Sonic Mania Plus (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Flynnie 27.07.2018

Review for Sonic Mania Plus on Nintendo Switch

The wonderful universe of Sonic the Hedgehog brings a whole host of lore and history. Sonic has helped define the mascot platformer throughout the course of time and has often critically faltered when compared with arch nemesis-turned-bestie, Mario. SEGA has struggled to evolve the platformer into 3D and has rarely ever hit the highs of Sonic's original outings in the 1990s. Fast forward to 2017, 23 years from Sonic & Knuckles, and SEGA released Sonic Mania, a digital-only title created and fostered by a collection of crazed indie developers who turned their dreams into reality by releasing a fully-fledged homage to some of the greatest moments in the Sonic universe circa 1991-1995. Now, in 2018, SEGA has heard the outcries of the Sonic-fandom and have finally published an updated game with new characters and improvements, entitled Sonic Mania Plus, but what has changed since the original 2017 release? Read on to find out.

Sonic Mania Plus can be purchased as additional DLC (£3.99/$4.99) or a physical package. For those who are double-dipping from the original digital version and purchasing the game physically, then never fear, all save states are playable with the new physical copy. However, the cartridge is needed at all times to play with any of the additional DLC content. This review considers those who have not yet purchased the digital version and are looking at Sonic Mania with fresh eyes. Those looking for a review on the value as a standalone DLC package can check out Cubed3's review of the DLC alone, but for now, the focus is on the full shebang.

2017 was not the first time SEGA has tried to resurrect the blue blur's 2D adventures, in fact Sonic Advance 1-3, Sonic Rush and Sonic Generations did their best to appease those who demanded side-scrolling bliss. Instead, Sonic Mania Plus truly harkens back to the original Genesis / Mega Drive games spanning from the first Sonic, all the way to Sonic & Knuckles. Going into this experience, many would be forgiven for thinking that this is a run of the mill nostalgia trip for those trapped in time only remembering the 16-bit games that they were brought up playing. Those old enough to remember Sonic in his prime will be instantly thrown back a few decades, with audio and visual cues that transcend time.

Screenshot for Sonic Mania Plus on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 reviewed Sonic Mania in 2017 and praised it for its fresh ideas and inclusion of new elements. At first glance, Sonic Mania Plus is a sprite-based affair that looks like it would be at home sitting in a SEGA Genesis / Mega Drive. Characters are in 2D and move and explore in a world painted with scaled up 16-bit style textures, all of which ensures it has an old-school retro charm. The familiarity for retro gamers holding right and pressing 'A' is still there. The aim is to get to the end of the stage in a fast time, grabbing rings and bopping on enemies. With 12 zones, each divided up into two acts, this is a joy to play from start to end, but what puts the Plus in Sonic Mania Plus?

The biggest upgrade is the inclusion of two returning characters, Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo, who both first featured in a relatively unknown arcade game, SegaSonic the Hedgehog. The development team has done well to take some obscure cult-favourites and bring them to the forefront for another shot in the limelight. Like the original trio of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, Mighty and Ray also have unique abilities that can be utilised within gameplay. Mighty has a ground pound that can destroy enemies in a flash, destroy terrain, knock item boxes out of trees, and a hardened shell, which has added immunity against spikes and projectiles from enemies. Meanwhile, Ray has the ability to 'cape-glide' across the stage, which takes some getting used to and can be harder to execute in some of Sonic Mania's smaller levels. Both characters are a welcome addition to the current roster and add in a new variety of gameplay that encourages exploration and discoverability. Another large addition is 'Encore Mode,' which has subtly remixed the original stages from a shift in tones on the colour palette to some enemies, obstacles, and giant ring locations for Chaos Emeralds being re-located. Encore Mode plays differently from the original 'Mania Mode' as instead of a life system players now collect characters.

Screenshot for Sonic Mania Plus on Nintendo Switch

Two characters are now on-screen at all times and can be switched by pressing 'X' - similar to the mechanics in Knuckles Chaotix and Sonic Advance 3. If all five playable characters are collected, then hot swapping out for alternate characters can be done by finding selected item boxes. Being able to cycle through all five characters in one 'act' greatly helps the exploration that is needed to find the Giant Ring locations, which are fewer in number and generally harder to find. Chaos Emerald stages in Encore have ramped up the difficulty to 'highly challenging' and it will take a few attempts at each emerald before even seasoned gamers get them all. Ring post checkpoint bonus stages have also changed from Blue Sphere (Sonic Mania's bonus stages lifted and remixed from Sonic 3 & K) to a pinball mini-game where prizes can be won; these can vary from any of the shields that can be obtained and rings. All of which are helpful for those trying to retain rings or get a shield back. The new bonus stage can also be played in Mania Mode if all Blue Sphere stages have been completed.

New owners of Sonic Mania Plus should also explore the other modes; the aforementioned 'Mania Mode' can be played through with all five different characters individually in traditional style, and there are additional options to tweak Sonic's ability ranging from his super peel ability from CD, and the newly created drop dash for Mania or the insta shield from 3 & K. 'Time Attack' mode is available and there are online leader-boards that can be viewed. 'Competition' mode now features up to four players all competing for ring, item boxes, and the race to the finish. Also, competition mode allows those local multiplayer sessions from Sonic 2 to be relived in all of Mania's stages. For fans of Puyo Puyo (or Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine), the mini-game can be accessed in the Extra's menu once unlocked from the main game. This can be played against the computer or a human opponent, and can be a fun distraction from the main romp.

Screenshot for Sonic Mania Plus on Nintendo Switch

The release of Sonic Mania Plus has come with a free update (1.04) available for all owners, regardless of what version is owned. Some of these updates are more visible than others; for example, the user interface and menus have been refined, changed and animated; boss battles have been tweaked; plus newly added character animations and stage transitions from one act to the next have all been added for free. The Nintendo Switch version suffered from a strange 'Home button' delay press, Blue Sphere had minor frame-rate performance issues, and video capturing was unavailable. All of these aforementioned issues have now been fixed, rectified, and added, respectively.

Those opting for the physical package will have a reversible Mega Drive / Genesis-themed cover to choose from, as well as a 32-page art book detailing sketches and information from the developers. Couple the physical benefits with the additional characters, and these are all worthy additions to an already brilliant game.

Screenshot for Sonic Mania Plus on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

The fan outcry for a physical version of Sonic Mania was enormous, and while it did take a year for SEGA to act, it has ultimately delivered a package that is simply outstanding. After so many bad outings in the series, Sonic's legacy was beginning to turn to dust. Many mistakes have been made in trying to emulate, yet evolve the 2D adventures of yesteryear, with failed projects, such as Sonic 4. Sonic Mania Plus, however, restores the series back to the gold standard. It will be revered for decades with the community who will no doubt set this as the benchmark for any future sequel to the series.

Developer

Christian Whitehead

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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