It's been a long time since a good new Sonic game was released. Fans of the series will have you believe that I'm lying, that Sonic Frontiers was good, but the game featured a copious amount of pop-in, some really glitchy gameplay mechanics, and a lot of the trappings that 3D Sonic has faced for years. 2D Sonic has only fared marginally better, with the last new 2D title being 2017's Sonic Mania, an absolutely incredible game that might be up there as one of the best platformers ever made, but it's been six years since that game was released. Six years since the last 2D Sonic game. Sonic Superstars, released this year, promises to be the return to 2D that the franchise has been waiting for for over half a decade, but is it good?
You Gotta Get Good, Quickly
Okay, firstly, let's get this out of the way. Inevitably you're going to see comparisons between Sonic Superstars and Sonic Mania. After all, they're two games in the same series, both of which are 2D and harken back to the classic roots of the series rather than really pushing the genre forward. Sonic Superstars ISN'T Sonic Mania. That's not to say it's not still good, but it's nowhere near as good as Mania was. Now that that's out of the way, let's get into Sonic Superstars.
Sonic Superstars presents an enticing prospect for Sonic fans. Instead of feeding into nostalgia surrounding older games like has been SEGA's MO for years now (just take a look at every non-sensical inclusion of Green Hill Zone where it really doesn't fit for evidence of that), it has eleven zones that all pull elements from various eras of the hedgehog rather than directly ripping them out of a particular game. Not all of these zones are great, but even with those that use mechanics that just aren't fun (looking directly at you, Press Factory Zone), it's still really nice to see lesser-used zones pulled into a new 2D title.
As we've mentioned a couple of times, this is the first return to 2D since Sonic Mania was released, if you ignore the ports. This means that there are a lot of challenges the game is facing since it HAS to at the very least be better than the much-maligned Sonic The Hedgehog 4. It is luckily better than that, with an actual level of speed assigned to the characters that just didn't exist in Sonic The Hedgehog 4, and you actually feel like you're, y'know, Sonic The Hedgehog. The other characters (Amy, Tails, Knuckles) also feel great, but none of them feel as good as Sonic himself, and none of their gimmicks are as cool as Sonic's simple gimmick of just running really really fast.
2 Fast, 2 Flawed
There are some massive flaws in the game, though, and they're not easily ignored. One of the main ones is that the bosses simply aren't fun, or difficult in the slightest. Any boss fight that offers even a little bit of challenge is easily defeated by the new moves that you get from collecting Chaos Emeralds, and there's no boss that can't be demolished by the very first power that you unlock.
Speaking of the Chaos Emeralds, the new special stages straight-up suck. They're awful, and in direct comparison to Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Sonic The Hedgehog 3, and Sonic Mania they're the worst of the bunch. While the fresh idea is appreciated, with Sonic grappling and swinging his way around the stage like he's literally Spider-Man (Sonic-Man?), they become samey so incredibly quickly that you'll find yourself actively avoiding them, which has an obvious downside in a Sonic game: you can't get the true ending if you don't get all of the Chaos Emeralds.
Sonic Superstars isn't going to set the world on fire. It's not going to be in the Game of the Year conversation at the end of the year (especially not after the year we've had). But what it is is a really fun 2D Sonic game that feels like both a return to a simpler time for the series and a way for the series to advance forward with new innovations.
A Review Copy Of Sonic Superstars Was Provided By SEGA