Sonic Superstars has a lot to live up to. Fresh off the well-received reinvention of 3D Sonic with 2022’s Sonic Frontiers, Superstars is the blue blur’s next outing in a strictly 2D adventure. The likes of which haven’t been seen since 2017’s critically acclaimed return to classic form with Sonic Mania so naturally the bar for a Sonic Superstars review is high.
Sonic Superstars brings the ability to play the entire adventure cooperatively with 4 players. Combine this with the series' return to 3D models rather than Mania’s nostalgic pixel art, and you have a game aiming to prove itself from stem to stern. Thankfully, Sonic Superstars delivers another great 2D adventure with the internet’s favorite hedgehog.
Select Your Superstars
In classic 2D Sonic style, when you begin your adventure you’re given the chance to pick between Sonic and some of his iconic friends; Miles “Tails” Prower, Amy Rose, and Knuckles the Echidna. From the title screen to the intro animation, Sonic Superstars is all about the ensemble.
I chose to see my first run through Sonic Superstars as our leading man, and he feels as great to control as ever. The physics of Sonic have varied over time and in Superstars he feels a little slower than in Mania but after completing the first act, his momentum feels just right whether you're using the directional pad or the left analog stick.
Even though I chose to play Sonic as a solo player, his friends still felt present during this adventure. Animations in the background of zones like Knuckles helping a creature hold up an avalanche or Amy hanging out with NPCs makes your 3 unselected characters feel like they’re taking care of their own objectives to foil Eggman yet again.
The story is as light as past 2D Sonic games, bookended by gorgeous 2D hand-drawn animation sequences with small slapstick cutscenes bridging most of the Zones together. Beyond the Badniks, Eggman’s Superstars scheme is carried out by Fang and the debut of a brand new character, Trip. Their antics are charming and flesh out the game beyond what’s in the main story.
Sonic's New (But Old) Enemies and Allies
There is something lost with the shift to 3D models. Where a pixel-drawn Eggman could emote to music and chip sound effects after a fight, feeling charming without dialogue, the lack of any sound from these characters beyond their jump and powers left some of these animated moments with dynamic camera movements feeling a bit stilted.
In addition to the core cast's background appearances, Sonic, Tails, Amy, and Knuckles are all given an optional Act only playable by them. No matter who you choose to lead this adventure with, each character has their own unique abilities that are showcased well in their respective levels.
Thanks to the game’s well-designed platforming sequences I found myself thinking back to how Knuckles would have fared in Acts I had already finished with his climbing skills, how Tails would be able to explore more thanks to his flight, and how Amy would allow for riskier maneuvers with her double jump and hammer attacks.
Hammer Bros. Who?
All of the variation in their character kits has me wanting to replay Sonic Superstars even after witnessing the true ending. When you roll credits in Superstars no matter who you play, another story opens up that brings you on a more challenging run through the game’s Zones with new enemies, a new playstyle, and a new final boss.
This second story and true ending ramp up the challenge that the back half of Superstar's main story already has. In addition to a welcome level of platforming pushback, the final few zones wowed me with their theming, zone-exclusive gimmicks, or in one instance an allusion to past Sonic lore. The final zone of the main story in particular really wowed me.
Another element of Superstars is the new, practical use for the Chaos Emeralds. Despite having their own distinct playstyles, every character shares 7 Emerald Abilities you progressively unlock by finding a Chaos Emerald in the first 7 Zones. Of course, collecting all 7 will grant everyone the ability to go Super Sonic.
These abilities range from instantly summoning a growing beanstalk to shadow clones of yourself. Emerald Abilities are woven naturally into the level design. Whichever you wish to equip can be found on an ability wheel tied to the right stick or, based on where you are in the course, the game will auto-equip an ability that will unveil a new path or secret with just a single button press.
Controlling Chaos with Emerald Abilities
As I uncovered more of these Emerald Abilities and realized there were moments in previous Acts with the same telegraphing the game uses to show which ability to use, I ran it back to uncover mostly hidden coins that can be used to unlock a small array of mech parts for customizing your battle mode character. Battles can be played offline and online with objectives like surviving, collecting the stars, or zapping your enemies.
The mech designs are fun, but parts cost so many coins that even after seeing the true ending I maybe had enough to grab three full sets of parts out of the many that are offered. It's hard to see much depth in this mode that would warrant collecting coins when the core game can already be played with others and is so strong.
Sonic Superstars Review - Final Thoughts
Despite what it may look like on the surface, Sonic Superstars is fantastic as a single-player experience. The challenge ramps up exactly when I was wanting it to, the new Chaos Emerald abilities are all fun to use, some of the boss designs are a step above the Heavys in Mania, and the later Zones really impressed me.
If Sonic Mania was a remix of the Hedgehog’s greatest hits and a reestablishing of what makes 2D Sonic great, Sonic Superstars proves there is much more mileage with Sonic and friends to grow beyond nostalgia and has everything you could want in a new 2D Sonic.
Sonic Superstars was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the Developer over the course of 19 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Lots to Unlock and Play Even After the Main Story
- New Chaos Emerald Abilities Feel Useful
- New Original Zones Feel Fresh
- Strong Cohesive Visuals and Original Soundtrack
- Weak PvP offering
- Some Awkward Cutscenes