Recently,  the price and release date has been revealed. 2 months away at $20-70 dollars depending on what version you get. As I personally go for physical anyway, i’d be fucked thanx to Sega’s cheap insistence on internet dependency. Around this time, people would be calculating the costs and worth of the product. 

Unfortunately in the gameworld, because shit be expensive, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking any half assed design choices are somehow mitigated by smaller numbers. $20 may sound reasonable, but upon further inspection, $5 is pretty fair. And pardon me for scratching a broken record… but has Sega nor Taxman even once broken the silence on the zone ratio since it was first announced? This has been my main concern and the concern of many others, and not once has this been an issue for discussion. New enemies and bosses are nice and all, but the zones are what should’ve been given more attention. 

So instead of that, Sega has decided to focus their efforts on re-imagining old zones. And what they have shown thus far is Green Hill with some new backgrounds and some pullies, Flying Battery with a few sprinkles of garbage disposal units, and now Stardust Speedway Past has man eating plants that just… sit in place?

This is why I keep harping on the Zone Ratio. These re-imagined zones lack real, tangible effort and… kinda feel desperate. They have only a few sprinkles of gimmicks here and there to say “Hey! This is new and exciting!” Zones with only a few dashes of new gimmicks does not a re-imagined Zone make.

And here’s where we play the vocabulary  game. Imagining something means just what it says. Creating a scenario or world or person, etc. In your head. Reimagining is taking what has already been created… and creating a mildly or completely different version of what already exists. In the context of media, these would be called remakes. DmC is a re-imagined DMC. Act Zero is re-imagined Bomberman. Every Zelda game is a re-imagining of themselves. Spiderman 2099 is a futuristic re-imagined Spiderman. The Mushroom Kingdom Stage in Smash Brawl is a desert re-imagining of level 1-1 of SMB1. Smash Pit is an anime re-imagining of the original. You get the picture. 

When looking at Mania, the 3 old Zones barely look any if at all different from the source material. Green Hill probably being the most developed in terms of sporting a new background, but at best, these are mild updates. Reused tiles, enemies,  and assets with a few new bells and whistles is not a re-imagined zone. Mis-application of the term is false advertising. 

Actual re-imaginings of previous zones (different tiles, color palette or hell even remixed music) would drastically mitigate the Zone ratio issue. Having severely minimal updates just brings attention to this problem. Imagine if Green Hill actually had green mountains and pink rocks…. >_> or even taking place at night or producing some rain effects. Actually make Green Hill feel new and refreshing! Like Sunset Hill, one of the extremely few likable things in Advance 3 that takes place at dusk. It’s a variation of Green Hill, but you don’t see or feel that at all. All you have to go on is the music.  Something that says you fucking tried.

Don’t just slap a recycling bin in a fortress and tell us you “reimagined” a zone. All that says is that Robotnik prioritized garbage disposal over better traps and weapons to better deal with intruders. Flying Battery is pure laziness. And as one of my favorite zones, that’s just irritating. 

See… for all of it’s faults, Sonic 4 actually gets this right, especially E2. Marble Garden becomes Castle Sylvania with water and a beautiful backdrop. If it had the song “Hidden Land” from Urban Cookie Collective, that would be tits. Oil Ocean becomes a desert oil field with giant containers, fire, and mini factories, as though it came straight out of HOTD3. Ice Cap and Carnival Night get blended together to create a Zone that would eventually get ripped off by Tekken Tag 2. And they look damn good too.

Most would probably wonder if anything more could be done with Flying Battery, but why would they? It’s a battleship, they could include a docking bay where fighter jets could constantly fly out and pose a threat on contact, engine rooms with steam oozing out the pipes frequently,, a backdrop where you can see an army of robots all lined up in rows that scroll as you move through the zone (you know, that… technique i cant remember where layers of the background move independantly?) Something along those lines that actually make it feel like a giant machine built for war and conquest. That‘s how you re-imagine something. Not just changing the layout a little bit and adding a piddly and superficial change which does nothing to make the zone feel new and fresh.

So we come back to calculating costs. Sonic Mania brands itself as a new adventure. What we should be willing to pay for comes down to how truthful the marketing is. $20 for standard. Re-imagined zones is fictitious as the changes are minor updates to select portions of the zone while the rest is left to recycled assets. We have only seen one “re-imagined” boss. So far, we still just have 2 new zones shown off. So we look at the quality of new content. Studiopolis is still a winner and Mirage Saloon is dumb. Hardboiled Heavies is the worst name you could give your enemies, and that’s about it for new content. $5 dollars seems more reasonable, though an extra $15 was added on as effort expenses.

Really though, with a release window this small, they could only hope to make one new zone and have 6 zones total for release, and that is not good. It almost feels like they’re going to fuck this up. Anything extra would inevitably be DLC with some ultimate shitdition down the road. But oy! That’s what E3 is for, right? 😛 

About the only thing refreshing about Sonic Mania is YouTube’s unquenchable anticipation for it. You have people praising the animation wanting Sega to make a cartoon based off of that… which wouldn’t be a bad idea, mind you. And some part of me feels this isn’t shill work, every facet of the internet despises Sonic and are undoubtedly paid off in some way to give Nintendo undue praise for everything except their online services, Sega doesn’t have that same influence. The college age demographic demands pixar level content from Sonic only to ignore it in favor of Nintendo anyway, it’s damned irritating. But that’s another topic altogether.