The last Sonic game I played was in the 1990s, when processing was a hit and the Genesis was the bad guy in the gaming industry. Now, with Sonic Superstars, I can relive those carefree days.
The Sonic franchise has certainly gone through some dark times in the past. However, even in those dark times, some of Sonic’s gems emerged, and Team Sonic always did a great job. Sonic Superstars October 2023 is definitely gearing up to be one of the Sonic diamonds in the rough.
Developed by Arzest and Team Sonic and published by Sega, Sonic Superstars is a return to form: 2D lightning-fast scrolling but with 3D elements. However, what sets this game apart from previous games (that I have played) is the use of foreground and background elements. Like in the first level, some loops will place the main character, Sonic, in the background plane or walls in the shape of a half-pipe. While this isn’t a new or novel concept—the last time I saw backward movement was in Virtual Boy Wario Land—it’s a nice gameplay element and adds another dimension to the series.
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What interests me most, however, are the new powers Sonic receives after obtaining one of the game’s secret Chaos Emeralds. In the past, Emeralds were often collected to obtain their super-powered Super Sonic form. However, Superstars changes this concept a bit by giving Sonic new abilities as he collects the Emeralds. While the demo was limited in the powers shown, the one I got gave Sonic a water form that allowed him to climb waterfalls.
Finding an Emerald is not that difficult as there are several large rings that players can touch and be teleported to a small level. While I can’t say that all the mini-levels were easy, I did play through a simple swing game. By timing their swings correctly, players will be propelled forward until they reach the Emerald or die and return to the main level. However, failing once isn’t that big of a deal because, again, there are a large number of rounds throughout a level.
Of course, an important element in a game like Superstars is control. It’s very tight with very little button input lag. However, a difficult obstacle to overcome is that it’s time for Sonic to reach his maximum speed. When he starts running it’s a bit slow, but after a while he’ll run fast. Thankfully, this can be mitigated by holding the button down and quickly pressing the X button (on the PlayStation controller) to spin or jump immediately after Sonic moves forward.
While Sonic is the main playable character, there is a small selection of other playable characters. They are Tails, Knuckles and Amy, all with 1990s designs. Although I didn’t get a chance to play as the other characters, everyone else at the Game Show did. From what I see, it seems like the characters all have similar abilities as they had in the past. Flight is for Tails, wall climbing is for Knuckles and Amy with her hammer. This is a fun throwback to older games in the series and something fans can look forward to.
Sonic Superstars delivers authentic and tested gameplay and design along with several new features for the Sonic series. It will also be interesting to see how players interact with those new features and find new gameplay strategies. While the Tokyo Game Show 2023 demo was for PlayStation, it will be available on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox. So new and old fans alike can play the game on their preferred platform.