First Fifteen – Sonic forces + Episode Shadow

First Fifteen - Sonic forces + Episode Shadow

CGM’s Kenneth Shepard takes you on a lightning-speed adventure with the First Fifteen of Sonic Forces and bonus DLC levels from Episode Shadow!

The world is in turmoil after Dr. Eggman and a new, deadly villain, Infinite, have successfully taken it over. Sonic and his team of fan-favourite allies must rise up against Dr. Eggman and Infinite’s cruel tyrany to take back control and restore order to the world. Players will speed through rolling landscapes and catapult past perilous platforms, playing as Classic and Modern Sonic, and as a bonus, Shadow.

Don’t miss a minute of the action!

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Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Kenneth Shepard’s review of Sonic Forces! While you’re at it, check out more of Kenneth Shepard’s reviews, such as Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 2, and find out why Kenneth thinks Danganronpa V3’s ending makes a polarizing case for letting the series go!

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Sonic Mania (PlayStation 4) Review: A Classic Sonic Fan’s Paradise

Sonic Mania (PlayStation 4) Review: A Classic Sonic Fan’s Paradise

As a long-time Sonic the Hedgehog fan, my favourite title in the series has always been Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles for the Sega Genesis. While I’ve enjoyed many of the titles released after Sonic’s transition to 3D, I came to accept that there would never be a game better than my personal favourite from the 90’s. Sonic Mania is the first Sonic game to make me reconsider this opinion. After a long time of waiting while wondering if the title would live up to expectations, I’m pleased to say that Sonic Mania deserves all the hype it’s received.

Sonic Mania (PlayStation 4) Review: A Classic Sonic Fan’s Paradise
Sonic Mania gameplay images via Sega

Developed as a part of Sonic’s 25th anniversary, Sonic Mania celebrates nearly everything from the hedgehog’s early days. Designed to look and play identically to the Sonic the Hedgehog games for Sega Genesis, Sonic Mania features popular stages from Sonic’s side-scrolling past with new additions and remixed songs while also introducing brand new stages. The game also features a brand new story, picking up after the events of Sonic 3. In Sonic Mania, Sonic is up against not only Dr Eggman but also a new group of robots he’s created known as the Hard-Boiled Heavies. The story is told in a similar way to Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, featuring short, voiceless cutscenes in-between stages. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are all playable in this game with the latter two featuring their abilities from Sonic 3 and Knuckles. Sonic’s new ability, the drop dash, is amazing. By pressing and holding the jump button again while in the air, Sonic can build up speed and blast off in a ball the moment he hits the ground. The moment I learned of this new move, it became the most natural way to approach nearly any situation.

Without directly saying it, Sonic Mania is in every way a sequel to the original games. While I wasn’t keen on the idea of revisiting levels again (especially Green Hill Zone), most of the changes made to stages do make them feel fresh. The level design of Sonic Mania feels like a blend between Sonic 3 and Sonic CD. This translates to stages having a lot of verticality to them and encouraging exploration, as well as a lot of moments where you can build up speed. There were more than a few times where I was running so fast that the screen could barely keep up, an exciting moment that could only be found in the Genesis titles.

Sonic Mania (PlayStation 4) Review: A Classic Sonic Fan’s Paradise 6
Sonic Mania gameplay images via Sega

I was surprised to find that this is one of the harder Sonic games in the series. The difficulty of Sonic Mania can vary depending on how well you know the series. Stage gimmicks are taken from a number of different games and implemented into Sonic Mania’s levels along with never-seen-before traps. The stages I remembered clearly were simple because I knew the majority of the gimmicks I’d be up against. Some of the stages do suffer from an overabundance of mechanics, however, along with a few straight-up annoying design choices like springs that go directly into an enemy of spike pit. Similar to Sonic CD, a few of the stages can also become a bit confusing. By the game’s final level, I had no idea where I was going. I ended up finishing Sonic Mania in a day with over ten lives, but if I wasn’t so familiar with Sonic and how he plays, Sonic Mania would’ve taken me much longer to complete. Chaos emeralds are also featured in Sonic Mania and can be collected through newly created special stages. These have you control Sonic in a 3D space, chasing a UFO while collecting blue orbs for speed and rings to restore the draining time limit. Like with most Sonic games, these are both fun and incredibly frustrating.

Sonic Mania (PlayStation 4) Review: A Classic Sonic Fan’s Paradise 2
Sonic Mania gameplay images via Sega

Bosses in Sonic Mania are somewhat hit-or-miss. There are two bosses to each stage in Sonic Mania. Some of these are the most creative I’ve ever seen in the series with one of them going as far as recreating a round of Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. That being said, a selection of these bosses don’t feel nearly as inspired. Some, for example, resorting to a back and forth attack pattern, leaving players with a lacklustre fight in an otherwise exciting game. Bosses from earlier Sonic titles return in Sonic Mania, with slightly altered attack patterns. Most of them were enjoyable enough in their original games so I wasn’t disappointed to fight them again, but the new patterns don’t really shake things up too much.

As an anniversary title, Sonic Mania is rife with fan service. Stages are filled with references to other titles from the series and even nods to Sonic-related things outside of gaming. Sonic Mania does an amazing job at paying homage to Sonic’s past while introducing new ideas for Sonic’s potential 2D future. While Sonic Mania hasn’t taken the place of my favourite Sonic game, it’s definitely a top contender. If there ever is a follow-up, I hope to see it introduce even more original elements with slightly better level design but as it stands, Sonic Mania is one of Sonic’s best games to date.

Sega’s Roadmap For the Future

Sega’s Roadmap For the Future

“There went the best part of this whole thing.”

I said this to my girlfriend as we stood in a line wrapping around a whole San Diego block. It was in response to Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar walking by in the streets. We didn’t get to meet her, but just seeing her made our whole day. Years and years of Sega burning me left me unenthused for this event, and the hour and a half line up didn’t help. To me, seeing the creator of my favourite on-air show was going to be the major highlight from the Sonic 25


Anniversary Party.

Sega’s Roadmap For the Future 1While it ended up being a major one, especially because we actually ran into her again, I’m pleased to say I was wrong. After about four hours of non-stop Sonic, I walked out of the House of Blues confident in where Sega is going. Trying to put years of bad releases, fraught development cycles, and overall brand stagnation behind it, the company is clearly trying to put its best foot forward.

For starters, the transformation of the venue itself pulled out all the stops. Walls were lined with framed covers of old games. The 25


Anniversary logo was plastered everywhere. Rings hung from the ceiling, the floor was lined with “Green Hill Zone” textures, and checkpoint gates sat outside the bathrooms. Walking through the dark, crowded halls was like being hit with a lingering one-two punch of nostalgia.

Upon entering, we went straight downstairs into the Crush 40 concert, which had already started. Fortunately, we ended up managing to catch most of the show. Eighteen years later, dynamic front man Johnny Gioeli and bombastic guitarist Jun Senoue are still electrifying stage presences. They rattled off pretty much all of their hits, on top of some new stuff that I really enjoyed. Having never seen them live, it was really a blast to see stuff I grew up with, like “Sonic Heroes,” “Live and Learn,” and “I Am All (I Am)” performed in a loud, live setting. Even my girlfriend, whose opinion on anything Sonic-related could be summed up as “lukewarm,” got into it after a song or two.

Sega’s Roadmap For the Future 3For the remainder of the party, the stage was used to show off trailers and showcase the cast from the Sonic Boom TV cartoon. Because this was broadcast on TVs throughout the venue, I took this time to go upstairs and check out the rest of the spread. This was kind of a surreal experience, if I’m being entirely honest. There was an open bar next to a chili cheese dog stand. The blues-centric store had been retrofitted into a Sonic merchandise booth. And inside the demo room for Sonic Mania, a giant Totino’s display was laid out – on top of the roaming Totino’s servers circling the venue. It was a loud, crass clash of cultures and aesthetics, and a very gaudy, kitschy sort of affair. For my money, though, there’s no better way to market Sonic. After all, he began life as the edgier alternative to Mario, and represents a culture clash of gaming ideals himself.

As I walked the floor, peering at upcoming merchandise and taking in the crowd, something began to dawn on me. Sega’s frankly awful mismanagement of the Sonic brand was starting to crumble before my very eyes. Over the years, Sonic has been all over the place. Comics, TV, anime, and, of course, video games. Very rarely, however, have those things felt unified. Every corner of the series sticks to its own little sandbox and stays there. Not so at the party. Sonic Boom, Archie’s Sonic, classic Sonic, and modern Sonic were all in close proximity to each other.

Every corner of the fanbase was being represented within the confines of Dan Aykroyd’s overpriced chain restaurant – and it was beautiful.

Sega’s Roadmap For the Future 5Celebrating the past, present, and future of Sonic is a tricky process, you see. You have grown adults who fondly remember having bloodshot eyes from playing the old Genesis titles. Then there are early twenty-somethings who got blown away by Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the GameCube and from the comics at local grocery stores. Now, you have children who might know Colors and Generations, but are mainly fans of Sonic Boom. Being able to get all of these groups of people excited is a next-to-impossible feat.

Yet against all odds, Sega managed to do it. Every generation of Sonic fan was represented. Kids got the new Boom game and Lego Dimensions. Classic diehards got the promising Sonic Mania. And people like myself, whose love of Sonic started firmly in the “modern” era, got to rock out to Crush 40 and get a stellar teaser for a new game. Young or old, I felt a real sense of unity with people throughout the venue, and that’s ultimately what this celebration was all about.

Walking out of the House of Blues, a bit after 10 p.m., I was exhausted but excited. The often combative and unwelcoming Sonic community had been brought together for four hours, and managed to not bring the building down. But it was more than that. Seeing Sega bring together multiple generations of fans, and watching them cater to everyone’s tastes, was astonishing. For the first time in a while, I truly felt like the rebounding company knew what they were doing with their signature mascot.

.So while running into Rebecca Sugar was a jaw-dropping treat (not to mention meeting personal idol Adam Sessler,) the Sonic 25


Anniversary Party itself ended up being a blast. While some of the more Boom-oriented stuff wasn’t for me, that’s okay – it wasn’t made for me anyway. I came away, overall, impressed at Sega pulling something like this off. By pitching things to every possible corner of the Sonic fanbase, they’re bringing together the community as a whole and showing keen awareness for what people want.

Oh, and speaking of what people want? It was tempting to bust open the Sanrio X Sonic The Hedgehog display and run off with the adorable plush toys. Just saying.