Sonic Superstars Review: Gameplay and Vibrant Features

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Sonic Superstars sprints to stores next week, and while I’ve wrapped up the main adventure and partaken in the other activities, such as Battle Mode, one big highlight eludes my evaluation: co-op.

One of the standout features of Superstars is its ability to team up with up to three other players to defeat Eggman. Unfortunately, cooperative gameplay is limited to local play. This presents a challenge for those, like myself, who live alone and work remotely, as couch co-op isn’t easily accessible. My only option to test this out is to utilize the PS5’s Share Play feature with a fellow editor, but this won’t be possible until the game officially launches next Tuesday. Until I can experience what it’s like to combat badniks with another player, my initial impressions of Sonic Superstars are that if you’re seeking a nostalgic Genesis-era throwback, Sonic Team and Arzest have executed it remarkably well – with both its strengths and weaknesses.

Sonic Superstars Review

Mastering the controls of Sonic and his companions perfectly encapsulates the essence of his classic adventures. As someone who grew up with the Genesis and was once obsessed with Sonic, the platforming physics evoke a sense of nostalgia, allowing my childhood muscle memory to kick in seamlessly. Each character offers an enjoyable experience, and Amy stands out thanks to her double-jump ability and her hammer’s prowess in dispatching enemies.

If you had concerns about Superstars mirroring the issues of Sonic 4, you can put those worries to rest. However, this also means that age-old frustrations persist, such as the gradual regaining of running momentum and the challenge of coming to a sudden stop. In essence, any fondness or grievances you held regarding old-school Sonic platforming are fully revived in Superstars.

The presentation of Superstars is visually stunning, with the new zones showcasing vibrant colors and layers of intricate details. While the level design introduces some enjoyable new platforming elements, it also presents a plethora of well-placed, often seemingly malevolent hazards. These hazards, combined with the high-speed nature of 2D Sonic, can catch you off guard, making it difficult to anticipate or react in time.

It’s not uncommon to experience the exhilaration of racing through a rollercoaster-like sequence, only for it to abruptly end due to an unforeseen spike pit or an enemy that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. I found myself frequently muttering the phrase, “How was I supposed to know…?” even after resorting to traditional cautionary measures, such as spin-balling to clear potential threats. This trial-and-error design has always been a part of the series (though it’s worth noting you now have unlimited lives), but it’s more pronounced in Superstars, highlighting the contrast with modern gaming expectations.

Sonic Superstars Gameplay

The newly introduced Emerald Powers, abilities acquired by discovering Chaos Emeralds, have the potential to be quite useful. However, I found myself not utilizing them as frequently as I had initially anticipated. These abilities encompass features like Bullet, which propels characters in a selected direction, and Avatar, which inundates the screen with multiple duplicates of the player. Apart from instances where the game encourages the use of an Emerald Power in specific zones (such as when it provides notifications of concealed hidden rings or platforms that the Vision power can reveal), I often forgot about their existence.

This was primarily because the levels neither demanded their use nor posed sufficient challenges to necessitate them. I was content with overcoming obstacles through traditional means: well-timed jumps and spin-dashes. Additionally, some powers had limited applicability in certain levels, such as one that exclusively allowed you to ascend waterfalls. While the Emerald Powers aren’t detrimental to the overall experience, I wished they played a more integral role and felt less like an afterthought.

The soundtrack is perhaps my biggest bummer. Outside of a couple of tracks, the music is serviceable but surprisingly unremarkable. From Sonic 2 to Sonic Mania, the 2D entries have a legacy of providing toe-tapping earworms, but Superstars doesn’t stack up to the best the series has offered in the past.

Sonic Superstars

Beyond the main adventure, the Battle Mode, which involves multiple players competing in rounds of various mini-games, falls short and lacks enjoyment. After completing a few matches with a partner, I have no inclination to revisit it. Regrettably, a significant portion of the customization options is linked to this mode. As you control a customizable robot within Battle Mode, you expend special coins collected in both the campaign and Battle Mode to acquire new components for this mechanical character. This includes fresh limbs, heads, color schemes, and patterns. This aspect diminishes some of the excitement associated with the otherwise enjoyable Sonic 1-style special stages where you earn these rewards.

On the whole, Sonic Superstars offers an enjoyable experience and successfully blends nostalgia with a modern touch. Despite its occasional old-school frustrations, I had a good time navigating through it, and I’m eager to assess how the gameplay fares when joined by others. I’ll continue to explore it further until its release, so stay tuned for my comprehensive review when Sonic Superstars arrives on October 17.

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