The 2020s have been an incredible decade for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise thus far.
With the huge success of 2022’s Sonic Frontiers and its multiple free updates, (you can read the review here!) the success of the Netflix series Sonic Prime, and even the free Steam game The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog which was highly adored by fans, the series is in a great space. Long-time fans like me have been feeling incredibly satisfied with the amount of content we have been given. So when Sonic Superstars was announced earlier this year, the hype train was once again boarding on to its October 17th destination.
Sonic Superstars is a modernized version of the traditional side-scrolling games from the Mega Drive/Genesis era of the series, presented in a 2.5D perspective. It features our four main heroes, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy as playable characters traversing through many zones in the style of, you guessed it, the Mega Drive/Genesis games. It’s very much a throwback feel kind of game yet also feeling fresh and not too leaning on being ‘nostalgic’ for the sake of nostalgia.
The story is simple. Sonic and friends are on the hunt to stop Dr. Eggman and his hired associate, Fang the Hunter (who makes a surprise yet welcome return in the modern era!) in stopping their plans to capture the large animals of the North Star Islands for their robots. Amongst these villains is a new character, Trip, who is helping assist Fang, once again marking another new mysterious introductory villain as did last year’s Sonic Frontiers with Sage.
One of the first things I wondered was how this game was going to feel control-wise. I’m happy to report that the game feels pretty smooth and almost feels like a replica of 2017’s Sonic Mania controls in terms of manoeuvring left and right. The game’s platforming was very reminiscent of the older games, once again drawing inspiration from the older days, where you aren’t just simply relying on speed and need to be more careful of pitfalls, traps, and enemies lurking around, which I appreciated.
One of the newest features not been done in any Sonic game before was now, Chaos Emerald power ups. In Superstars, gaining a Chaos Emerald after successfully completing a special stage now grants the player (regardless of the character you choose to play as) a unique power up for a brief period of time during gameplay. These range from swimming up water torrents, slowing down time or even using a fireball to shoot around places to gain newer heights and platforms.
I adore this new feature and actually can’t believe it has taken this long to implement such a cool idea like this into the series. It’s so neat and adds more of a twist to the platforming of the game. Although, not all power ups are super exciting or extremely useful. One particular power up, which is using a vine to grow and get around areas, doesn’t feel as satisfying to use and is more of an excuse just get to areas to collect coins hidden around zones.
But what are these coins you may ask? Sonic Superstars implements cosmetics to a customisable mech you can use in this game’s ’Battle Mode’, a multiplayer feature to go up against others online or co-op in challenges such as racing or collecting the most items within a time limit. The coins can be found by competing bonus stages, or can also be found in all zones during your play through. Collect these to update and change your mech fighter’s appearance for Battle Mode, and the more you collect, the more you unlock.
It’s a neat feature but as someone that doesn’t do much online functions or has many people to play co-op with (or at all) it’s a shame this is all the coins are used for. Maybe if our four main heroes could be customised in some way, it would be better. But sadly, these are only for Battle Mode as far as I can see.
From a visual standpoint, the game looks a treat, is very colourful and a delight to look at. The zones in this game manage to replicate that old-school Mega Drive/Genesis feel of colour and picture-perfect backgrounds, whether it be another Green Hill-esque zone or a carnival-themed zone.
However, the one thing I get most excited about whenever a new Sonic game is announced is the soundtrack. The Sonic the Hedgehog series has a reputation with providing insanely high-quality music, whether it be instrumentally or vocally. Sonic Superstars was no exception for me, and I was eagerly awaiting what kind of a soundtrack this game would give us. The end result was… interesting. Sonic Superstars’ soundtrack has a lot of contributions from multiple people, rather than one or a few. Long-time collaborator Jun Senoue was the leader amongst several others contributing to the soundtrack, with other notable names such as Tee Lopes and Rintaro Soma to mention.
Whilst I did enjoy the soundtrack overall after I finished the game, the end result is a mismatch of some tracks trying to replicate the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis sound font whilst others take a much more modern and fresh sound. It’s quite jarring and did cause me a little bit of whiplash going from one zone to the next with such a change in sound font with zero warning. It’s a little iffy but the overall soundtrack still sounds decent, it’s just not the best the series has had to offer in recent times.
Playing on the Nintendo Switch version, the game looked lovely at 60fps and had fairly decent loading times, which I loved. I did, however, encounter a very bizarre glitch that when exiting the customisable mech menu. The game took me to the FINAL ZONE before I had even reached this on the map. When I moved to my left to leave this section of the map, Sonic then proceeded to fall down into an endless black void, causing me to be stuck. This resulted in me needing to restart the game on so that I could get back to my proper and correct zone I was actually at prior.
It’s a very strange glitch that had me concerned of the state of this game. Luckily, this was my only issue of glitches during my playthrough, but I’m hoping this does not happen to anyone else on their Nintendo Switch version. A patch is definitely going to be needed for this game to sort this issue.
Sonic Superstars is a fine and fun game that long-time fans will find enjoyment out of. But it’s simply fine and nothing overly special. I had a great time and will do multiple playthroughs soon with the other characters. But it’s still just a fine game to kill the time until we get news of the next major title in the franchise.
Sonic Superstars is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows.
This game was played on Nintendo Switch and a press key was provided for the purpose of this review.