If you were to give someone who got into video games in the nineties three wishes, I’d bet one might be to get either Christian Whitehead to remaster both Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles. But high on that list too would be to just get a new, excellent release so we can proudly boast about the Blue Blur once more as we did back then.
The first thing to know about it is Sonic Team have only minimal involvement. To oversimplify the case, they have provided some assets and leased the House of Sonic out to Christian Whitehead and his team over at Head Cannon Studios. This was not a random pick at all, Whitehead and his team are responsible for the mobile ports of Sonic 1, 2 and Sonic CD. Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are embroiled in legal issues (apparently due to its soundtrack) which are each so good, they are arguably the definitive way to play or re - play these titles now. Literally the only way they can be improved is by releasing them on consoles.
Now he is back, not once but twice with Sonic Mania and its immediate successor, Sonic Mania Plus. The game firstly appeals to absolute completionist nerds like me by including the first appearances of characters such as Mighty the Armadillo in decades. Canonising these seemingly long discarded characters and bringing them into the limelight once again. The nerdgasm is very real.
The games are barely different. Well, there are differences. It is mostly cosmetic such as the extra characters from mostly forgotten games such as Knuckles Chaotix from the Sega Mega Drive 32X. There are no real fundamental changes to the gameplay across the games, however if given the choice, every time I would pick up the Sonic Mania Plus version. For relatively little extra outlay, you get the original version enhanced. Both are excellent in their own right, but you can just tell that Whitehead and Head Cannon are massive fans of Sonic’s 2D beginnings on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis for our American readers) and it shows in the small and somewhat innocuous details going from level to level.
Brand new, the asking price was usually under thirty GBP. Even with fluctuations in the buying power of Sterling in the years since, both versions are extremely affordable, and I can well believe that the price would now hover around the halfway mark.
Overall, a great piece of kit here and would quite frankly be a steal at twice the price. It’s just the attention to the details which made the originals so great. After the Sega Dreamcast’s Sonic Adventure duology, I would argue that these were largely absent, and this is a direct reason the more recent games were less classics and more akin to a fart that you really should not have trusted.
If anything, these two games prove that 2D Sonic the Hedgehog has an excellent future ahead of him. While there are flaws to this game, they are largely minor quibbles at most, and they don’t even approach game breaking. My only real question is that in the years since these games came out, there has never been a sequel. Not a clue why.
Sonic Mania and Sonic Mania Plus are available across a range of consoles, but for my money, its probably best to have it on the go on the Nintendo Switch. This excellent game just screams wanting to be played on the go.
Finally, thanks to the 2 character single player, you can play in a team of Knuckles and Knuckles. Second only to the Free Bird church scene in Kingsman, this might be the finest moment in human history.
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