Review – Sonic Superstars

A dashh of spin.

Overview

Developer Sonic Team
Publisher Sega
Genre Platformer
Platforms PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date October 17th, 2023

For years, various iterations of New Super Mario Bros. have seen the light of day across Nintendo consoles, eventually adding 4-player co-op into the mix. Those iterations grew quite stale to many, making the recent Super Mario Bros. Wonder a much-needed glow-up. While Mario is a seasoned veteran in the cooperative space, 2023 marks the first time Sonic and his friends join the fun. In Sonic Superstars, 4 players get to take control of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy to take on Dr. Eggman (or Robotnik) and other foes together.

Content Guide

Though it had its emo phase, the Sonic franchise is family-friendly, and the same goes for Sonic Superstars. Players take control of Sonic and three other friends to dash at or jump on robot enemies. When taking damage, players lose rings or fall off the screen. One of the game’s main objectives is to collect emeralds that also grant the players special abilities.

Myself (Knuckles) and my nephew (Sonic)

Review

Since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, I was the little brother. That role allowed me to run around as Tails—Sonic’s one and only little buddy. Playing as Tails was low-impact, never hindered the player 1 experience, and was accidentally helpful if you managed to help Sonic float or jump on an enemy. Sonic Superstars isn’t the only first co-op experience in the series, but it was the first time my nearly 7-year-old nephew played a video game together with me instead of me showing him the ropes. While the bosses seemed to still be a bit of a challenge for him, it was as if I was passing the torch that evening. In this aspect, Sonic Superstars delivers, but some improvements should be made in a potential sequel.

The experience when playing together is very seamless. Players 1 and 2 select their characters before jumping into the hub world, pick a portal, and go. When one player is going too fast, the other can simply hit a button to get back on the screen. I can’t think of a better way to keep the pace going, since that sense of speed has always been the focus of the series. I’ll have the memory of my Knuckles and my nephew’s Sonic running side by side etched in my brain forever, so I can’t imagine what that would feel like with four players doing so at the same time. There were moments of chaos, of course, that brought some laughs but didn’t hinder the experience much at all.

Sonic doing what he does best

Each character plays just like they have in the past. Sonic is the most basic; Tails floats and can pick up his allies; Knuckles glides and climbs. Amy is not a character we have played much in the 2D era other than her appearance most recently in Sonic Origins. She makes use of her hammer by breaking objects throughout a stage and may even open up an optional pathway. Anyone who has played a Sonic game in the past will have no trouble at all jumping into this one; I was a proud uncle watching my nephew pick up the second controller with the knowledge of already knowing how to play the game aside from the newly introduced abilities.

A new feature in Sonic Superstars are abilities from chaos emeralds, which bears some similarities to Sonic Colors. You’ll want to try different routes in each level to collect the chaos emeralds. Doing so via a bonus stage is much easier than it was back in the day, and grants a variety of special powers. One of my favorites, which I gained early on, is one that acted like Naruto’s shadow clone jutsu and filled the screen with clones that would take out any enemies around me. Another ability launches your character like a bullet in any direction you choose. The one drawback here is that you’ll have to slow your pace to search for hidden paths, which is counter to what the series is all about. Showing my nephew how to incorporate these special skills in his gameplay or finding the emeralds was a challenge considering all that is important to him when playing a Sonic game is going fast. I did replay some of those levels on my own to go back for anything I missed along the way.

Sonic clone jutsu

As previously mentioned, the bosses are probably the most challenging aspect of Sonic Superstars. My nephew would lose his rings and lives fairly quickly when we’d encounter a boss, leaving it up to me to handle business. Defeating bosses in a Sonic game usually isn’t a highlight for me, but Sonic Superstars has a few that I truly both enjoyed and despised at the same time. The encounters I particularly wanted to rage at are when you take on Fang the Sniper; one of them has you avoiding his shots and various obstacles. I was already playing solo at that point, but I couldn’t see my nephew having a good time at all here if I were to get him a copy on his Switch.

A feature I wish I could tell you about is the battle mode. Via local split-screen or online, this is a new competitive option to pit four players against one another. Medals are earned through the main story to unlock parts for your customizable robot. A handful of match types have players competing to survive, collect stars, and race to the finish. Sadly, I never got to experience any of this—it was dead on arrival. This part of the game takes me back to the days when a bunch of 360 and PS3 games had multiplayer modes that nobody asked for, such as Bioshock 2 and Dead Space. The same goes for Sonic Superstars; we didn’t need it but I have to give them props for effort.

What stands out about Sonic Superstars is the presentation. The trailers make the game look rather generic and don’t do it much justice. On the PlayStation 5, Superstars is a genuine visual treat with the level design and the simplicity of the art style being a major win—my favorite stage had a series of slides that made it feel like a water park. Even with multiple players and some abilities active on screen I never felt that my view was too cluttered. Though we’ve certainly had better in the series, the soundtrack and all of the sound effects properly exude the style and energy that keeps me coming back to these games.

Sonic games have always had a challenge to them, but various moments keep me from wanting to go back. Making it through the main story means you get to play as a newly introduced character to the series, but that also comes with its frustrating moments too. I wish I had more to say about Sonic Superstars and wanted to come up with more positive thoughts. Sonic Team has a strong foundation here, and a Sonic Superstars 2 is something I would like to see. it may be a better experience with the right co-op partners, but I’d recommend waiting on a sale and that you go play Sonic Frontiers until then.

Review copy was generously provided.

The Bottom Line

 

Sonic Superstars is is a spindash in the right direction, but makes some missteps that could be improved upon.

 

6.5

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L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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