Sonic Superstars review: A bummer?

It feels like Sonic Superstars went through a low-budget development
The image shows Sonic Superstar gameplay. — Sonic Superstars
The image shows Sonic Superstar gameplay. — Sonic Superstars

Let's talk about Sonic Superstars, friends. This game seems like a big letdown, especially following the awesome Sonic Mania a while back. Seriously, we're in 2023, not 1991, and it's hard to figure out how things went so wrong. 

Back then, we could cut some slack for levels like Marble Zone and Starlight Zone — they were the starting points for the franchise. But hey, we got two great sequels, with Sonic 3 & Knuckles topping the SEGA Genesis charts. So, what's up with Sonic Superstars? It feels like it went through a low-budget development that's pretty obvious in how it looks, sounds, and plays.

Now, there are a few good things about this game. The physics? Not bad — they're what you'd expect in a 2D Sonic game. They're not perfect, but they're alright, making the characters feel mostly as they should. Well, except for Knuckles not being able to use enemies to get some extra height while gliding. Running and jumping through Superstars' levels? That part's actually pretty fun, and my gripes about the gameplay here are small fries.

But apart from that, there aren't many other good bits. The music's a plus, but even that's hit or miss. Tee Lopes, the composer, nails some tracks, but others are downright unpleasant. Jun Senoue, a veteran of the franchise, is back, but his tunes don't hit the mark like they used to on the SEGA Genesis. Fans have even made better remixes of his Sonic Superstars tracks using old-school Genesis sounds! His themes in the actual game, though? They feel forced, like they're trying too hard to ride the nostalgia wave, except for the Press Factory Zone, which is a bit more on point.

Now, let's get real about the levels. The first three are snooze fests — a real struggle to get through. Superstars only starts to feel a bit fun once you hit Pinball Carnival. Most stages? Bland design, dull visuals, and gimmicks that take control away from you for no good reason. Bridge Island Zone? It’s like a bad mix of Green Hill Zone and some scrapped Sonic CD ruins, with a main melody that's like nails on a chalkboard. And the bosses? They drag on with long animations, feeling more like cut scenes than actual battles.

Visually, it’s bright but lacking in life. The stage backgrounds are just plain and unimpressive. As you're sliding or floating, you'll notice the characters look lifeless and out of sync. Sonic's trademark attitude is gone, leaving him feeling lost and helpless. I mean, it's like he's a kid lost in a theme park trying to stop Dr Robotnik. The 3D look could have worked, but these visuals needed a major upgrade — something to give them a bit of character.

Kids might dig Sonic Superstars, especially with that Kanji-free Japanese option aimed at young readers. They might look back on it fondly like I do with Jumping Flash! and its sequel for the nostalgia. But trust me, for a fresh gamer today, not so much. This game feels like it's going to fade into obscurity, similar to a bunch of those early PlayStation titles.

There are multiplayer options, but the much-touted 4-player co-op is offline only. Then there's the Battle mode — online or offline — with mini-games that won't keep you hooked for long. And the Story mode? Pretty lazy and cheaply done. No voice acting, no text bubbles — you're supposed to figure out the plot by watching character actions. Not exactly the most engaging storytelling method.

Overall, Sonic Superstars has a bunch of issues. Despite decent physics and some killer tunes, it's just not worth the price tag. Stick to listening to its soundtrack on YouTube while playing the far better Sonic Mania. Maybe younger kids might have some fun with it, but it's definitely not for everyone — and definitely not for me.