From the 23rd to the 25th of June, Sonic Superstars was available as a playable demo at the Olympics Esports Week in Singapore, the first public demo of the game since Summer Game Fest’s Play Days in Los Angeles.
These are my impressions from playing the game at the event on the PlayStation 5. Photography was disallowed at the booth and co-op was unavailable.
MC is a member of the Tails’ Channel Discord server, and a frequent contributor to the Tails’ Channel Newsfeed.
Once I caught wind of Sonic Superstars’ appearance as a free-play booth at the event, I was excited beyond belief! I anticipated getting my hands on the newest entry in the Classic Sonic series ever since its announcement. Now that the day has come and I’ve finally had my time with the game, I can say that I’ve enjoyed my time with Superstars.
Putting my hands on the controller, I was amazed by the stunning energy of the game’s title screen. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy popping out of the emblem gave me a good impression of what Superstars had in store. The animation quality carries over into the game itself, with Sonic and the gang being as expressive as ever!
Similar to what was available at Summer Game Fest’s Play Days, Bridge Island Zone and Speed Jungle Zone’s Act 1 and 2 were playable. Much of the zones’ level design take inspiration from previous Classic Sonic games in their game feel.
Bridge Island Zone
The two acts of Bridge Island Zone have multiple paths, leaving ample room for players to explore and find collectibles like Medals. These two acts also feature waterfalls, which can be scaled using the Water Chaos Emerald ability.
These levels also have unique terrain elements for Sonic and friends to run through. While the long loops and ramps provide variation and speed to the gameplay, the wall climbing sections are on the slow side and may not be the easiest to control on a first go.
Speed Jungle Zone
Similar to Stardust Speedway from Sonic CD, Act 1 has many branching vines and pipes. Springs and vines launch you from pipe to pipe.
Centred around butterflies that illuminate your path, Act 2 features more tubes and vines for the player to navigate. The vines let you launch yourself from platform to platform. Certain vines also act as springs.
Overall, the game’s level mechanics are sufficiently unique per zone.
At the moment, the uses for the game’s medals have yet to be revealed. In my time with the game, I also spotted references to fruits that resemble melons.
In previous B-roll footage from Gamespot and IGN Japan, there are blocks with handles that dispense rings, intended for co-op mode. During my time with the game, I unfortunately could not find these blocks or any other co-op related level elements.
Bonus and Special Stages
As seen in footage released by SEGA, there are a multitude of bonus and special stages to earn collectibles.
These warps may appear around the levels if you run fast enough. These bring you to further areas of the level. During the warp, you can collect rings.
Sonic 1 Special Stage
Inspired by the rotating stages of the first Sonic game, these stages involve you collecting medals in three rounds of original layouts. I found these stages easy in my playthrough.
These stages have blue and yellow big ring variants. Like in Sonic Mania, these are located in hidden areas in the stages. In these stages, you press and hold jump to swing between the orbs, racing after the Chaos Emerald, which moves away from the player. Blue rings award medals, while Yellow Rings award Chaos Emeralds.
In my opinion, these took a short time to grasp. Nonetheless, they are a fun side mode for the side-scrolling gameplay.
During my time at the booth, my friend and I were able to see the bosses of Bridge Island Zone Act 2 (Death Egg Robot), Speed Jungle Zone Act 1 (Large Mosquito) and Speed Jungle Zone Act 2 (Swinging Eggman Robot).
When we played the bosses ourselves, we noticed that these bosses felt easier in comparison to previous Classic Sonic bosses. Bosses in Superstars take three hits to clear, while bosses in the original games can take seven to eight hits to clear.
The invincibility frame system in the game works differently. Landing multiple hits on bosses from the top will not be possible as there are hit cooldowns in place, where attacks do no damage.
As of this writing, it is yet to be seen if Superstars has any difficulty options that change the number of hits required to take down bosses. The adjusted hit system did not change our impressions of the bosses.
Ever since Jun Senoue was announced to be Sonic Superstars’ main composer, worry has been filling the minds of many Sonic fans. Even though it was difficult to listen to the game’s music due to a lack of headphones and background noise, I was impressed by what I heard.
- The title theme is upbeat, sharing a main synth instrument with Bridge Island Zone’s theme.
- Speed Jungle Zone’s tracks have been shown at the recent Nintendo Direct, notably carrying Tee Lopes’ style.
- The Special Stage and Emerald Power tutorial share the same theme (both held in the same area).
- The bonus stage’s theme is of a relaxing nature, containing soft synths. This is similar to the music of its source material.
- The boss theme is similar to what we heard in the Gamespot/IGN Japan gameplay video. I was unable to recognise the drums from the demo.
- At the moment, it is not confirmed if the zones will have alternate themes or variations per act.
Camera movement in gameplay
Unlike other classic Sonic games, the camera seems to be more strictly centred on Sonic. It was difficult to “outrun” it, even after doing multiple spindashes.
This continues into the game’s co-op multiplayer. In 4-player co-op footage released by SEGA, the camera zooms out and stays centred on the four players.
Physics and control feel mostly spot on to Sonic Mania. Unlike previous interpretations of Classic Sonic like Sonic the Hedgehog 4, I was able to gain speed and rush through the levels naturally! However, the spindash may be slower than you might expect. The difference in speed between a maxed out spindash (6 taps) and one that is launched from 3-4 taps is small.
This may be due to the controller I was using at the event, but I encountered an issue where I could spindash to the left, even though I was facing right when spam-dashing. In the final release, I hope this is ironed out.
Alongside Sonic, I played with Knuckles and Amy. Even though I did not have the opportunity to try the glide-drop spindash with Knuckles, I feel that his glide controls well.
Amy has her Hammer Rush (activated like a drop dash), also seen in Sonic Origins Plus. In Superstars, she has her Hammer Attack and a double jump. From what I saw, the Hammer Attack does not provide the same amount of invincibility as it does in Sonic Origins Plus.
Long Loading Times and Freezes
In act-to-act transitions, the game freezes for 2-3 seconds before loading the next act. While this could be an inherent issue with the console versions, I hope that this can be fixed upon release for all platforms.
Framedrops were present at the shark chase scene in Bridge Island Zone Act 1 when terrain was broken. Besides that, the game ran smoothly.
All in all, my experience with Sonic Superstars has left me satisfied. It’s shaping up to be a wonderful continuation to Sonic Mania. I can’t wait to play when it releases this fall!
Article originally published in the Tails’ Channel Newsfeed by MC, edited by Spectre and Scarlett.