Sonic Superstars, a 2023 platform game jointly developed by Arzest and Sonic Team and published by Sega, takes a page from the Sonic the Hedgehog games of the 1990s, offering side-scrolling gameplay. In this adventure, players can choose from Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Amy as they embark on a mission to stop Doctor Eggman and Fang the Hunter. The game introduces exciting power-ups, accessible by collecting the seven Chaos Emeralds via bonus stages, and also supports four-player local multiplayer.
Initially, Sonic Superstars had me intrigued. It appeared that Sega had managed to capture the essence of the classic Sonic titles without the need for the Sonic Mania team, which, for me, is probably the best Sonic game that has been made. The game impressed with its visuals and music, and the level design displayed was promising. However, my enthusiasm gradually waned. The boss battles proved to be a major let down. They felt like a never-ending ordeal.
In the 16-bit Sonic games, bosses served as damage sponges, short encounters meant to test your reflexes. In stark contrast, Sonic Superstars‘ bosses dragged on, involving extended periods of waiting for the boss to become vulnerable. The wait times were excessive, and there was little room for player optimization. Even if you landed several hits on the boss when its weak spot was exposed, only the first one counted. This led to frustrating boss encounters, a far cry from the high-speed, replay-driven experience that characterised 2D Sonic games.
The special stage where you can get emeralds is not as enjoyable as I would like. It’s just chasing after an emerald in the sky, swinging from orbs and doesn’t come close to beating the Sonic 3 formula.
The game’s visuals and level theming were also inconsistent. While some zones showcased impressive visual elements, others appeared lacklustre and lacked detailed foreground and background elements.
On the gameplay front, Sonic Superstars excelled in terms of movement and physics, closely resembling the 16-bit classics. However, the level design had its ups and downs. It offered a blend of new and old mechanics and gimmicks, but not all zones felt distinct or engaging. Amy, however, is far too overpowered and is actually the most useful character to play the whole game with. Her jump causes her to spin her hammer, giving it a larger area of effect damage, and she also has a massive double jump which helps in reaching higher areas.
The cutscenes, while not a critical aspect of the game, left something to be desired. The 2D animated cutscenes did not match the quality set by Sonic Origins. Additionally, the inclusion of characters like Fang and Trip felt underutilised, given the minimal impact they had on the game’s plot.
Overall, Sonic Superstars emerges as a decent game marred by drawn-out boss fights and sometimes a very slow pace for a game that is meant to be all about speed.
As it stands, Sonic Superstars fluctuates too much in quality to be consistently good. For non-Sonic fans, it’s advisable to wait for a price drop. If a seasoned Sonic enthusiast like myself found certain aspects of the game frustrating, it might prove even more challenging for newcomers. My 6 year old son struggled even though he was fine with the OG ones.
While Sonic Superstars demonstrates creativity and innovation in the Classic Sonic formula, it falls short of reaching the heights set by its predecessors. Some levels are just frustrating and not enjoyable. What we really need is simply Sonic Mania 2.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.