Sonic Superstars is shaping up to be the perfect blend of old and new

As a casual enjoyer of Sonic over the years, I'm really digging what I'm seeing here

Sonic Superstars might be the biggest surprise out of Summer Game Fest (SGF).

After its seemingly out-of-nowhere reveal during the main show on June 8th, media were able to go hands-on with the Blue Blur’s latest adventure at SGF’s Play Days preview event. And I have to say, I’m really liking what I played.

Like most games in the series, Superstars‘ story is all about Sonic and friends’ efforts to stop the evil Dr. Robotnik, although lesser-known villain Fang the Sniper also features as a central antagonist. For longtime fans, Sonic co-creator Naoto Ohshima has even designed a new original villain called Trip. Of course, the story isn’t what we’re really here for: it’s that tried-and-true Sonic gameplay, and that’s where Superstars is shaping up quite nicely.

Similar to 2011’s GenerationsSuperstars aims to bridge the gap between the Sonic games of old and more modern entries, and it does so to great effect. Right off the bat, the game’s visual style is reminiscent of classic Sonic titles while featuring a modern coat of paint. It’s really charming.

Sonic SuperstarsAs in previous Sonic games, Superstars‘ four playable characters have their own unique abilities: Sonic goes fast, Tails can fly, Knuckles glides and Amy smashes with a hammer. A co-op mode of up to four players, as well as a versus mode that wasn’t showcased, are also featured in the game.

All of that evokes the spirit of classic games, but what Superstars does well is add its own neat little flourishes throughout. For example, the Chaos Emeralds you collect in every Sonic game actually grant you individual powers that open up stages. In my demo, the gem I snagged let Knuckles ascend waterfalls, while another, which I didn’t get to, allows you to summon clones of yourself in battle.

Sonic Superstars bossConsidering that’s only two of the Emeralds, I’m curious to discover how else Arzest takes the iconic series staple and uses it to expand classic Sonic 2D level design. Even with the waterfall ability, it was impressive to see this made stages feel more multi-tiered and layered. This, coupled with each stage’s individual gimmicks (like the slingshot-esque vines in the Speed Jungle Zone), should keep things fresh as you play. The stages are all set to be original, too, so no Green Hill Zone once again.

The actual minigames to get to the Emeralds are also clever ways to diversify the gameplay. One of them consists of a constantly rotating maze-like block in which you have to carefully time your jumps and alter the structure’s direction to make your way to the goodies at the centre. And when it comes to the Emeralds themselves, you’ll have to chase the gem as it flies away by zipping between grappling points, Spider-Man style.

Sonic Superstars waterThe only thing I can’t fully comment on as an occasional enjoyer of Sonic games over the years is the actual physics. Diehard Sonic fans like MobileSyrup contributor Andrew Mohan have had some concerns regarding Superstars‘ handling. Without a lot of experience with past Sonic games, I can’t say more than it felt “fine” to me, but anecdotally, it seems like others at SGF, including some I’ve spoken to, have found it to be quite solid.

And that’s my general takeaway from Superstars as a whole. It’s been getting strong word of mouth out of SGF because it’s just looking to be a quality experience that lovingly pays tribute to the past with some new tricks of its own. I’m looking forward to playing more, and that’s not something I’ve always felt with Sonic before.

Sonic Superstars will launch on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC in late 2023.

Image credit: Sega