A Preview of Sonic Superstars

Ashley_Buckwell
edited October 2023 in Gaming

Sonic Superstars is an upcoming 2.5D side-scrolling platformer from Team Sonic. Much like its 16-bit cousins, the latest chapter will center its universe around the iconic characters Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose, as they fight to foil the evil schemes of the tenacious Doctor Eggman. Unlike its predecessors, however, Sonic Superstars is set to move away from the Green Hill Zone toward a new realm known as the North Star Islands.

About the game

Sonic Superstars is a new entry in the well-known franchise that features everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog, Sonic. It is similar to many of the Sonic platforming games that were released for the Sega Genesis back in the 90s. It features fully-rendered 3D environments to complement its 2.5D levels. The game is being developed by Arzest, a studio that was founded by Sonic co-creator Naoto Ohshima, with Takashi Iizuka of Sonic Team serving as a producer, and Sega as the publisher. 

For those who don’t know, the goal in a platformer is to arrive safely at the end of the level and achieve the best score. Superstars takes this classic formula and offers us a sort of return to basics with its 2.5D version of the traditional 2D gameplay style. There’s a lot of competition on the market for top-quality platformers across PS5, Xbox, Switch, and PC, and Superstars’ nostalgic blend of 2D and 3D gives the game a satisfying boost, helped on of course by its iconic mascot and his plucky pals. Superstars has all the momentum of the classic series but delivers that fantasy with a fresh design that is respectful of its forerunners.

Story

Sega has yet to lift the veil on much of the game’s storyline, but what we know so far is that Superstars takes place in the North Star Islands, an entirely new network of zones built from the ground up. The villain Doctor Eggman, his sidekick, Fang the Sniper, and a new antagonist called Trip have been corrupting and taking over zones, turning animals hostage to turn them into Badniks. The game will feature four playable characters: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose, who have to harness the power of Chaos Emeralds and use their newfound Emerald Powers to foil Doctor Eggman's evil plans.

Characters

There are four playable characters in Superstars. Sonic, Amy Rose, Knuckles, and Tails each have unique traversal mechanics that allow you to venture further into stages, uncovering special collectibles, new gems, and hidden power-ups.

  • Sonic is still front and center, and he retains his drop dash that was introduced in Sonic Mania. 
  • Amy has a special ability “big hammer” that lets her lay waste to enemies, and with her double jump, she’s able to reach platforms Sonic and Knuckles can’t. 
  • Knuckles feels less useful than before thanks to the complicated level design in Superstars, but he still has several advantages, such as being able to glide over and climb up walls. 
  • Tails is as strong as ever and can skip sections, find secrets, and skip boss cycles with his powerful flying ability.

The unique abilities of each character give the gameplay experience a slightly different feel and incentivize players to revisit stages as different characters. Sonic and Amy are great for offense, in that their abilities are tailored towards speed and melee attacks, and Knuckles and Tails also get ample time to shine thanks to the game’s vertical design.

Gameplay

Sonic Team and Arzest made sure that Superstars will have the classic feel of a Sonic game to it. Accordingly, the game features 2D levels, split into two acts, with bosses, special stages, and collectibles found throughout. Many of the beloved features of the Sonic franchise are present in this pseudo-sequel. You, as either Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Amy, are dropped into an idyllic world littered with roaming creatures, and you must dash, roll, bump, fly, glide, climb, or double jump your way through the levels, discovering various secrets and power-ups to eventually catch up to the evil Doctor Eggman and thwart his nefarious schemes.

Superstars feels fast. There’s an almost tangible sense of kinetic energy and movement as you tear through the levels. This forces you to pay attention, lest you tumble to an embarrassing death between the immaculately crafted levels. So intense is this momentum that often it’s hard to keep track of where you’re at on the screen, as your character pinballs between different elements of a level with a ferocious intensity. One moment you’re rolling through a tight tunnel, the next you’re bouncing off of springs, rattling through different obstacles that will launch you between different elements of a level.

Stages in Superstars resemble their classic counterparts but are far more open and allow an impressive amount of exploration. Time is short, but with multiple pathways to the exit, each hiding secrets, Superstars rewards you for jumping off the more obvious roads and exploring the full breadth of every level. If you’re going for time records, you can just hop onto highways that’ll slingshot you along to the exit; however, with Chaos Emeralds and other rewards hiding up tall streams, behind mountains, and along hidden ledges, there’s plenty of incentive to take your time.

Here are some of the gameplay features to expect in Superstars:

1. Emerald power-ups

A new gameplay mechanic is the Emerald Power-ups. These power-ups are obtained by completing secret levels where players swing from bubbles in a 3D environment to obtain a Chaos Emerald. These secret levels are accessible through giant rings hidden in each act. The Emerald Power-ups give the player new abilities. One Chaos Emerald turns you into a water being, allowing you to climb up waterfalls. Another allows you to split yourself into multiple clones and throw yourself at bosses. Other Emeralds allow you to grow vines, shoot forward in midair, or slow down time for better reactions. These power-ups may seem like gimmicks, but in practice, they allow the world of Superstars to open up, changing what secrets you might find.

2. Co-op multiplayer

Co-op mode allows up to four players to play together locally in an experience that can only be described as pure chaos. This mode draws inspiration from other cooperative 2D platformers, but the speed in Superstars serves as a major differentiator. The camera follows the character who is making forward progress toward the goal. This can cause problems if only one player wants to actually explore the level, so communication is essential if you want to do anything aside from making it to the end as fast as possible. If a character falls behind and off-screen (or dies), they zap in next to the leader. Characters cannot interact with one another (outside of Tails carrying another hero in flight), making co-op mode more like a fun way to explore the various stages of Superstars alongside friends rather than a productive or efficient way to complete the game.

3. Respawns

Respawns, like single-player lives, are unlimited, and they happen quickly and automatically. An exception to this rule is that if you die during a boss battle, you are out for the rest of the fight and can only watch as your friends take down Eggman or one of his contraptions without you. 

Design and graphics 

The new art style ditches the pixel-ly style of the likes of Sonic Frontiers for a simple and clean feel. It can make the characters look a little bit rubbery, but overall it looks immaculate and it’s really smooth in movement.

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  • 16 GB Standard memory 
  • 1 TB Solid state drive 

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Sonic Superstars release date and platforms

Superstars arrives on October 17 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. And for more games, make sure to check out the games available with an Xbox Game Pass. Furthermore, with the purchase of a Windows 11 PC from Acer, you can enjoy one month free of Xbox Game Pass.

Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.

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