How Sonic Mania Has Already Succeeded Where Sonic 4 Failed

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It’s no suprise that the Sonic franchise has had quite the buzz surronding it over the past several months – with a slew of reveals regarding Project 2017 from its’ story, official name (Sonic Forces), and gameplay mechanics, the second season of the Sonic Boom TV series (which interestingly enough I heard has improved in quality, though I still don’t really care about it enough to be bothered to watch it), and the topic of today’s article, the second major attempt at a game in the style of the original trilogy and CD, Sonic Mania.

With an all-new trailer for the latter being unveiled to the public as of late (which by the way is absolutely amazing and you guys should like, watch it immediately), a thought that has lingered in my head ever since Mania’s announcement resurfaced, and one that really makes me hope that it turns out to be a spectacular game in the long run. However, before we get into what that thought exactly is, I’d like to take the time to give you all a brief history lesson.

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As the franchise was slowly but surely beginning to show signs of moving past the times consisting of such masterpieces like Shadow the Hedgehog…

…the GBA port of Sonic 1…

…and of course, one of the crowning achievements of the franchise, Sonic 06…

…Sega made an announcement that they would be making a direct follow-up to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, in what they deemed a “critical first step” to repair the franchise’s tattered reputation. Initially under the codename Project Needlemouse, the game’s official title was revealed to be Sonic the Hedgehog 4, in addition to the reveal that the game was also to be episodic. While expectations, as stated earlier, were generally high (for the most part), they sadly more or less fell flat at the end, as both Episodes 1 and 2 received a generally lukewarm reception, which in turn led to a planned Episode 3 now sharing the same graveyard as X-treme. With all of that out of the way, it’s time we got into the true meat of this article, as well as the previously-mentioned thought in question: How exactly has Mania succeeded in its’ goals as a revitilization of the original games where 4 failed in that department? Well, it was a bit hard to pin down at first, but after a while, I realized just what it was…

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When you take a prolonged glance at either Episodes 1 or 2 of 4, you get the feeling that it’s all too familiar – and not even in the intended nostalgic way, for that matter. Even if there are some mechanics thrown in here and there to differnate itself from them, said mechanics cannot hide the fact that they’re more or less glorified rehashes of the first two games. Episode 1 in particular is absolutely ruthless with this to the point where it reaches full-on Memberberries territory; All four zones are blatant retreads of ones from past games, Splash Hill being a retread of Green Hill, Casino Street being a retread of Casino Night, Lost Labyrinth being a retread of Labyrinth Zone, and Mad Gear being a retread of Metropolis – hell, the bosses aren’t even safe from this! Episode 2 isn’t quite as bad with this, moreso to say less obvious, but my point still remains.

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Mania on the other hand, while indeed reusing levels from the original games and being a throwback to them, is rather more like Generations in the sense that they’re both “Best Of” compilations of the series’ most fondly remembered and iconic levels, though Mania revolves entirely around the original games in contrast to Generations revolving around the series’ recent entries. It also helps that there are also a helping dosage of new levels added in to spice things up, such as Mirage Saloon (pictured above) and of course, Studiopolis Zone.

When making a throwback-style game, the most important thing above all to do is know how to stay true to the past while at the same time not clinging too much to it. This is a tatic that Mania seems to be taking full of advantage of, a tatic which most throwback-style games could honestly really benefit from. And with that, it has already succeeded where 4 has failed.

BONUS QUESTION: What games are you hoping to see get announced at E3 this year?

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