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Sonic Superstars review: A reinvention of classic Sonic that hits almost every mark

Sam Cawley

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Sonic Superstars review: A reinvention of classic Sonic that hits almost every mark

Featured Image Credit: Sega

I recently got the chance to play Sonic Superstars, the latest adventure of everyone’s favourite blue-blur, and the first 2D game since Sonic Mania.

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Now, I adored Sonic Mania, and I also adore the Sonic The Hedgehog series in general, so I went in with some pretty high expectations, and can happily say the game met and even exceeded them in many ways.

Check out Sonic Superstars below!

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The plot is simple and treads the same water most of the 2D Sonic titles do, Dr Robotnik/Dr Eggman is up to no good and has imprisoned more helpless animals inside robots and egg capsules.

The twist is this time he’s got some little helpers, Fang The Sniper, a kangaroo who popped up in a few of the old Sonic spin-off titles, most notably Sonic The Fighters, a Virtual-Fighter clone featuring Sonic and his friends/enemies.

Accompanying Fang is a new character, Trip, a lizard who’s not evil by any means but follows Fang around as one of his lackeys. While Robotnik is still the main villain, it was instantly refreshing to see some returning/new characters added to the mix for variety, and hope to see more in the future.

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Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega
Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega

Speaking of characters, there are four to choose from when you first start the game, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy. All four share some similar traits, like the spin-dash, but differ in terms of their abilities. Sonic has his drop-dash move, Tails can fly, Knuckles can glide/climb walls and Amy can double-jump and smack people with her hammer while she’s doing it.

I beat the main story a total of four times, using each character to do so, and there’s even a secret character which I won’t spoil. While the four heroes weren’t much different to their previous appearances in the games, with the exception of Amy who’s never been playable, I loved having the option, and it’s nice to be able to play as your favourite from the get-go. The game also supports up to four-player co-op, which sounds like a blast.

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Now, my favourite part of the game was the presentation. This is a seriously good-looking Sonic game. Sonic Mania went for an upgraded Sega Genesis/MegaDrive look, but Sonic Superstars boasts its own 2.5D art style. Boasting vibrant and colourful levels, gorgeous backdrops, and another bopping soundtrack, Sonic Superstars does a splendid job of making you want to see every square inch of a level, perfect for repeat playthroughs.

Levels were completely unique to each other and took Sonic and his friends to a wide variety of locations and biomes. This includes a jungle full of sprawling vines, a casino, and a golden temple filled with rings, amongst many more. I loved the variety and distinct themes and I was thoroughly surprised by some of the late-game levels, one of which paid homage to another classic Sega series, and another making the bold move of having you play a level backwards.

Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega
Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega
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Another part I loved about the levels is if you look closely, you can occasionally spot one of your friends in the background running through their own level, whether it be Knuckles gliding across a gap to another area, or Amy bashing robots with her hammer. It was a nice little touch and made the whole adventure feel a bit more connected.

The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who’s played a 2D Sonic game before, or anyone who’s played a 2D sidescroller for that matter. It’s as simple as getting from the left side of the stage to the right, with several paths you can take connected by springs, ramps, spirals, and more. Along the way you’ll occasionally encounter a portal that transports you to another part of the level, whether it be a little further towards the goal, or just onto a different path, and it was fun to decide whether I wanted to see where the portal would lead or continue down the road I was already on. Special stages are also back, accessible through giant golden rings hidden throughout each level, some of which contain more than one.

These special stages are fully 3D and see your character swinging from floating orbs with the objective of chasing down a moving chaos emerald before you run out of rings.Admittedly, I didn’t like the special stages, especially the later ones which ramped up the difficulty with hazards. It often felt like I wasn’t closing the gap between myself and the emerald no matter how hard I tried, and I didn’t get the feeling I was fully in control of where I was going. I did manage to get all seven emeralds at the start of my second playthrough, but it often felt like I’d won the stage from pure luck rather than my own skill.

Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega
Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega

It’s a shame because the emeralds put a whole new spin on the game’s levels and bosses. Each emerald you acquire gives Sonic and his friends a new ability, whether it be summoning an army of clones to attack whatever’s on screen, turning into water to swim around submerged levels with unlimited air, or slowing down time to reduce the speed of enemies/moving platforms.

Collect all seven and you unlock your character’s super form, which is basically Super Sonic, sparkles for Tails, Knuckles and Amy, and a unique form for the secret character. The super forms boost your speed and make you invincible, provided you’ve got enough rings to keep it going.

The abilities were quite fun to mess around with, so it’s well worth finding all the emeralds as soon as possible to get the full experience. I found them especially helpful during boss fights, as sometimes all I’d need to finish off Dr Robotnik’s latest murder machine was a horde of Amy clones charging him down for a free couple of hits.

Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega
Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega

You can tell the developers had a lot of fun experimenting with Sonic Superstars, thinking of new and creative ways to mix up the traditional 2D formula. However, while the game’s biggest strengths come from that experimentation, so do its biggest weaknesses.

In the last few stages, the difficulty spikes dramatically, and while it wasn’t a major challenge, thanks to there being unlimited lives and fairly forgiving checkpoints, it certainly led to some frustrating moments. This was especially true for some of the last few boss battles, one of which was a 10-minute, auto-scroll boss against Fang where you control the platform Sonic is riding rather than Sonic himself. While it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever played, it took a good few tries and having to endure the entire thing all over again wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

The same can be said for most of the final bosses, all of which feel like gauntlets with few rings and no checkpoints. It’s comparable to the original Sonic games on the old Sega consoles, and while I appreciated the challenge it did feel like too much at times.

It was the same story for a few of the levels too. A lot had great ideas, like the aforementioned level that plays in reverse, but suffered from the classic Sonic problem of not being able to see what’s ahead of you, or worse, seeing it and not having the inhuman reaction time to dodge or stop. This led to plenty of deaths from falling into pits, as well as a few due to some weird enemy hotboxes.

But just when I’d think to call it a day and try again tomorrow, I’d overcome the challenge and be greeted by another experiment done right, like Sonic and his friends being turned into pixelated squids swimming through cyberspace.

The last new feature I’ll touch on is the Battle Mode, where you get to build and customise your own robot and duke it out with other players in a variety of challenges. These include racing through a level, collecting the highest amount of rings, or blasting each other with electricity for points. I had some fun with this, but couldn’t see myself playing it frequently. Again, it was a great idea, but felt a bit out of place in a Sonic game.

Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega
Sonic Superstars- Credit: Sega

Overall that’s what Sonic Superstars truly is, a game that tries to reinvent the traditional 2D formula with a fresh coat of paint and some new ideas. For the most part, it does this exceptionally well, and I’d love to see some of these mechanics and features utilised in future games, especially the chaos emerald powers and more playable characters.

While its less well-executed ideas drag it down, it’s great to see Sega try to evolve the series past being a basic platformer, and while it’s no Sonic Mania, it’s a hell of a good Sonic game and one that’s absolutely worth trying if you’re new to the series or have been a lifelong fan.

Pros: Fresh and creative ideas, gorgeous visuals, another bopping soundtrack

Cons: Harsh difficulty spikes, some gameplay experiments don’t pay off, Battle Mode fails to impress

For fans of: Couch co-op games, Sonic The Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros.

9/10: Excellent

Sonic Superstars is out now for Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One PlayStation 4/5 and PC. Review code provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Topics: Sonic, Sega, Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, PC

Sam Cawley
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