Also On: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, PC
Developer: Arzest/Sonic Team
It’s interesting to be writing a review for a franchise I’ve known my whole life and been a fan of, but not covered before. My history with Sonic the Hedgehog goes back to his literal launch on the Sega Genesis, where my late father was one of the first retailers to sell the console and game on day 1. Within the first five minutes, I was hooked. Who would’ve thought the blue blur would become an icon and be releasing a game 30-plus years later that truly brings the hedgehog back to his roots?
Playing a variety of Sonic games over the years can be a rollercoaster for a casual fan. I’m a bigger fan of the characters than most of the games. I know people will hate me for that, but I have nothing but love for Sonic and most of his friends. What makes Sonic Superstars special? That’s the million-dollar question. My answer may not be the same for others, but I will stand my ground.
I’m a sucker for nostalgia. Many of my readers know that so that can’t be the only reason, but it’s an important one. Right from the opening intro video, we are treated to an animated sequence very reminiscent of Sonic CD (chef’s kiss). We see the core characters in Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and Eggman (Dr. Robotnik sorry).
The biggest surprise for me was the revisiting of silent characters. While I don’t have an issue with modern Sonic and their voices, it’s a different version, and picking this up, I got exactly what I wanted. You get to see these characters as many of the fans my age remember them — such as Sonic with his quippy body language and Eggman’s silent laughter followed by sheer anger due to his predicable defeat.
There are three modes available in Sonic Superstars: Story Mode, Battle Mode, and Time Attack which can be played both single and multiplayer. The majority of my playtime was with the Story mode as my time with the Battle mode was limited to finding players pre-launch. The Story Mode offers drop-in, and drop-out co-op which is great for me since my son is an even bigger Sonic fan than me.
The game plays just like the original 2-D games and provides visual storytelling with Eggman hiring Fang to capture the animals of the NorthStar islands, but also brings a new character to the fold in Trip. She is a brand-new character designed by Sonic and Eggman creator Naoto Ohshima. Trip is a bit clumsy but get to see her more as you progress through the vast zones.
This is where the meat and potatoes of the Sonic experience shines — the new zones. Sonic Superstars features all new levels that feel fresh, vibrant, and more complex than I remember in the 2-D games. The levels offer 3-D environments where you can jump in and out through the levels, which feels silky smooth. And what would a Sonic zone be without high-speed loops, turns, and bumpers right? All are here and then some.
One of my favorite zones found in the old-school games was the casino-like levels with mechanics that were eventually used to create Sonic Spinball. This is very present in more than one zone in Superstars, and I loved every minute of them. On the other hand, something I dreaded in games like Sonic 2 were the pipes which would practically make the level feel like a maze which would potentially take twice as long to complete. It’s seen a lot here for better or worse.
The biggest stand-out portion of the game is the environmental variables that can affect how you play the levels. Some are element focused while some later on bring chaos in the form of Eggman hunting you down. It works well and keeps the gameplay fresh since there are a good number of zones, though some have only one level, most have 2.
In addition to this are some unique yet perfectly retro mechanics. Like in earlier games, when you have more than 50 rings and pass a checkpoint, you are given a ring portal to a bonus stage. There are a variety of options here, some are to collect medals which can be used to make custom robots for Battle mode, or to collect the Chaos Emeralds, and some portals are just short windows to collect more coins. The best part is the Medals area as it’s literally the original game bonus stages amped up which still work well, and just like before, can be extremely frustrating.
There are many hours of play in Sonic Superstars and whether you play mostly single-player like me, or co-op, there is fun for every Sonic fan and I feel the fans will be happy with this one. Even with Super Mario Bros. Wonder around the corner it’s going to be a great gaming holiday season for platformer fans. Sonic Superstars comes highly recommended.
Sega provided us with a Sonic Superstars PlayStation code for review purposes.