Sonic is a series that is no stranger to 2D installments. Where it had a history of quality side scrollers since the SEGA Genesis all the way through the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. And with Sonic Superstars, it continues that legacy of solid and enjoyable Sonic platformers in the same vein despite minor issues holding it back from greatness.
A major positive for Superstars is that the title is wholly original and not recycling past zones from prior Sonic releases. This means that every zone you are speeding through feels fresh and original. Even if some of them have a familiar theming to them. One highlight is the Speed Jungle Zone. Which includes grinding on vines and using pulleys to launch yourself to higher routes in the act.
Two wrinkles that are thrown into the progression include original acts for specific characters and special one-act Zones. The former are acts built around specific character abilities. So one is more vertical based to play with Tails flying or Knuckles climbing for example. The later are longer acts that are more challenging and have more gimmick-like set pieces for your to experience.
The one Zone that really leans into this with success is Cyber Station Zone. Having Sonic and his friends turning into computerized forms of themselves and morphing into various objects and creatures to progress through the act. While it does interrupt the normal speed-based platforming, the new gimmicks are mostly enjoyable.
Level design for Superstars is an interesting beast, considering this is the direct follow up to 2017’s Sonic Mania, which had masterful level design melding the best elements from Sonic 2 and Sonic 3&K. What they do with Superstars, is lean closer to how Sonic CD did things while also having the high-speed routes that made Sonic 2 a huge hit. The end result is an overall mostly positive result.
Some Zones have wonderful level design that fits nicely with prior 2D Sonics. While others lean harder on their gimmick than most would like. One example is the late-game Press Factory Zone, where every five seconds the ground shakes and your character is forced to jump. It is a great idea, but the level design just doesn’t do enough with the concept.
Technical Aspects and Overall Thoughts on Sonic Superstars
Regarding Superstars presentation, it’s a mostly good result. The Classic art style is effortlessly adapted into 3D. As it looks beautiful on the Xbox Series X, Series S and PlayStation 5 with a crisp 4K output at a locked 60FPS. The lackluster element is the music however, with the soundtrack being a mixed bag. Most of the music is typical Sonic; full of energy and catchy melodies. But some of it channels Sonic 4 of all games, resulting in half-hearted SEGA Genesis sounding instrumentation for specific tracks.
Overall, Sonic Superstars is a very fun Sonic game. With an extra campaign to play through built around a new character introduced in the main game. But there is more to cover.
Author Credit: Robert Kellett