San Diego Comic-Con isn’t just home to big movie and TV news this year, as Sega hosted a presentation last night celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Things have been pretty quiet for the series lately, with the handheld spinoff Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice being the only confirmed new entry for some time. As a result, many were expecting Sega to announce something noteworthy for the series that night, and that’s exactly what happened.
The first big announcement of the presentation was Sonic Mania, a new platforming entry that is being pitched as a throwback to the series’ sidescrolling roots on the Sega Genesis. While Sonic games have certainly not abandoned 2D games, with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and the Rush and Advance series, Mania looks to be the biggest throwback to date. In a move similar to Mega Man 9, the game will look and play almost identical to the classic 16-bit Genesis trilogy, complete with pixelated graphics and older character designs.
Fans can expect to play through re-imagined versions of classic levels from Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, along with several completely new areas. Tails and Knuckles will return as playable characters, and a new ability called the Drop Dash will allow Sonic to gain an instant boost of speed after landing from a jump.
Rather than being developed by series mainstays Sonic Team or Dimps, Mania will be a collaboration between Sega of America, PagodaWest Games, HeadCannon and Christian Whitehead, the man behind the well-received remaster of Sonic CD. While the game has been confirmed to be representative of the 25th anniversary this year, it won’t see release until Spring 2017, across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Given the series’ turbulent track record, how well Sonic Mania will fare in terms of actual gameplay remains to be seen, though injecting some fresh blood in terms of developers could certainly end up being beneficial. Many Sonic fans still cite the original games as series highlights to this day, so returning to their template seems like a promising idea. And maybe Sega can go back to using the game Dr. Robotnik just once for this game? It’s always sounded better than Eggman.