Sonic Superstars | REVIEW | PS5
''CHILI DOG SUPERSTAR, THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE''
Developed: Arzest amd Sonic Team
Genre: 2D Side Scrolling Platformer
Release Date: Oct 17th, 2023
Platforms: PS5/PS4/XBOX FAMILY/PC/Switch
*Review copy provided to me by SEGA*
Sonic Superstars is a brand new 2.5D adventure for the Sonic franchise and its developed by Arzest and Sonic Team and is published by SEGA. With SEGA being on a total roll lately in relation to the Sonic Franchise with titles and entertainment such as Sonic Origins Plus, the successful Netflix series Sonic Prime, Two kick butt Hollywood movies and the successful 3D Sonic entry of Sonic Frontiers, SEGA now decides its time for another entry into the 2D library for this blue little guy in the form of Sonic Superstars. Does this game give us the same feeling of nostalgia that Sonic Mania did years ago? or is this another title to add to the ''at least you tried'' pile?. Only one way to find out, so lets do some zoomies!
Adventure through the mystical Northstar Islands in this all-new take on classic 2D Sonic high-speed action platforming. Play as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose and harness all-new Emerald powers to move and attack in dynamic new ways. Navigate gorgeous, never-before-seen environments solo or with up to 3 other players and stop Dr. Eggman, Fang, and a mysterious new adversary from converting the islands' giant animals into Badniks before it's too late.
''THIS MINE, NOT YOURS, MINE!''
Sonic Superstars marks a return to the 2D format for the blue blur, well.. if you don't count the compilation release of Sonic Origins and Sonic Origins Plus. Those games aside, this means that this is the first brand new 2D Sonic appearance since Sonic Mania in 2017. Oh yeah, it's been six years. Literally been waiting the same amount of time for Dragon Ball Super anime to return, which is annoying - stupid Yamcha, I bet its his fault. But angst against Dragon Ball aside, with Sonic Superstars, SEGA is trying to cash in on the resurgence of the brand by capitalizing on the current momentum and popularity the franchise is currently seeing for the first time since his glory days. The game sorta meets the mark for both nostalgic fans like myself and fans that have been more into the 3D outings - no, not you Sonic Forces, go away. Lavantula, sick em boy. The reason why I say ''sorta'' is because, like any game, you have flashes of greatness and other times, some very apparent flaws that get in the way, which I will of course explain in more detail as we go. Sonic Superstar's fiber of its very being is to try to accomplish one simple thing and that is keep the overall vibe and essence of what myself and many other long time fans love, the proper 2D feel to our side scrolling Sonic games, and Superstars actually does that in a very slick way by using momentum driven gameplay and super gluing it together alongside a vibrant and really gorgeous looking art style. It has everything going for it that you loved in the original Sonic trilogy or even in 2017's Sonic Mania, with all characters animations feeling overall fluid and well animated and framerate itself being relatively stable and smooth, at least on the PS5 version. It makes you as happy as Scatch from the Sonic cartoons and you just want to laugh and say EHH HEH UH HA, um, no no, its like UHH HUH HEH HAH - ehh, that's not quite right either. Anyways, we'll just let him do it while we move on with what we were talking about.
The storyline itself is your basic Sonic scenario with Robotnik being up to no good again, coming up with another evil scheme in relation to the Chaos Emeralds to take down Sonic and his friends, and this time enlisting the help of Fang The Hunter, a character a lot of people aren't very familiar with who was first introduced in Sonic Triple Trouble on GameGear and has since had many cameos in other games such as Sonic The Fighters, Sonic Jam and even more recent titles like Sonic Generations. Every time I see his weird little self I just hear Waynes World and ''FOXXY'' as he approaches. Your typical story aside, the feature that sets this title apart from others of a similar making is the accommodation of being able to find a group of friends and playing 4 players simultaneously. Thankfully the levels themselves, with each game zone bringing in new elements like Speed Jungle allowing you to grind on vine rails as you dodge enemies or make a get away from Fang in a chase scene or grab onto thorns and have them launch you to higher platforms, showing how fundamentally sound 3D capabilities are in zones like Bridge Island that features map curvatures and loop-de-loops that allow you to take multiple paths as you explore each map, etc. The levels feel bigger than i thought they would be, it felt at some point the more I would go up and move platforms, the more and more of the map I'd see and discover - like finding hidden rings to unlock mini games that help you collect Chaos Emeralds and Medals. It can seem like a maze at times, should you get too involved in exploring, but don't worry, its not like Sonic CD's level of maze structures or like The Shining. You aren't going to be slithering around in the cold dragging one foot and chasing a kid with an axe screaming ''DANNY!!''. Well, I mean you can still do that of course, but then I'd have to report you to the fuzz and not invite you to the chili dog picnic, so that's a double loss.
''YOU CAN TUNE A PIANO, BUT YOU CANNOT TUNA-FISH. HAHAHA''
While Superstars does give off a feeling of ''well this seems familiar'' by having levels that give you deja vu like ''Press Factory'' and ''Pinball Carnival''... oh no, I'm hearing that damn ear grating music again, Sonic Spinball, why won't you ever just leave me alone. Maybe I can go to a universe with an infinite amount of me like Rick in Rick and Morty and find one of them that don't have Sonic Spinball in that universe, heck I'd even take a giant mutated blob creatures of myself as a world if it achieved that. But again, were way off topic, which I seem to be in the habit of, my bad guys. Even though Sonic Superstars has many things that seem like you've seen it before or feel you've remembered it like its the Bearenstein or Bearenstine pronunciation from the Mandella effect, this title does offer several new experiences too, such as interlacing past and fresh ideas and elements that take levels like Lagoon City and exemplifies the balance between new and old by combining what works and what didn't work in classic titles with levels like Hydro City from Sonic 3, which here in Lagoon City, offers you new types of water jets and even fountains to enjoy that feel distinctively new and sets it apart from the nostalgia grab other levels maybe partake in. So I mentioned Zones, yes, those silly zones make their return again, but this time instead of having the first few acts of a zone as your regular levels with a boss fight in the 3rd act, instead here, each Zone comprises of 2 normal acts, each taking anywhere from to 3 to 5 minutes to complete, which is due to their sizes being bigger than normal acts, with boss fights now taking place on the second act, which then proceeds to unlock a third optional act that you can partake in, which can include stuff like optional boss fights or chase scenes from Fang. I think the only zone though that has just one act overall is the Sky Temple, mostly because its more extensive and overall has more going on with it than a typical zone, and because of this, the level can take you up to 10 min or so to complete, if you're terrible like me. But oh well, guess I'll just have to LIVE AND LEARNNNNNN. No? ok then, I'll make you guys laugh someday with my bad jokes, I wont give up the fight. That's right, IT DOESNT MATTER NOW WHAT HAPPENS I WILL, NEVER GIVE UP THE FIIIIGHT. Ok.. moving on.
As stated previously, Superstars lends itself to bigger zones and the zones feel more expansive than we've been used to in a very long time. This specific enhancement I feel was done with the co-op mode in mind, rather than single player. Sure the bigger zones work great in single player by itself, no problem at all, but using multiple characters in co-op mode just opens up the possibilities of each map and gives you an idea of what the devs were truly going for with it. Having abilities at your disposal to use such as Sonic and his drop dash, Tails with his hovering flying ability using his tails as a helicopter, Knuckles being able to soar and glide with fluidity just as you remembered him doing in Sonic 3 or recent games like Sonic Origins, Amy getting a double jump ability alongside her hammer - all their abilities combined allows each level to contain multiple routes to take to find hidden items that you may not have discovered or known about unless you play as these specific characters, and that makes me say AWW YEAH, this is happenin - nope, no no, not doing it, I've literally made that joke every Sonic review so far, were not doing again. For me I feel though, even with character traits, I feel the biggest addition to the game mechanics is the further expanded role of what we know of Chaos Emeralds and what role they play. Here in Superstars when obtaining one, you will get a special ability that you can activate via your bumper wheel and do attacks such as a fireball that allows you to bust through barriers as fire. It sorta reminds me of the power ups you got in games using the wisps in Sonic Colors, only this time instead of Wisps, its just Chaos Emeralds. Obtaining Chaos Emeralds to me is actually the easiest that its ever been in series history in my opinion, with you being able to find giant rings located in each zone, jumping into them and being thrown into a 3D space like vortex area that has you swinging from space dot to space dot to chase a Chaos Emerald as it moves away from you. You have less than a minute to do so, but once you get the hang of it, it will literally only take you 20 seconds for each one. Its not hard at all, not even a challenge. But it is pretty fun. Sadly though, while with the abilities themselves you unlock via the Chaos Emeralds look flashy, especially during levels themselves for walls or higher to reach places and even helping to make a boss fight easier, overall they feel rather redundant and gratuitous as a whole for many levels. Which is a shame to me.
So you have great gameplay that expands on the old and makes zones and gameplay feel fresh, gameplay that feels smooth for all playable characters, amazing and foot tapping music, gorgeous visuals, decent mini games to partake in for Chaos Emeralds and Medals to use in the in game shop, cute mini world map that is just like Sonic Generations map screen, fun character traits, etc. All great right? absolutely, however, now we have to get into the things that aren't so great and make even me as a die hard Sonic say, THATS NO GOOD. Usually you'd hear me go on about boss battles and gush about them, right? well ya usually. However this time, no, i dont think I will. I'm not saying they're bad, quite the opposite, each one feels uniquely different and makes you use their own attacks and mechanics against them to hit them, such as letting them throw their drill hand at you, dodging and making them lock onto themselves and injuring themselves, that's super fun. However, where they lose me in this endeavor, again, even though they offer distinctive challenges, such as giant mosquitos and clowns of Pinball Carnival, the boss fights are just... way too damn easy. Sure there are some spikes here and there with later level bosses and even the final boss of the game, and even though they're relatively balanced for the average player who may not have played a Sonic title before, if you HAVE played them for awhile, you're going to say quite a few times, ''what? that's all?'' because you can beat enemies in less than 6 hits. Yes, and top of this, you cant full on die in this game, that's right, no game overs, just start back at nearest checkpoint and continue. While overall Its not one of my bigger gripes, I do feel in a way it can hurt the games challenge at the end of the day. But then again i felt the same way about Super Mario Odyssey and that worked out well, so maybe people will disagree with me on this one. Last small gripe I had was the co-op mode... while all abilities and playing with friends is a good time and can be, it tends to try to sneak into the NEW Super Mario Bros category of chaotic. Well not quite that bad, but its easy to displace your character on screen, leading to death and many respawns. Think of games like Contra with you leaving your buddy behind because you made the screen move too fast, and you get the idea. Same concept, but not as rage inducing.
''TEENAGERS WITH ATTITUDE''
At the end of the day, Sonic Superstars ends up being an enjoyable experience that has flares of greatness, with some sprinkles here and there of stuff that could've been done better. While yes stuff like a little too easy of boss fights sometimes, a few powers feeling superfluous with only being used in small instances, no ability to get game overs can all feel like slight drags, I however feel with its well balanced gameplay of speed and platforming, great level design and structure, fantastic music, fun characters to play as alongside their individual traits, inventive boss fights that, yes again, are way too easy but are designed creatively really well, mini games that feel different than the normal run of the mill mini games from previous 2D Sonic games, and a Battle Mode that lets players using their customizable robots and engage in various mini games that involved racing and survival challenges - with all that, I feel it trumps the minor negatives the game has going for it. Is it as good as Sonic Mania? to be perfectly honest, I don't feel it is. Is that a bad thing? absolutely not. For what Sonic Superstars is, it offers you an extremely fun time that Id recommend to any Sonic fan. But non Sonic fans, it might take a tad bit more encouragement to get them to jump on board. So I'll leave my verdict as if you've already played and enjoyed previous Sonic titles and say, with all that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW