more like personal preference rather than them objectively being bad :/ your examples interesting to me because I enjoy both of those series, but I actually like rayman more when it's slower paced rather than its current incarnation.

i mean sure, it's all subjective

but that recent thread shows a lot of people feel the game design is too at odds with itself, hurling you forward and then stopping you suddenly (and randomly). never feels good to explore, nor does it feel like Mario when you are quickly and carefully zipping through the level.
 
I'd take Mania over any 2D Mario released in the last 20+ years. The latter feels totally devoid of any heart and soul nowadays, with bland art and naff music.

Nintendo could learn a lot from this game. Beautiful pixel art, rad music and a willingness to really embrace the plumber's incredibly varied past would all go a long way.

Mania spoiler (kind of)...

Imagine a Dr. Mario boss fight?
 
I feel similarly, I never really got into a Sonic game until Mania absolutely showed me how the speed and platforming can work in tandem, complimenting one another.
 

Thud

Member
I feel the exact opposite - Mania confirmed what I always suspected: Sonic games just aren't very good.

As a kid I was more forgiving, but they just feel... off to play. Always have.

Playing the Rayman Legends demo or a Mario game really makes it glaring, too.

Maybe it doesn't feel right to you and that's perfectly fine.
 

L Thammy

Member
I do agree with your OP, though. I'm still not willing to say that Sonic is anywhere near my favourite platforming series - not because it's bad, but because there's so much else which is more appealing to me - but it's unique and requires a certain sort of mental approach to really get out of it, which I think is frustrating for newcomers and confusing for long-time fans who it's already clicked with.
 

gelf

Member
Glad you get it now OP. You describe the reasons I've had much joy playing the classic Sonic games all these years better then I ever could.

I'm sadly still waiting for Mania though because of the PC delay.
 

Guess Who

Banned
I suspect Sonic Mania is helping people see what was great about Sonic because it’s honestly the first 2D Sonic game to have consistently good level design, save perhaps S3K (even then, while Mania has a few rough spots, I’d say it never gets as frustrating as Marble Garden or Carnival Night).

Sonic needs good level design to work, and Sonic 1 doesn’t hold up all that well because too many stages like Marble and Labyrinth are at odds with what makes Sonic fun - they’re very slow, tedious, linear, blocky platforming stages, with lots of waiting on platforms to move and trudging through water where you have to stop every few seconds to grab an air bubble. Sonic 2 got a lot better about this, but still had a few cheap levels like Metropolis and Wing Fortress.

This is why S3K is so popular with Sonic nerds - it’s the point where Sega really figured out how to make these big, sprawling, layered stages with an ebb and flow that blends flashy set pieces with careful platforming. Mania builds on that, and has easily the most consistent execution out of any of the 2D Sonic games.
 
I suspect Sonic Mania is helping people see what was great about Sonic because it's honestly the first 2D Sonic game to have consistently good level design, save perhaps S3K (even then, while Mania has a few rough spots, I'd say it never gets as frustrating as Marble Garden or Carnival Night).

What grinds me down with Marble Garden, Carnival Night and Sandopolis in S3&K is that in addition to their level design not doing much for me, the music for those zones doesn't click with me either. Even in Mania's weaker moments like Sonic's Mirage Saloon Act 1 and
Oil Ocean
I'm at least jamming out to the tunes. Easily my favorite classic Sonic soundtrack despite the use of remixes. Every track is good and fitting, working to elevate whatever zone it's in.
 

Toxi

Banned
In a way, levels in 2D Sonic feel more comparable to sandbox-style 3D Mario worlds translated into 2D. These are some of the most immense and immersive settings I've ever experienced in a 2D platformer... And what continues to astonish me is the avalanche of ideas present in each level. There are 24 levels in the game — not counting alternate takes such as Knuckles' Mirage Saloon Act 1 — and each level has a wealth of one-off traversal mechanics and platforming challenges you won't see anywhere else, not to mention unique backgrounds, music, enemies, bosses, etc.

There's a sense of imagination and inventiveness that propels you forward the first time through, and that continues to entertain when replaying each stage, where you can better appreciate how intricately everything fits together, enabling amazing speed runs if only you're open-minded enough to see the opportunities, and reflexive enough to execute on them.

I love every zone in this game. I can tell there's a lot of fan service in this game, the meaning of which is lost on me since I simply don't have that much familiarity with the franchise. But as someone who really only knew Green Hill and Chemical Plant going in, and for whom everything else was new, I have to say nothing felt out of place, and each level felt consistent in its design and presentation. I loved every moment — and I'm very curious what kind of zones existed in other Sonic games.
After playing Mario Galaxy recently, I was thinking something similar. I like 2D Mario, but I've rarely loved it in the same way I love classic 2D Sonic or 3D Mario. And I think a major part of that is how 2D Mario lacks the same kind of distinct imaginative worlds (Yoshi's Island is a clear exception, of course). Obstacles are often designed to be as generic as possible so they can be placed in a variety of different settings. World themes are cliches and the individual levels rarely expand those cliches. The same themes and gimmicks appear again and again between worlds and between games.

This leads to consistency with few outright bad levels, but it also means that few levels ever stand out. Just as a challenge, try naming your favorite 2D Mario levels. It's hard. The good ones often end up blurring together together.

In contrast, 3D Mario and 2D Sonic tend to emphasize how unique each level is, with new gimmicks and music and environments. And the best levels are huge and full of stuff to find. This leads to a few terrible levels, but the best levels are incredibly memorable. Try naming your favorite 2D Sonic or 3D Mario level. It's a hell of a lot easier, isn't it? You can probably even remember the music.

I don't think you could ever make a decent 3D Mario Maker or a decent 2D Sonic Maker, because the levels in these games aren't just obstacle courses you complete once or twice, they're lively worlds. And that means a lot.
 

Neiteio

Member
What grinds me down with Marble Garden, Carnival Night and Sandopolis in S3&K is that in addition to their level design not doing much for me, the music for those zones doesn't click with me either. Even in Mania's weaker moments like Sonic's Mirage Saloon Act 1 and
Oil Ocean
I'm at least jamming out to the tunes. Easily my favorite classic Sonic soundtrack despite the use of remixes. Every track is good and fitting, working to elevate whatever zone it's in.
You say
Oil Ocean
is one of Mania's weaker moments, but I actually think it might be one of my favorite zones. Granted, I thought it was so-so at first, but I've replayed it a dozen times since the Act 2 boss kept killing me, and I've really come to appreciate its ebb and flow, not to mention its fantastic theming, color scheme, etc. And like you said, the music is great, but really, so is the entire soundtrack. :)
 
Playing Sonic Mania with all that content feeling completely new as opposed to just some of it...I almost envy such things.

But then I wouldn't have played Sonic 2 and 3 in advance so it balances out.
 

120v

Member
Sonic was a revelation to me in '91, then i replayed the genesis games on VC years later and, i dunno, i never felt like the formula quite held up like, say, mario, mega man, classic castlevania, ect. something that could just be done in several permutations and not really get "old". i know that's kind of blasphemy to some but it was my takeaway

haven't gotten around to sonic mania yet but i'll give it a fair shot. franchise has been so mishandled for decades its hard piecing back the broken prism of retrospect
 

Neiteio

Member
Playing Sonic Mania with all that content feeling completely new as opposed to just some of it...I almost envy such things.

But then I wouldn't have played Sonic 2 and 3 in advance so it balances out.
I suppose it's a credit to the fans who made this game that I, as someone with little knowledge of the series, couldn't tell which zones were new and which ones were remade (outside of Green Hill and Chemical Plant). Everything seems to fit perfectly. It's also neat to know that one of two acts in each zone is entirely new. Again, I wouldn't know the difference, because the quality is uniformly excellent throughout. The whole game, for a newcomer to me, just feels like a constant stream of inspired ideas.
 

Oresama

Member
I grew up as a Sonic kid in the early 90's and OP nailed it.

Sonic 2d done proper is an organic experience. It teases you often as you progress making multiple playthroughs truly enjoyable.

2d Mario in comparison has lost its charm imo from it's NES and SNES days. Newer 2d Mario games just never felt the same to me.
 

ckaneo

Member
I'm a huge Sonic fan, but can we stop with the utopia gifs.

That doesnt not look more fun to play than any 3d sonic game. Not even lost world
 

Blue-kun

Member
It needs some tweaking but it's the best transition from 2D to 3D for Sonic to date.
Feels so good to play

"Needs some tweaking", more like "needs to be proven these people can actually design a level rather than a huge sandbox where you go around in very ugly Green Hill Zone where everything feels off because the proportions are all messed up".

Mania's great, but the Utopia "omg this is what Sonic in 3D needs to be" posts are some of the most baffling stuff that Sonic fans can come up with these days. They're not even at the start line there to deserve this mantle of "what Sonic needs to be" that often gets attached to the game.
 

Caelus

Member
I'm a huge Sonic fan, but can we stop with the utopia gifs.

That doesnt not look more fun to play than any 3d sonic game. Not even lost world

Idk man, I downloaded the demo just now and had a (3D) blast.

The art style helps too, I'm a huge fan of pudgy cute classic Sonic, I'm so happy they used the Sonic 1/2 style sprites for Mania.
 
You say
Oil Ocean
is one of Mania's weaker moments, but I actually think it might be one of my favorite zones. Granted, I thought it was so-so at first, but I've replayed it a dozen times since the Act 2 boss kept killing me, and I've really come to appreciate its ebb and flow, not to mention its fantastic theming, color scheme, etc. And like you said, the music is great, but really, so is the entire soundtrack. :)

It's a good level, just not my favorite. Every level in Mania is enjoyable for me. Wish I could say that for S3&K.
 
I'm a huge Sonic fan, but can we stop with the utopia gifs.

That doesnt not look more fun to play than any 3d sonic game. Not even lost world

Its a nice concept but I cant see how that can be a complete game.

Great for OP. I spend my first playtrough exploring the levels and taking the things slow. Then, I really like lost myself at full speed in levels like Chemical Plant or Hidrocity. Such a relaxing experience.
 

Acerac

Banned
I feel the exact opposite - Mania confirmed what I always suspected: Sonic games just aren't very good.

As a kid I was more forgiving, but they just feel... off to play. Always have.

Playing the Rayman Legends demo or a Mario game really makes it glaring, too.

It's good to know that all the reviews are wrong. What other reviews are incorrect?

Alternatively, if you meant that you just dislike the games, why didn't you say that instead?
 

Zebei

Member
Let this thread's positivity cancel out that other thread please.


Happy to here you enhoyed it, but i generally like Neo's tgreads anyway. Just started to "get" sonic recently too after playing sonic in mobile, so happy to here other people are joining the series too.
 

Phediuk

Member
Yes, momentum and physics are the thing that set Sonic apart. This is a bit complex to relate in a 20-second commercial, so instead the marketing simplified that to "HE GOES REALLY FAST!!!"

Notice how later games actually did start to focus on speed for speed's sake, and how much worse they are than the earlier ones.
 
It's a good level, just not my favorite. Every level in Mania is enjoyable for me. Wish I could say that for S3&K.

I'm going to replay 3 soon to try and see if my current thought that y'all are sleeping on Marble Garden is correct or just me being a hipster.

...the spinning tops still suck though.
 
I'm going to replay 3 soon to try and see if my current thought that y'all are sleeping on Marble Garden is correct or just me being a hipster.

...the spinning tops still suck though.

Marble Garden's level design probably isn't as bad/bland as I remember (it's been a minute since I last played), but the music does absolutely nothing for me. Almost kills the zone outright imo. I have similar thoughts on Carnival Night, but again it's been a while.
 

Neiteio

Member
The only frustrating part about Sonic Mania is trying to rank the levels. Even figuring out my favorite zone is difficult, because I pretty much love them all.

I -think- Studiopolis is my favorite, but ask me again tomorrow and I might have a different answer!
 

Griss

Member
Loved all the genesis Sonics as a kid, and enjoyed the nostalgia trip that was Mania. But if anything it just confirmed to me that it's a weak core game design that doesn't deserve in the slightest to be named alongside the greats of the genre.

I feel the exact opposite - Mania confirmed what I always suspected: Sonic games just aren't very good.

As a kid I was more forgiving, but they just feel... off to play. Always have.

Playing the Rayman Legends demo or a Mario game really makes it glaring, too.

i mean sure, it's all subjective

but that recent thread shows a lot of people feel the game design is too at odds with itself, hurling you forward and then stopping you suddenly (and randomly). never feels good to explore, nor does it feel like Mario when you are quickly and carefully zipping through the level.

Pretty much exactly how I felt.
 
Top Bottom