It's not hard to see that the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has had it's rough patches over the years - very rough patches. At times it can be funny to laugh and point at the often cringe-inducing blue speedster as he races his way through sub-par games and underdeveloped worlds but in all honesty I feel for the franchise, and particularly its fans that have stuck around with it for all these years. I've never been the biggest lover of Sonic the Hedgehog (more due to the fact that I've never really properly played any of the games, though I always knew what it was) but Reece is obsessed with Sonic and has been ever since he was a child (hell, it was his first word.) So when Sonic Mania came out in 2017 it felt like I was seeing that child properly for the first time.
Now Sonic Mania is an interesting case - if you didn't already know, over the years Sonic games have been passed from developer to developer, some making it big off the back of their titles and others disappearing into the ether for all eternity. It's always a worry as to whom would be making the next Sonic game as it could potentially make or break it. Sonic Mania is actually not made by a developer, but by a guy that was contracted to port Genesis games onto mobile, Christian Whitehead. This means that, for all intents and purposes, Sonic Mania is a fan game published by SEGA. It mimics the art style, gameplay and design as the original titles with, of course, updates to the visual quality. It's a mixture of classic and new levels, giving it a retro feel but making sure it feels as if you're playing a brand new game.
This iconic design made it feel like the Sonic I knew and that I had seen. I was excited to have a go - now I feel I'm at a point where I'm slightly better with platformers I told myself that I could just pick up this game, smash it out in a few hours and have a great time playing it. I'd seen Reece play it a million times and he made it look so easy so I thought 'hey, how hard could this be?'
I hate playing this game. I truly do.
Who knew how much I would SUCK at Sonic the Hedgehog games?!
'If at first you don't succeed, try and try again' I kept on telling myself as I was forced to start Green Hill Zone over and over. It was getting ridiculous now - it's a PLATFORMER! This should be one of the easiest game types to manage! Especially when it's Sonic the bloody Hedgehog! I tried every level, every character, co-op mode, everything and still no prevail. I gave up in the end, I honestly had to else the Switch controllers were going to end up out the window. It baffles me to this day how downright terrible I was at Sonic Mania. Just when I felt like I was getting good at games, it knocked me right back to square one.
But you know what? I also love this game.
It's incredible, a true love-letter to retro gaming and a breath of fresh air after the stank of dirt that the Sonic franchise has been dragged through.
And you know what makes me say that?
He doesn't much like me talking about him on here, but I feel like I'd be doing him a great dishonour if I were to talk about a Sonic game and not to mention him. Sonic Mania quickly became one of his go-to titles (as it's easy to throw on and play for a short while) so I got very used to him playing it around me. Watching him play Sonic games is truly something to revel in. Granted it's a bit of an unfair comparison between someone who's never really played a Sonic game and someone who's been playing them since they could first hold a controller, but I genuinely love watching him on this. It feels like the perfect chance to show off the game in all its glory.
Sonic Mania is a platformer, but it's a kinetic platformer, meaning that in order to fully experience the joy of running super-duper fast you've got to get yourself into a certain rhythm. Clearly I was unable to obtain that rhythm, but Reece has it so deeply ingrained in himself now that he knows the perfect times to run, jump and roll in order to achieve maximum flow. I love seeing the obvious enjoyment he gets from playing this game as well - like I said, it's like I'm looking back in time to that small child sat there playing on his Megadrive in his room and experiencing for the first time what would soon become one of his most favourite things. Without visual aids it's hard to describe exactly what it looks like when Reece plays; all I'd say is try to imagine a dancer hitting every beat perfectly (well, most of the time anyway.)
Sonic Mania has taught me that in order to enjoy a game you don't necessarily have to be the one playing it. Seems daft I know, but when the game can be better experienced in the hands of someone else, sometimes that can be just as fun.
I must say, I do often wonder about the fate of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, but with titles such as this I don't reckon that cringe-inducing blue speedster will be going away any time soon.