Sonic Superstars is Sega’s latest addition to the iconic 2D platforming series. Developed by Arzest and Sonic Team, Superstars does a solid job of melding old staples from the Genesis-era with fresh new ideas, while also filling the package with an impressive number of characters and unlockables, though the additional multiplayer battle mode feels immediately forgettable. And while the game should keep fans satisfied for quite some time, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or make any changes bold enough to truly evolve the formula.
WATCH THE SONIC SUPERSTARS VIDEO REVIEW ABOVE
While going through the four-hour campaign, you’ll choose between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy, each complete with their own unique moves and sense of momentum. The tiered layouts of each stage encourage you to replay them with different characters, as Knuckles climbing or Amy’s double jump may help you reach new paths. The 12 mains zones spread across a simple world map have some genuinely neat themes and gimmicks, like a bouncy sand snake that flows through a desert, and a factory that’s under self-destruct orders which you can delay by making it to switches on time. I dug the variety, and it kept me excited to see what new twists might lay around the corner.
That said, there’s a lot going on in both the foreground and background, and when coupled with the general speed of the action and tons of particle effects, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, leading to some unfair deaths by overstimulation.
In traditional fashion, Superstars has a slew of mid-level bonus challenges that range from familiar ball-based journeys through spinning boards, to frustrating-as-hell grappling courses where you’re chasing down one of the Chaos Emeralds. While the wonky physics make these latter ones a drag to complete, they’re worth putting up with because each Emerald grants you a different power up that you can trigger throughout the main levels. These range from temporary sight of hidden platforms and walls, to summoning a horde of clones to zip across the screen. This power refills anytime you pass a checkpoint, allowing you a ton of opportunities to experiment with them throughout the game. This sense of play encouraged me to explore the levels more often than in previous 2D Sonic games, although I’d say that’s not a very high bar to clear.
Each stage culminates in a boss encounter, which are mostly creative and enjoyable. There are some annoying ones where it feels like you’re almost forced to fail once or twice to learn the patterns, but the unlimited lives and liberal checkpoints alleviated any major frustrations.
While Superstars has drop-in, drop-out co-op for up to four players, the sheer speed of the action makes it a bit of a mess. Co-op in a 2D platformer is a tough thing to nail, and Sonic stumbles like so many others before it. Thankfully I still had a good time while playing through the campaign solo. The whole game is wrapped in some great music, menus, and overlays that lean into an early-’90s Toys R Us aesthetic, hearkening back to the series’ apex in effective ways.
While Sonic Superstars doesn’t quite reach the highs of the Genesis games, CD, or Mania, not to mention the stronger 3D entries like Adventure or Frontiers, it’s a solid 2D chapter with a handful of great new ideas, and some rather forgettable ones. Charting the quality of the Sonic franchise over the past 30 years can feel like you’re mapping out a particularly windy and turbulent course, but thankfully this one doesn’t drop you right in the middle of a bottomless pit. Sonic Superstars is available now for $59.99 on PC, both generations of Xbox and PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.