When I was a kid the Sega Genesis was my console of choice. While I did own a Super Nintendo, it was hard not to gravitate towards Sonic the Hedgehog as a mascot. With a kinetic style of gameplay, bright colors, and “blast processing” how could a kid not get a kick out of it? And for a time I was pretty much on all things Sonic and Sega, even right down to getting the Sega Dreamcast before Sega ended making consoles for good. From there, it’s been a pretty long rough patch as a Sonic fan. While I enjoyed the Sonic Adventure and Sonic Advance games, the series has been on a tailspin from reinvention to reinvention, and it seems that Sega has had little idea of what to do with it.
Recently though: Sega released Sonic Mania, a sequel to the 2-D Sonic Genesis games of yore (if you ignore Sonic the Hedgehog 4 anyway) developed by Christian Whitehead who handled the company’s Sonic CD remaster several years back. It has been nothing short of a joy to play. The game combines multiple eras of Sonic as well as adding new levels and ideas of its own, and the most important part being that it actually feels and plays like a Sonic game, something that seems to have been lost recently.
There’s nothing new with throwback gaming of course, but it’s pretty clear that at this point Sonic is a series that doesn’t work so well in the current direction that Sega has attempted to take it in for the last few decades, and even their own attempts at capturing the past with projects like Sonic Generations can’t help but feel off. It would be best at this point going forward with projects like Sonic Mania as the basis of new games in the series. It worked pretty well for the Mega Man series and quite frankly it’s best to play toward your strengths. Considering that Sonic Mania sold extremely well and with greater reception compared to Sega’s other recent Sonic anniversary offering: Sonic Forces, it’s a pretty safe bet which way the wind is blowing. When you keep tilting the same windmill for the better part of a decade, it’s okay to try something different.