Once upon a time, back in the 90s, a much younger version of myself would spend hours upon hours playing retro Sonic games. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (& Knuckles) was my all-time favorite and I spent countless hours rolling around loop-de-loops at the speed of sound, collecting blue spheres, and destroying whatever stupid invention Robuttnik came up with. Little did I know that a dark era would soon befall the franchise and I would have to watch as SEGA drove my beloved hero into the ground. I became deeply ashamed of being a hardcore fan.
When Sonic Mania was announced at SDCC last year, I just so happened to be watching it live. I remember the initial burst of excitement I felt when I saw the announcement trailer, followed by the sobering reminder that no, I can’t allow myself to be excited about this. I wasn’t going to fall victim to the Sonic Cycle again.
Fast forward to PAX West 2016. When I’d heard that Sonic Mania was going to be there, it became my number one priority to try it. The SEGA booth only featured two demo stations for Sonic Mania but the line wasn’t too bad as far as PAX lines go. I was greeted by the game’s Producer, Lola Shiraishi, when it was my turn to play. She handed me a Genesis controller — an original Genesis controller — and it was like I was that little kid in the 90s again.
The demo featured my choice of one of two zones: slightly remixed Green Hill Zone or the new Studiopolis. It was tough to pick. With Green Hill Zone I’d definitely be able to tell if the game didn’t feel right because I’d spent so many countless hours playing it before whereas Studiopolis would let me test if the new stages captured the same spark as the originals. I decided to go with the latter and let me tell you, when I jumped with Sonic that first time… I knew. This was the exact Sonic from my childhood, right down to the physics. It was perfect. When I finished the demo, I turned to Lola and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was fighting back tears. It was so perfectly nostalgic and I could finally allow myself to be excited for it. It was the best feeling in the world.
That beautiful, shining gem of nostalgia will be on store shelves next week and I highly recommend that you give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.