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Sonic Superstars is a New Super Mario Bros.-like genesis for the series

There was so much about Sonic Superstars that felt familiar. It was the intro, the colorful worlds, the classic enemies, and the loop-de-loops and bumpers. This was Sonic the Hedgehog the way everybody remembered it. However, there was a shiny new visual coat of paint and some new ideas made possible by over 30 years of modern gaming advances. For me, it felt similar to the jump that Nintendo made with Mario back in 2006 with New Super Mario Bros. Sega’s similar leap forward so far feels just as satisfying. Shacknews recently had the opportunity to try Sonic Superstars out for the first time.

Sonic Superstars‘ most obvious change is its visual style. Instead of opting for the retro pixel aesthetic used in the more recent Sonic Mania, Sonic Superstars instead goes in an entirely new direction. It utilizes rendered 3D models for both the characters and the environments. The visual change in style doesn’t overtly affect the formula. This noticeably feels and plays like a Genesis-era Sonic title, between the breakneck speed that’s almost hard to follow at times, the challenging platforming, the crumbling floors, the checkpoint system, the end-of-level boss battles, and the old-school secret areas containing Chaos Emeralds.

Speaking of Chaos Emeralds, they’ll serve a gameplay purpose in Sonic Superstars. When collected, Chaos Emeralds will grant Sonic and his friends a special ability. For the demo, we earned the power of Water, which allows players to shift into a liquid form and go up waterfalls. The other Chaos Emerald abilities and how they’ll ultimately add to the Sonic formula remain to be seen.

What the new 3D style adds is some new visual gimmicks. Bridge Island Zone, for example, has curved walls along the background, and Sonic can run sideways on them while collecting rings. Speed Jungle has vines that Sonic can glide across, like the Disney version of Tarzan, which also has him sliding in and out of the background. It has bushes with lizard tails, which players use to shoot themselves upwards. Plus, the boss battles also take advantage of the new 3D effects. The Speed Jungle boss is a spherical robot that swings around a bar, challenging players to stay out of its path as it comes flying in from the background.

Sonic Superstars is also going modern in terms of features. Players can not only choose between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy (each with their own advantages), but it’s possible to play four-player split-screen co-op with friends able to drop in and out at any time. Whether going alone or with friends, Sonic Superstars can be as tough as the original Genesis titles. Fortunately, the archaic lives system appears to be out the window. At least for this demo, we died more than once and reloaded at the previous checkpoint with no sign of a lives counter.

If Sonic Frontiers was a game-changer for 3D Sonic, Sonic Superstars is shaping up to do the same for the franchise in 2D. Look for it to release this fall on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.

This preview is based on a PC demo played on-site from the Summer Game Fest: Play Days event and may not be representative of the final product. Meals were provided by Summer Game Fest.

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