October 17th, 2023
PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
I didn’t think that Sonic would be returning to the 2D formula this soon, especially not with the hit that Sonic Frontiers managed to land. However, it seems as if the Sonic Team wanted to try their hands at it once more as Sonic Superstars was announced with some fanfare, bringing back Classic Sonic to a new set of stages that would push 3D graphics.
The development team was the real highlight of the announcement. This time, the mind that created the original design of Sonic was going to return to develop this new entry in the series. This is surprising as you would think that the Sonic Mania team already did more than enough to prove themselves capable of handling the Classic Sonic formula.
Regardless of the accolades, I will offer a fair judgment of this game as it excited me with the new things it brought to the table. From the new way the graphics were presented to the new mechanics that would shake up the formula we’re already used to, this game certainly set itself up for a lot. So, did it succeed? Let’s find out.
The first thing players will notice when playing Sonic Superstars is the presentation. Gone is the sprite-based style in favor of a 3D look that still retains the 2D elements. While it doesn’t look as beautiful as the 3D graphics offered by a game like Sonic Generations, it at least looks like it does more than enough in terms of graphical presentation to appease some graphic junkies out there.
Sadly, I will have to say that the music is disappointing in Sonic Superstars compared to other 2D and 3D Sonic games. The music is passable enough, but it certainly doesn’t stand out. While there are a few favorites such as the final boss theme, this game once again has Jun Sunoue trying to imitate the Genesis music and Tee Lopes’ compositions certainly aren’t as memorable as the ones found in Sonic Mania.
Momentum purists can cheerfully celebrate as this game brings back momentum-based platforming that can be found in the first 3 entries in the Classic Sonic series. If you’re someone who believes that Sonic should be all about momentum and building up speed by going down slopes and rolling into a ball while trying to clear various obstacles, you’ll find yourself at home here. This return only adds to the already charming presentation that the game has.
Finally, Sonic Superstars also features four different playable characters as part of its roster. You can select between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy (with a 5th unlockable character as a post-game bonus) to course through various stages. Something that I loved about this game was that it allowed me to switch characters at any time. As such, I was able to experiment with each of the character’s kits.
Of course, that brings me to the characters themselves. Each of the four playable characters has a different skill that can differentiate their playstyle. Tails can use his tails to fly, Amy uses her hammer to rush forward while bashing stuff in front of her, and Knuckles can climb walls and break certain obstacles. Some stages are built around these characters, so it’s always worth coming back to them and finding new ways to course through them.
Gameplay-wise, Sonic Superstars offers quite a lot of options for players who enjoyed the 2D sidescrolling adventures of the iconic hedgehog. The game brings back its Act structure across several different areas. Some of them will bring special gimmicks with them, like how in the final area you run through the stage in reverse as part of its second act.
I was genuinely in love with some of the gimmicks brought by Sonic Superstars. It was a decent change of pace that didn’t mess with the speedy platforming formula that already worked. While you still have things such as the obvious casino level that rewards you with gold rings for clearing certain challenges, you will have some funny moments with some of the other gimmicks that bring memories of past games, like in Lagoon City.
Of course, we can’t talk about a game like Sonic Superstars without bringing the ever-elusive Chaos Emeralds. These gems have also been reworked to each provide a different power-up that adds an extra incentive to grab them as early as possible. While you still have access to a super form when you collect all 7, it’s also worth trying out each of the power-ups offered by the chaos emeralds as they can help traverse through stages or reveal alternate stage routes.
With this in mind, however, I will say that I really hate how the powerups you have access to are lost if you ever take a hit. While this may sound like a fair trade-off to prevent being reckless while using emerald powers, you will find yourself getting hit by some offscreen shenanigans that will prematurely put an end to your Emerald power trip. Since Emerald Powers need a long time to recharge, you will often find yourself out of luck when this happens.
To get the Chaos Emeralds, you will need to get them through Special Stages that involve tethering from one blue sphere to another as you gain altitude. This new spin on the Emerald Hunt stages beats the half-pipe that 2D Sonic fans have grown to get used to. I don’t think that this beats the Emerald Race from Sonic Mania by a long shot, but at least the hunt for the emeralds isn’t that painful, and it’s relatively easy to get the elusive gems.
Unfortunately, this is the section where I begin to talk about the things I didn’t like about Sonic Superstars, and there are quite a bit of them. I mentioned before that some of the zones have cool gimmicks attached to them, but others just feel like they are trying something “novel” that ends up being annoying when put into practice, like in the Factory levels.
The boss fights are definitely a big disappointment. These felt like a drag most of the time almost like in Sonic Rush, where you constantly just had to wait for an opening while the bosses get to do 2-3 attacks and pad the battle out for almost 20 seconds. The final boss is especially egregious in this regard as it can even take longer than the intended 10 minutes of a stage to complete!
I get that this is done because this game is supposed to be a multiplayer affair, but 2D Sonic bosses never took longer than 3 minutes to beat, even in the final zones of the games. The worst part is that while the boss fights are boring they can also catch you unaware on one or two occasions, and if you get hit (or, god forbid, die) while trying to kill the boss, it’s back to the beginning.
I also believe that while there is a lot of replay value, there isn’t much incentive to go for the collectibles that are scattered throughout the game. Since there are no lives in Sonic Superstars, you instead get medals which you can trade for parts that can be used to craft a robot and its cosmetics. You won’t be seeing this robot character unless you play in the Battle Mode, so if you’re a single player like me, these almost feel quite pointless.
As I mentioned before, Sonic Superstars is a game that’s meant to be played with more than one player. On PC in particular, it’s going to require you to log in to Epic Games to be able to play cross-platform with other players. Do keep this in mind if you’re going to pick up the PC version.
Sonic Superstars is a fun experiment that is at least serviceable enough with its variety of powerups and gimmicks. I don’t think that the game is inherently flawed, but it certainly isn’t going to break any new ground in terms of design or innovations for the platforming genre.
Still, the game is fun enough to play thanks to its variety of stages and gimmicks that are refreshing to play, especially as a fan of the 2D formula. However, they won’t do much to attract many new fans or bring in fans who prefer the 3D speedy platformer that involves boost-based gameplay that we saw in games like Sonic Frontiers.
The new character additions are certainly a highlight, though. Having the ability to play as Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and the 5th character is refreshing and gives a new spin to stages you already completed. As such, this game has a lot of replay value thanks to the variety of alternate routes, specialized stages, and a cute cast of characters that also have different endings based on which character finished the final mission.
I recommend this game to fans of platformers looking for another short thrill ride. Sonic Superstars is bound to give players who enjoy these kinds of games a good time overall.
Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher).
Products mentioned in this post
Sonic Superstars doesn’t do much to wow players when it comes to 2D stage design or mechanics. Still, the new gameplay features it brings to the table are fun enough for a decent experience for all kinds of players. While this game is quite safe in its approach, it still can be a decent time for everyone involved.
- Good use for the Chaos Emeralds by giving them unique abilities and new gameplay purposes
- Decent stage design ideas
- Great character variety
- Neat art style that combines 2D stage design with 3D visuals
- Middling music
- Boss fights drag on a lot
- Some Stage gimmicks just don’t work.
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