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Sonic Superstars preview: A super start to classic Sonic’s return

Racing his way right back into our hearts

We’ve all been burned by Sonic in the past. Whether you played the Sonic and the Secret Rings for the first time and questioned how this has got anything to do with the Genesis games we know and love, or you are cursed with having played the 2006 reboot, which in no way improved upon the original game, as a Sonic fan you will have been burned at some point. However, Sonic Superstars has promised us all that 2D side-scrolling action that we know and love but in a glossy new style, and people are preparing to be hurt once more.

Having played 30 minutes of Sonic Superstars we’re here to tell you that it won’t hurt you. In fact, Superstars might be just the game that 2D fans have been asking for. There are four playable characters this time, and they are all purposefully unbalanced. The first note I made was ‘Amy is good!’ and I meant it. One of my main gripes with Sonic Origins Plus is that Amy didn’t give players any real bonus ability in the way Knuckles and Tails did. Here she’s all I wanted her to be. Her hammer lets her boost through enemies, and with a double jump, she’s able to reach platforms Sonic and Knuckles can’t.

Sonic Superstars screenshot

Superstars features four playable characters, and they are all purposefully unbalanced.

Tails is as strong as ever, allowing you to skip sections, find secrets, and skip boss cycles with his powerful flying ability. Knuckles feels less useful than before thanks to the complicated level design, but he still has his advantages over Sonic who gives the purest experience. Just like how your choice of character can adjust the difficulty so can the choice to use the new Chaos Emerald powers. Once you find an Emerald, you’ll then be able to use that power once per checkpoint, such as using clones to sweep through a horde of enemies. However, you can finish every level without them if you want a greater level of challenge.

We tried out four of the levels, Bridge Island, Speed Jungle, Pinball Carnival and Cyber Station, of which the last two have not been shown to the public yet. You can feel the increase in difficulty as you progress, and with no lives system, you’re welcome to give even the hardest levels as many goes as you need. While the first two levels played out in a fairly traditional style, Pinball Carnival will take you back to the feeling of the much-beloved Casino Night Zone, while Cyber Station is a new beast altogether.

Sonic Supersars Pinball Carnival stage

The Pinball Carnival level is reminiscent of old-school stages like Casino Night Zone.

This level features Sonic Colors-style power-ups, where you change into different animals with different abilities to finish the level. The level design has great verticality to it, and you’ll want to play each stage several times in order to see every possible path. Some paths feel exclusive to certain characters with their special abilities feeling required to gain entry in some places.

There are also two types of extra stages. Firstly, there are Bonus Stages, which feature medals and will give long-time gamers that feeling of nostalgia. The one we played was heavily based on the Sonic 1 spinning special stages except with definitively less trauma. The second type are Special Stages, which are completely new, and are how you collect the Chaos Emeralds and their powers. The one we play featured a grappling mechanic, though we’re told there might be even more types to find.

Admittedly 30 minutes isn’t the longest time with a game, and there is certain to be plenty we didn’t see, but everything so far is extremely promising. I laughed out loud several times while playing at just how goofy some features of the levels were, and Sonic’s motto ‘Gotta go fast!’ is certainly on display here. The flow of the game is kept fast-paced just like the 2D Sonic games we all know and love. There were also no technical issues that we spotted, though again we only saw a limited splice.

Sonic Superstars

Superstars might be just the game that 2D fans have been asking for.

In all the demo made us hopeful for what is to come from Sonic, though there was nothing that wowed us by itself, all of the smaller new features feel like they are adding up to something very special. We won’t find out whether Superstars is truly a return to form until it launches on October 17, 2023.