Sega has recently announced that they have big plans for Sonic’s 30th Birthday in 2021. While they haven’t announced what those plans are, they have assured us that the plans include games. And it only makes sense. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Sega has released nostalgia-filled celebrations for Sonic’s Birthday. When the Blue Blur turned twenty, we got Sonic Generation, and as part of the celebration when he turned twenty-five, we got Sonic Forces.
Of course, being one of The Game Crater’s designated retro-gaming grognards, one of the potential prospects that I am most excited for is a sequel to Sonic Mania. Developed by PagodaWest Games and released in 2017, Sonic Mania was a love letter to the Genesis games, made for fans and by fans. The game managed to be truer to the classic 2D gameplay than any of Sonic Team’s attempts in recent memory. The graphical style was a beautiful update to the classic Genesis graphics, with sprites that almost look as though they belong to some long-lost Sonic game for the Sega Saturn. Fans immediately started gushing about this game upon release, and I for one adore this game. But what specifically would I want in a follow-up?
MORE ORIGINAL STAGES
Being part of a birthday celebration, Sonic Mania featured a lot of reimagined versions of classic stages. Of the main twelve zones in the game, eight of them were originally featured in other games. Obviously, the game is a celebration of the series so it makes sense to draw on a bunch of iconic, fan-favorite zones from past games. The development team certainly did way more than just slap a new coat of paint on the classic zones. They incorporated elements from other stages that were not included, or their own unique gimmicks, to help keep the experience fresh. And it is a joy to play.
All that being said, I am eager to see them expand beyond that. The original stages they built for Mania were all a lot of fun to play. While they likewise drew on enough classic gimmicks to be familiar, they were in locations and biomes that were new to the Classic Sonic style games. I would love to see what new stages the team comes up with, and how they get them to fit into the narrative of Sonic’s World. I just know these guys can come up with amazing levels that will become fan-favorites for years to come.
EXPAND THE SCOPE OF THE NOSTALGIA
When Sonic Generations came out, it canonized Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic as two different designs. Sonic Forces further confirmed these are two entirely different hedgehogs, from alternate universes. Sonic has one of the most contentious fandoms in video games. People fight over just about anything in the franchise, including which games are good and which ones are not. By dividing Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic into their own little things, Sega can attempt to appease both groups.
That being said, I feel like focusing too much on Genesis-Sonic nostalgia could hamstring the series a bit. One of the recurring jokes in the fandom is that everyone is sick of playing Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone. But there’s a grain of truth to that. Generation, Forces, and Mania all feature those two zones prominently. As good and as memorable as they are, it is time we moved past them to other things. I personally am imagining what this team could do by reimagining some of the stages from some of the Modern Sonic games, like Colors, or Sonic Adventure, or even something like Sonic Advance or Sonic Rush in the Classic Sonic Style. I’m just itching to see how certain gimmicks and hazards can be translated.
If they want to keep Modern Sonic out of any Mania style title, there is definitely more than just the Genesis games they can draw on. Sonic had several releases for the Game Gear. While they aren’t as well known or popular as the Genesis games, they had elements that I’d love to see come back. One of the things that got me the most excited while I was playing Sonic Mania was seeing Nack the Weasel (or Fang the Sniper, depending on your location and how old you happen to be) showing up for a boss fight. Drawing more on the Game Gear stages and gimmicks, along with things like Sonic Spinball, Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and other oddities would help expand their bag of tricks. And a bigger toybox is always welcome.
MORE PLAYABLE CHARACTERS
One of the big things about Sonic Mania is that it is the first time in years that members of Sonic’s cast other than Sonic are playable. After the debacle that was Sonic 06, and after mixed feelings about certain aspects of the Dreamcast era games, Sega has been understandably leery about having a large playable cast in their Sonic games.
The Sonic Mania team, having originally been big names in Sonic fangame circles, had no such compunctions. When Sonic Mania was first released, fans were thrilled to be able to play as the classic Sonic 3 trio of Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails. I know it was a definite comfort to me while playing, as Sonic 3 is one of my favorite video games of all time. And I figured, those three were good enough.
Then Sonic Mania Plus was released, and we got the relatively obscure Might the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel added to the mix. Fans went bonkers, myself included. Might has long been one of my favorite Sonic characters, and Ray quickly joined him on the favorite’s list too.
All of these playable characters are great. But Sonic’s got an even bigger cast, and everyone has their favorites. While I certainly wouldn’t say no to characters like the Chaotix or Blaze the Cat being added to the mix, I would be even more excited to see what the team does with characters with even more unique and distinctive powers. How would Silver the Hedgehog play in a Classic Sonic game? Or even better, add some of the new characters from the IDW Sonic Comics, like Tangle or Whisper. While it would be impractical to include every Sonic character ever, I know fans would be stoked to see even more of their favorites made playable.
BETTER CO-OP MULTIPLAYER
I remember back in 1992, being able to play as Miles “Tails” Prower while my neighbor simultaneously played as Sonic in Sonic 2 was mindblowing. The two of us, playing a platformer game at the same time? What sorcery is this!
However, a lot of time has passed since then. When my girlfriend and fellow columnist Heather Callanan and I LPed some of the Classic Sonic games, her biggest issue was that she didn’t feel terribly relevant as Tails, despite being invaluable on more than one occasion. Tails is definitely “little sibling mode”. I feel like we could do better with cooperative multiplayer. Kirby’s been pulling it off since the ’90s. Mario’s been doing it since the Wii days. It’s high time that Sonic stepped up its game and I think these guys are the ones to pull it off. With some refinement, tweaks and proper execution, this could be a great feature for Mania 2, allowing for a better multiplayer experience.
While we don’t know what Sonic’s 30th birthday will entail and whether we are in for another hit game, I do have high hopes for the guys who worked on Sonic Mania. While they may not include absolutely everything I could dream of in a follow up, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that whatever the come up with, the game is in good hands.
Of course, I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything amazing that could go into a sequel to Mania. What are some of your ideas? Do you think another Mania game would be needlessly pandering to the old farts of the Sonic fandom? Feel free to drop down in the comments and tell us what you think.