Sonic the Hedgehog first spin-dashed his way into our hearts in June of 1991. Since then, there have been dozens of games that have spanned both years and various multi-company consoles to make sure Sonic became and remained a prominent video game icon. His legacy of games continues with Sonic Mania, and on Friday, Sega released a video on their social media showcasing a gameplay preview of one of Sonic’s most iconic levels – Green Hill Zone. Needless to say, fans fell in love all over again.
Sonic Mania is set to be released some time this year and its biggest selling point is that it’s a 2D side-scroller as were the original Sonic the Hedgehog games. It is being created by indie developers in partnership with Sega, which…is insane. A major company trusting indie developers to work on a major franchise such as Sonic? Nice.
Let’s take a peek at what new things we learned and can get excited about from Sega’s new gameplay video!
One quick point – when I refer to Sonic 3, I mean the full Sonic 3 which would be Sonic 3 & Knuckles since the game had to be split into two due to the size limits of the Genesis cartridges back in the day.
Sonic Mania brings us new levels, but also updated changes to classic levels. Those updated changes were a major selling point in the gameplay video for Green Hill Zone. Aspects of Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 (& Knuckles), and Sonic CD were all featured in the snippet that was demonstrated. This is leaving fans with a good taste in their mouths for what’s to come.
One of the most easy to spot updates for Green Hill Zone is Tails. Tails wasn’t around for Sonic 1, so to see the small fox run around the familiar green fields is pretty cool. Tails’ spite looks identical to that of Sonic 2, while Sonic’s is a mix of Sonic 1, Sonic 2, and Sonic CD. While on the topic of Tails, there were parts of the gameplay with commentary video released that showcased Tails carrying Sonic just like in Sonic 3. And, just like in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, Tails can be played by a second player using controller two in what is referred to as 1.5 player mode. So it looks like Sega jumped onto the clear love fans portray for the classic games.
Item Box Shields
Both Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 had the same standard video monitors, (item boxes) – invincibility, 1-Up, shield, rings, speed sneakers. In Sonic 3, the normal blue shield was replaced by three new ones – water, lightning, and fire. These three shields have returned in Sonic Mania and add extra help in breaking through walls, surviving in new water areas, and collecting more rings.
The fire shield can actually burn through spiked wooden bridges that have returned from Sonic 1. Doing this burns the bridge away and opens up other parts of the zone for you to explore. Some of these even have extra surprise treats – the gameplay shows us a secret area revealed once a bridge burning away to have multiple item boxes containing rings and a 1-Up.
Act Transitions & Ziplines
They weren’t used very often, but ziplines occurred a few times in Sonic 3, usually in the case of vines in Angel Island Zone. Ziplines have made a big return in Sonic Mania, assisting in moving Sonic around the zone in various new ways. Gotta go fast. They usually assist with moving Sonic over baddies and spikes as well as getting him to other parts of the zone much faster.
Another interesting takeaway from Sonic 3 – transitioning between acts. In Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, when you switched between act 1 and act 2 of a zone, you’d get your scores, your high score would be adjusted, and the screen would briefly fade to black before fading back in to begin act 2. You wouldn’t pick up where you left off, you started at a totally new spot in the beginning of the side scrolling zone. Sonic 3 changed this, where act 2 would pick up exactly where act 1 left off. There was no fading in or out of the screen; the next part started immediately.
Sonic Mania features this in order to keep the action going. You’ll also notice that the background scenery changes as you advance along the zone so that when you finish an act, you’re in a totally new part of the zone with a different background. This also came about from Sonic 3, demonstrating how big and vast a zone could be and how far you could explore and travel. And that brings us to…
Green Hill Exploration
As you go through Green Hill Zone, all of the beautiful background scenery that was always so distant actually gets closer to indicate movement throughout the zone. You’re moving further inside the area and get to see details that you never did in Sonic 1. Once act 2 starts, you’re actually inside the mountains that make up the majority of the background of the zone.
There are new upper and lower regions of each zone to give you a new spin and new take on a classic favorite. You’re already familiar with where you are, but you get to explore it in new ways and it breathes new life into an iconic world so recognizable by many.
Sega revealed in their Sonic Mania commentary video as well as in the comments on their Facebook page that all of this new scenery, especially the mountainous areas, are based off of an early prototype of Green Hill Zone that was around before Sonic 1 was finished with development.
Sonic Mania Extras
The frame rate in Sonic Mania has jumped from 30 frames per second to 60 frames per second. This brings us cleaner and much smoother movement and flow throughout gameplay. It also adds additional features to make the experience even newer and more fresh to even the oldest of fans – such as the rings flying at the player when Sonic hits a baddie or spike.
If you look closely at the lamp posts for checkpoints or special stages in prior Sonic games, you’ll see that Sonic Mania has incorporated both the Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 lamp post into one. The lamp post itself is the standard Sonic 1 checkpoint, but if you look at the base of the lamp post, it has the signature red, blue, and white circle with a star that was the designated lamp post of Sonic 2.
Sprites from Sonic CD are available and can be seen easily seen when Sonic has his speed sneakers or runs faster, or when he jumps on a spring. The sign with Sonic’s face to indicate the end of a zone is a big throwback to Sonic CD as well, as are the changes to the music when Sonic hits the invincibility item box, for example.
Knuckles is a playable character in Sonic Mania as well, but he is not shown in the gameplay video. He can use his climbing and gliding features to glide or break through walls to get to new areas of the different zones.
Another feature which was discussed in the original trailer of Sonic Mania but wasn’t displayed in the video: Sonic’s new move, the drop dash, where he can jump down and do a spin dash onto ground that can break, or item boxes if you feel so inclined.
…another little thing that caught my eye in the commentary video – to the right of Sonic, that little silver thing spinning around… is that a special stage ring a la Sonic 3? It looks like a metal ring that springs in an opening within the walls of Green Hill Zone just like the special stage golden rings of Sonic 3 did. So maybe the lamp posts are back to being simply check points (or maybe even bonus stages again?), and special stages are back to being hidden within the zones? Cool.
Sonic Mania: Thoughts?
I need this game like yesterday. It is an amazing throwback to what really started my love for Sonic. The scenery of Green Hill Zone is an impression made in so many gamers’ lives, and it’s so easily recognizable. To finally be able to jump into it deeper and fully explore that world even more so than usual…that is so cool. I love the little details they added throughout the zone. It’s hard believe that we’ve only seen little snippets of one zone – there’s still so much more game to explore!
I definitely consider myself a retro gamer with the classic Sonic games as some of my all time favorites. This is why Sonic Generations is one of my favorite next gen games. Sonic Mania looks like it’s going to speed dash its way right into my heart. I prefer the 2D side-scrolling world of Sonic because of the speed with fun graphics and catchy music. I love being able to explore and the simplicity of the nostalgic style. It’s very clear that Sega and the indie developers really put their hearts and souls into this, and absolutely had the humble beginnings of Sonic the Hedgehog in mind. And all I can say to that is — thank you.
This game looks like another classic, and I for one really cannot wait to have it in my hands. The original Sonic games bring me such happiness, such nostalgia, and such a good feeling when playing. I don’t have to think much – get rings, get chaos emeralds, don’t die, and…gotta go faster, faster, faster. Sometimes simplicity is best, and I definitely feel that concept is lost in the power and possibility of today’s games with all of the new technology that exists, but I digress.
If you are a longtime fan of Sonic, a casual fan, or someone looking for something new and fun… look into picking up Sonic Mania when it finally releases sometime this year on the Playstation 4, XBox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
What are your thoughts? Be sure to check out the video and drop a comment below and let’s keep the hype rolling! Or…drop dashing?