The game was announced during Sonic's 25th anniversary and is inspired by the classic Sega Genesis Sonic trilogy.
The game was later re-released into physical copy called Sonic Mania Plus which featured two new playable characters: Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel, four player split screen and a new mode called Encore Mode. These new modes are also now available as DLC for the original digital version.
Why It Rocks
- Sega hired multiple fans of Sonic the Hedgehog who had made their own Sonic fan games, including Christian Whitehead, who created ports of Sonic 1, 2, and CD, to develop the game.
- The game has remastered old stages and brand new stages. The older stages especially have some new gimmicks that doesn't make the stages feel fully rehashed in the process.
- You can play as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, and they all play as they did in Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
- Playing as Knuckles changes some aspects of the game (for example, some levels are changed in terms of design, and Knuckles has alternate bosses), which gives the game great replay value.
- Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Squirrel were make a return an update named Sonic Mania Plus, after two decades of absence.
- The Drop Dash from the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 prototype build makes its first official appearance in a game.
- Gorgeous graphics which accurately represents the Genesis Sonic games graphics but also does many things the actual Genesis hardware couldn't for the sake of making animations smoother and the graphics cleaner. In a way, the game gives an idea of what a 2D Sonic game for the Sega Saturn could've looked like.
- The Elemental Shields are brought back, and the Combine Ring is back for the first time since Knuckles' Chaotix.
- There are plenty of references to Sega's history and even Sonic's own history in the game.
- Creative bosses. For example, the Chemical Plant boss is literally a game of Mean Bean Machine, while the Hydrocity mini-boss is the boss of Hydrocity in Sonic 3 and Knuckles with the roles reversed. On that topic, this games has tons of different bosses.
- Awesome new and old Special Stages, which require you to catch a UFO before time runs out by grabbing blue orbs to increase your speed and rings to increase your time limit. These are accessed by finding a giant ring hidden within the levels. Blue Spheres is back as an optional bonus stage.
- An awesome modding community with tons of fun mods to try out, provided by Sonic Retro.
- There was an obscure easter egg of videogamedunkey included in unpatched versions of the game.
- Sega mandated that the game needed to have old zones than new zones, which is a shame since the new zones are great and the developers initially planned for the entire game to be new zones.
- Some parts of the game like most of the story, and some of the gameplay and levels lacked some innovation and originality because of this. The story of the game especially didn't really feel like much of a story, and there are only five original stages out of the thirteen stages in this game.
- Also, due to old levels having little to no change at all, some flaws from the first four games were brought over, such as having to replay Act 1 of a Zone if you get a game over in Act 2.
- The game relies too much on nostalgia, something that many Sonic games like Sonic Generations have already done before. Gamers who didn't grow up with the classic games are unlikely to get all the callbacks here and might even find them intrusive.
- SomecallmeJohnny himself said the game is "The textbook definition of nostalgia pandering."
- Some of the transitions don't feel very consistent, and Little Planet is randomly involved in the plot with no prior context at the end.
- The blue sphere bonus rounds can get repetitive very quickly and a lot of them rely on trial-and-error. Also, the controls aren't as tight as they were in their first appearance.
- Enemy placement can be really unfair at times and can cause many cheap deaths.
- The special stages control poorly, making it very easy to fall off and fail them, especially Encore Mode's seventh special stage, as the UFO is really hard to catch.
- There are no tutorials or extra control guides for additional controls for characters like Ray the Flying Squirrel.
When first revealed during Sonic's 25th anniversary, Sonic Mania was very well received by a large amount fans of the series, which had gone through a three-year hiatus after the critically panned Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Ever since the first reveal there was a massive debate between fans whether the game was a nostalgia-filled cash-grab or a genuinely new game that the franchise needs.
When the game was released it received very strong positive reception both by most fans and critics. The game was praised for staying loyal to how the classic games played while still feeling like a new concept, but was also criticized for having more old levels than new ones. People who pre-ordered the Switch version of the game leaked it before the game's release.
The PC version was delayed because Sega had to add in a DRM called Denuvo, an anti-tampering software. While it makes the game harder to crack, it also means you have to be connected to the internet to play the game, this is a bug actually (despite Sega saying this is unrelated to Denuvo). This caused a lot of backlash from the fans. Sega eventually fixed this issue, and now players can play offline.
The success of the game led to its own series Sonic Mania Adventures which takes place after the events of Sonic Mania and Forces which was met with a mixed reception by critics, but positive reception by audiences.