Last year would be considered a highlight year for the gaming company SEGA. The company boasted 2 titles from the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise, a series plagued with games full of technical and fundamentally disappointing aspects offering inconsistent ideas on the future of the Blue Blur. One of the games release was met with mixed reviews while the other rekindled a flame once thought lost to the future of the beloved mascot. Sonic Mania was released last year and was met with immediate praise, noting that the work of SEGA, Christian Whitehead, Headcannon and others have brought back a mascot seemingly on its last leg.
Now you may be wondering “why are you reviewing it again?” that’s because SEGA has released the definitive version as well as several new modes to the game labeling the title now as Sonic Mania Plus. Sonic Mania Plus is available as an entire package digitally, physically, or as a dlc add on for 5 dollars to those who have already purchased the base game. For previous owners, the dlc add on is a no-brainer purchase, it is definitely a must have. The physical version of the game is also a knock out and a victory for fans of the series, with the game coming with a reversable SEGA Mega Drive styled cover and an art book. For 30 dollars this is also the most generously low priced game that offers more than double the value.
The game itself boasts new features in which this review will be reflecting on. For starters, Sonic Mania Plus includes the return of two fan favorite characters Ray The Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo. Mighty is invulnerable to spikes while Ray has a Super Mario World-esque glide. They both come in handy in some instances but I feel the hype around them itself is the fact that they are included in the game which makes me incredibly happy either way. The highlight of this dlc is the addition of a new mode called “Encore Mode” that acts as a new game plus of sorts giving players a new way to experience Sonic Mania. In Encore Mode you play a remixed version of Mania Mode but with a few minor tweaks and new canon, mainly that the game takes place immediately after the events of Sonic Forces.
The mode itself offers a new twist which is welcome but often comes off as unfairly challenging. There would be times where I feel one single enemies placement in the level ruins the flow of an entire segment such as edgeguarding or projectile placements. At times it actually feels like everything is against you which either makes you want to stop playing or soldier through hoping you can just blast through the level.
The story itself is average in Encore Mode with it being a bit underwhelming compared to the high bar that the original mode set. There are times where I was left in awe at some of the twists that were added in(minus the use of Angel Island in game) such as some new faces and some change ups to the bosses but the ending left a few things to be desired, and I know complaining about a 5 dollar dlc for not having the ending to end all endings is a bit unfair but when a game that raises the bar comes back for one more set, one should hope that the Encore is just as good as the original.
Now lets talk about the Special Stages and Pinball minigames. The special stages are the same UFO catcher styled minigames from the Mania Mode but even fewer in demand, as in I believe it to be near impossible to 100% Encore Mode on the first try. Special rings are spread out so sparsely that it would sometime take multiple stages until I see a single one. One thing I figured out was that after the first playthrough of Encore, you are able to go through all stages until you collect all emeralds in which I repeatedly went to Flying Battery Zone and farmed the same ring for around an hour. The special stages themselves are as challenging as ever offering more difficulty when trying to catch the elusive UFO.
That being said, the pinball minigame made me want to gauge my eyes out of frustration. The pinball minigame is included in Encore Mode as a way to get back lost characters who have died during the game and replace the orb minigame. In short, the minigame has no personality other than nastolgia. The pinball physics offer the charm of the Sega CD and Sega Saturn style that we all love but somehow takes the nostalgia of Sonic Spinball and goes backwards. The physics of the game are wonky to say the least and offer very little other than reclaiming your friends, if there was one thing I was hoping for with this minigame it would be more identity and rewards.
Now lets game back to the plus sides(see what I did there?). The soundtrack is yet again a knockout offering only a few new tracks but each of them offer a newer take on some catchy beats. The visuals for Encore mode also get a new splash of color with small variations of each level that offers a new way to experience the game. I personally love how something as simple as a contrast of background colors breathes new life into existing levels making them feel like actual locations rather than just more background art.
Sonic Mania Plus is the victory lap of games. When it first release in 2017 the game was awarded by nearly every publication(including our own) for being one of the best of the year, with Sonic Mania Plus, SEGA adds on even more content to a game with nothing else to prove. With the physical edition, new content, and the minuscule price tag one has to hope that we would see another game like this in the future.