Sonic the Hedgehog is a legend, an icon that has left an indelible mark on millions of people. Between movies, comics, games, and television, we’re in an exciting renaissance. The recent release of Sonic Superstars has taken Sonic’s classic formula and given it a thrilling twist. But is it a change for the better? I believe we’ve gotten an excellent follow-up to Sonic Mania, but is it the follow-up we need?
Most Sonic games are synonymous with speed. They’re all about racing through loops, zipping past enemies, and feeling the rush of adrenaline. Sonic Superstars, however, opts for a different approach. It introduces new abilities, more exploration, multiple mini-games, and slightly more challenging bosses. While these changes add depth to the gameplay, they come at the expense of the breakneck speed Sonic is known for.
The Need for Speed
Sonic Superstars offers three main game modes: a campaign with three interconnected stories, an eight-player battle mode, and a time attack mode. The drive takes you to 11 diverse Zones across the Northstar Islands, each with unique charm and inspiration from classic Sonic stages. The environments are stunning, capturing the series’ essence with a modern twist.
Sonic Superstars’ story is a straightforward one, with Dr. Eggman up to his old tricks on the Northstar Islands. What’s different this time is the introduction of the mercenary Fang and his enigmatic partner Trip. The story sticks close to 2D Sonic’s roots, playing similarly to classic Genesis titles. The stages are vast, encouraging exploration, but the lack of character switching on the fly can be frustrating when you spot secret areas with the wrong character.
Exploring Northstar Islands in Sonic Superstars
The platforming in Sonic Superstars maintains the nostalgic feel of the Genesis era. Each character brings unique abilities, offering a fresh take on familiar gameplay. The Zones are obstacle courses with enemies, death traps, and new traversal mechanics. Some of these, like the pixelated avatars in the cyberspace-inspired world, add a fun twist to the gameplay. However, not all challenges are equally enjoyable, as the pitch-black jungle stage highlights a mismatch with Sonic’s fast-paced style.
The levels in Sonic Superstars recapture the essence of Sonic’s thrill: dashing through elaborate obstacles at high speed while dodging last-second hazards. But this also means they inherit the classic trial-and-error design, which can sometimes lead to frustrating, even cheap, deaths. Fortunately, the finite lives system from the traditional games has been retired, sparing players from the fear of a game over screen.
The stages in Sonic Superstars come with a twist that’s both refreshing and intriguing. From giant snakes that give you a bounce to patches of thick fog that obscure your vision, there’s a creative flair that keeps you engaged. Take Golden Capital, for instance, which flips the stage, allowing you to swap between the foreground and background, showering you with rings as you go. By shaking up the established formula, Sonic feels fresh and exciting again.
While the stages are indisputably entertaining, they aren’t without issues that are there to deter your pacing. Sonic Superstars opts for platforming over speed, a choice that doesn’t sit well with me, given Sonic’s whole thing is gotta go fast. Multiple routes are available, with higher courses favouring speed and lower ones emphasizing platforming. At first, exploring these quieter routes with different characters and Chaos Emerald powers is fun. But the lacklustre rewards for this exploration, mostly more rings or cosmetics for multiplayer, dampen the enthusiasm. It leaves you wondering if the risk is worth the reward.
Collecting Chaos Emeralds in secret areas offers not just a story element but also new powers. These powers can change the way you approach combat and exploration. They add depth to the game, encouraging players to revisit previous stages to unlock their full potential.
Sonic Superstars allows you to bring up to three friends for a multiplayer experience. While the story mode can become chaotic with multiple players, the battle mode offers competitive fun for up to four players. Creating your robotic Sonic character and customizing it with earned currency adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the game.
One standout feature of Sonic Superstars is its creative boss encounters. While some may find them challenging, they are among the best in the Sonic series, bringing depth and excitement to the game.
The game’s visuals capture the classic Sonic look in a 3D representation, with moments that exude joy. However, some stages may appear bare and barren. The music is a mixed bag, with some tracks rivalling the series’ best and others falling flat.
Sonic Superstars gets the core platforming right, offering a nostalgic feel that resembles the Mega Drive games. While it may not be a perfect 1:1 recreation, the physics work well, and the level design rarely leads to frustration, a significant improvement over some previous Sonic titles.
Sonic Superstars may not be the Sonic game you remember, but it’s a fresh take on the franchise that brings new experiences and challenges. It beautifully marries nostalgia with modern gameplay elements, creating a unique adventure for Sonic fans. If you can forgive the occasional hiccups, you’ll find a game honouring its legacy while venturing into exciting new territory.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: Switch
Review: Sonic Superstars
Exciting and colourful levels paired with a sweet soundtrack