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Sonic Superstars

Impressions: Sonic Superstars looks and feels like the classic we know and love

We've played the nostalgic return of SEGA's mascot and friends, rushing through a couple of zones with the hedgehog, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy.

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Sonic Superstars was surprisingly kept as a secret until the Summer Game Fest Live show and, as Sonic Frontiers (which means the "3D evolution of the series") is still recent and will get some additional content, it was both natural and exciting to see that the new game is a return to the series' side-scrolling origins, one that fans were clearly craving for after Sonic Mania.

I played about half an hour of the game on a PS5, and even if the explosion of saturated colours and sounds that you saw on the trailer was of course the first obvious thing that was catching everyone's attention at the SEGA booth at SGF Play Days, to me it was immediately afterwards the return of the designs by creator Naoto Ōshima what really made this work as a classic Sonic experience from the get-go.

The four main characters (I expect more to be unlocked, both playable and villains, even that Fang bad guy who I honestly didn't remember from the Game Gear times) just have the right proportions, expressions, and animations. You want to hug rounded Sonic, Tails is so adorable that the modern fur effect doesn't look any bad on him, Knuckles is as cocky but likeable as ever, and classic Amy Rose in her green dress and organge skirt might just become my favourite Sonic character ever. They, of course, have some unique abilities as slight differences to their gameplay, with Tails being able to chopper around, Knuckles to soar Superman-style, and Amy to double jump while shielded.

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In a soon-to-be-published interview, producer Takashi Iizuka was very happy to talk about how Oshima-san was there from the beginning, from the earliest design phases of this game, to the point that the whole game came to be while discussing with him how to approach a new side-scrolling entry.

But a modern game always needs some tweaks to the mechanics, and while all the classic traits are there, and while it will be playable cooperatively by up to four players (local couch co-op only, and you won't be able to repeat characters, so that you pick strategic synergies), that's not the main new trick up this game's sleeve. That would be the Emerald Powers, some sort of transformations (no matter the character) that will let you traverse the levels or face the enemies in new ways. There's a selection wheel for them, and in my case I could use Liquid Tales to climb up a waterfall Zora Armour Link-style, and Multiple Sonics to sweep through the whole screen.

The new world we'll be playing in is the North Star Islands. Before you try too hard to connect, I can confirm from Iizuka-san that this is completely unrelated to Sonic Frontier's lore, universe or time line. I was able to play a few acts of two Zones: Bridge Island and Speed Jungle, and both have some unique elements to add to your typical Sonic ramps, loops, falling platforms, and bumpers, no to mention the occasional switch to the background and the differently rewarding paths. These newly added elements were found mostly in the tropical stages, with hooking ropes to grind and vines that launch you upwards to reach higher grounds. However, the scattered mini bonus stages where you have to catch the Chaos Emerald were what I enjoyed the most as little teleporting breaks, with both side-scrolling and now even simple 3D challenges you time attack for a medal.

After dealing with a mech shark and another version of classic Robotnik - Eggman as bosses my session was over and I left the PS5 controller to talk with the producer. The game will also release on Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PC sometime in the autumn, and given how good it looks, feels, and performs, it already became one of my most anticipated platformers in 2023.

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