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Is Sonic Mania the sequel we've waited decades for?

Digital Foundry writing about a Sonic game? That’s right – with the announcement of Sonic Mania this past weekend, we really wanted to take a look at it. On the surface, Sonic Mania looks like another attempt at bringing Sonic back to his 2D roots but this project has a secret weapon that stand to make a big difference. It’s one thing to adopt the same perspective of the Mega Drive classics, as we’ve seen in Sonic the Hedgehog 4, but it’s another thing entirely to capture the gameplay, style, and attitude of classic Sonic. That’s the key to a successful Sonic revival and all the signs suggest that this is what Sonic Mania is set to deliver.

The new title is a collaboration between Sega, Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, and PagodaWest games. If you aren’t familiar with these names, we wouldn’t blame you, but they tie back into the re-emergence of classic Sonic games on multiple platforms, including Sonic CD and the first two 16-bit adventures. It’s not the fact that these ports exist that makes them so important in this situation, rather, it’s the way in which they were achieved.

It all stems from Christian’s long history with the series that is rooted in an almost decade-old fan game he created known as Retro-Sonic. Often known by his handle The Taxman, Christian started off working in Multimedia Fusion before writing and re-writing new code designed to closely simulate Sonic the Hedgehog. This experience ultimately led to a proper, self-developed toolset which helped him study and recreate the original Sonic CD using a brand new custom designed engine dubbed the Retro Engine.

This port of Sonic CD has its differences but is ultimately very faithful to the original game. The momentum, friction, and acceleration of the title character all feel just right. While companies such as Dimps have produced plenty of side-scrolling Sonic games over the years, they never managed to capture the sense of control the original creations offered – something which Christian’s work absolutely does.