When Sonic Frontiers was released, Takashi Iizuka, head of Sonic Team, revealed that SEGA was preparing new titles covered in a layer of 2D action gameplay. Said and done: The three-dimensional and two-dimensional deliveries will continue to coexist, at least while the franchise remains in this stage of delicious success. Sonic Superstars aims high and offers a platform experience that marries the speed and gameplay of yesteryear with renewed mechanics and graphics. In the heat of the celebration of Gamescom, the European fair that is held annually in Cologne, Germany, we have been able to test it for approximately half an hour.
SEGA’s mascot is not alone. Players can choose between four different characters. In addition to Sonic himself, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose accompany him during the adventure. Each one brings certain unique abilities, which are complemented by those of the other heroes. We only tested the demo, but the game gives the option to enjoy it together with up to four players at the same time, thanks to online and local co-op modes. The battle mode increases the number of simultaneous users, although this modality was not present in the Gamescom build.
This is Sonic Superstars, the return of SEGA’s mascot to 2D
Once again, the evil plans of Dr. Robotnik (Eggman) threaten to bring disaster to the world. He has teamed up with Fang and a mysterious adversary to turn animals into giants and wreak havoc. Sonic and his friends will have to travel the mystical lands of Northstar Island in order to thwart the devious doctor’s evil intentions, a task that seems more dangerous than ever, can they succeed?
Sonic Superstars works like the older games in the series, that is, with 2D side-scrolling and platforming. The demo includes two different levels, Bridge Island and Jungle Speed, both packed with a whole series of elements that allow us to interact with the stages themselves, reach other areas, and explore different routes. Because yes, completing a level of Sonic Superstars does not imply having discovered all its secrets. For that, we need to replay the stages until we get the most out of them.
As we run from one side to the other, we grab onto springy plants that propel us up, access tunnels that increase our speed, jump over platforms and dodge deadly spikes. The core gameplay works just like in the 90s games: we collect rings, which serve as a shield against enemies. And if we run out of them and a monster touches you, goodbye and see you next time.
Too fast? A bonus stage to calm Sonic down
As in other Sonic games, controlling speed is not a task suitable for all players. It’s easy to crash into an enemy by mistake or fall off a ravine after giving in to the adrenaline rush. So much running can be exhausting, but the developers still opt for the bonus stages, in search of the Chaos Emeralds once again. The minigame consists of pushing yourself to get closer to the gem little by little, a fast process, and quite fun.
By obtaining an emerald we unlock special powers like a water one, which gives us the opportunity to ascend waterfalls. The “avatar” power, on the other hand, creates several images of the character, capable of attacking everything on the screen. These powers are activated via a quick-access skill wheel, at the press of a button.
Superstars would not be a hedgehog game without fun bosses. In the demo we fought against a final boss, a giant bird that doesn’t exactly sing to the rising of the sun, at least not in its current state. The trick is to ascend the rope when a hook (with a spike) is thrown at us, but also to avoid the rays that it deploys in the air and that fall on our heads. As the fight progresses, the number of lightning balls increases, so it’s important to move at the right time and place.
Sonic Superstars, in development for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Nintendo Switch, and PC, will go on sale on October 17.