Sonic the Hedgehog is one of SEGA’s most popular and longest-running franchises, though it’s a bit of an unusual series if you look at it as a whole. The series became an icon of the 90s with its ‘gotta go fast’ sidescrolling and platforming action that helped set it apart from other platformers of its time.
Since then, the series has gone through numerous evolutions, with mainline entries shifting up the Sonic formula massively. In fact, last year’s Sonic Frontiers may be the biggest departure yet as it featured open-world elements on top of a 3D action platforming base.
Now though, the Sonic Team released Sonic Superstars, a new mainline series entry that promises to bring back the 2.5D gameplay of the classic Mega Drive/Genesis era. Because of this, many long-time series fans’ interests were piqued.
This isn’t the first return to the classic 90s gameplay formula for the series though. After all, Sonic Mania was released in 2017 to critical and commercial success. But that game is considered by some to be more of a side release, so fans were still eagerly awaiting a proper main release with the classic formula.
Sonic Superstars promises just that as it promises to feature gameplay that’s an updated and enhanced version of the old-school Sonic games. All of this while introducing new features that promise to make the game feel fresh for long-time fans and accessible to newcomers.
But does it deliver? Find out here in our Sonic Superstars review!
Sonic Returns to the Genesis/Mega Drive Era
Yes, Sonic is finally back with sidescrolling platformer action. Will it satisfy long-time fans? If you ask us, yes it will as its gameplay is straight out of the Genesis/Mega Drive era in terms of how it feels. It retains that fast and fun Sonic gameplay that feels excellent when you hit that flow state that you may have been itching to feel again after Sonic Mania.
Long-time fans will feel right at home here, but what about newer players? Well, as with other classic Sonic games, there’s a bit of a learning curve here if you want to grab as many rings as you can in a level. Thankfully, even if you’re not experienced with the series, you’ll still have fun here as it’s more forgiving than the older games.
How is it forgiving? Well, the game doesn’t have any lives, meaning players won’t meet a game over screen. Instead, players will just lose their rings. This is reminiscent of New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS which had a similar mechanic that made it more forgiving. Some old-school players might balk at this change, but it shouldn’t be an issue for the most part.
Because of its forgiving nature, the game can be completed quite fast – just 5 hours in fact – even if you’re a total beginner. Veteran players who try to get lots of rings can also finish this at the same time or even faster. Thankfully, there’s a great reason to replay this, and that is its multiple playable characters.
Aside from Sonic, players can also play as Tails, Knuckles, and Amy. These aren’t just simple reskins though. Each playable character has unique abilities. For instance, Knuckles can glide and climb while Amy can double jump. Playing levels as different characters make them feel unique enough to be worth replaying. In fact, we even think that Sonic’s moveset is the plainest of them all.
With that said, playing as Sonic is far from boring, especially with the introduction of Emerald Powers. By collecting Chaos Emeralds, the player can get access to special powers. These powers run on a timer and can be used once at every checkpoint. As a bonus, collecting all Chaos Emeralds for a character will let them unlock a super form that grants invincibility and speed. Of course, the tradeoff is that this consumes rings.
These Emerald Powers are nifty for certain parts of the game, and while they’re not necessary to complete many levels, they do provide an extra wrinkle in gameplay.
Fun Levels, Meh Bosses
The gameplay and new features all add up to a fun experience, but that would fall apart if the levels weren’t great. Thankfully, the level design in this game is good and should satisfy long-time fans.
While the specific looks and twists of the levels could use a bit more variation, they still provide a nice playground for players to go fast and explore and find all the rings along with Chaos Emeralds.
It also helps that the game is fairly short. Given that you can finish the game fairly quickly, the levels don’t really get old. And as we mentioned, playing as another character gives levels an extra layer of replayability.
While the game’s flow and levels are great, the same can’t be said for bosses. In the game, there are bosses at the end of every act. Gameplay-wise, these bosses are more tedious than fun as a lot of the time fighting them is spent waiting for a boss to finish its attack so you can land your own hit. It would’ve been alright if the fights were short, but some of the bosses dragged on a bit too long.
Despite the boss issue, Sonic Superstars is overall great when it comes to gameplay, and that’s just based on the single player experience.
Multiplayer is Surprisingly Fun
Aside from having multiple playable characters, Sonic Superstars also features a co-op multiplayer mode that allows up to four players to play the game. Yes, the entire game can be played in co-op, plus it has a drop-in drop-out system so players can join and leave at any time.
Take note, this multiplayer mode isn’t split-screen. Instead, players all share one screen, with players who are lagging behind getting teleported to the leading players. This makes the other players feel more like supporters of the main player.
This might not be ideal for everyone, but we found it to be quite fun. Your mileage may vary, but the chaotic aspect of multiplayer added to the experience for us. So, if you approach it as more of a fun party game, you’ll have a good time here.
There’s also an online player-versus-player mode in Superstars. Here, competing players will face off in various mini-games. It’s a bit simple, but it can be a fun mode to try if you already finished the game’s story mode.
Sonic Superstars Final Verdict – 8/10
Sonic Superstars promises to deliver the classic Sonic experience of the classic Mega Drive/Genesis era, and for the most part, it succeeds in doing so. Thanks to its fun gameplay and good levels, long-time fans will have a lot to enjoy here.
This isn’t a perfect release though as the bosses are more tedious than fun. Plus, the player-versus-player component is a bit too simplistic.
But thanks to its cool features like Emerald Powers, multiple playable characters, and fun (if a bit chaotic) co-op multiplayer, Sonic Superstars is well worth picking up for long-time fans, or for those who are curious about getting into the old-school-style Sonic games.
This review was made via a game code provided by the publisher.