Back in the day (which anyone old enough to remember playing Sonic the Hedgehog on its original Sega Genesis release is allowed to say), video games weren't kind to players. Saving in many games just didn't exist. One of those games was the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Speak to a group of people from the era and you're likely to find a handful who left their console on overnight in order to carry on playing the following day—some falling foul to a parent turning it off and causing the END OF THE WORLD. Sonic Mania has a save system so nothing quite as dramatic can happen, but it still sucks.
Sonic Mania saves your progress to a degree. When you reach a new zone—each zone is two acts, with a boss at the end of each—the game saves your progress so you can pick up at the start of the zone should you turn the console off completely or lose all your lives. On paper this is leaps and bounds better than the soul-crushing system that caused '90s children the kind of stress that can now only be experienced by agonizing over a tweet for hours only for it to get two likes and no RTs
But here's the rub: If you get a game over, you're sent all the way back to the beginning of Act 1, even if you made it to the boss. It's obnoxious, especially during some of the latter levels, which are long and quite difficult.
(Editor's Note: Sounds like Sonic Mania has that old-school charm).
I'm not a fan of games punishing players in the wrong ways. Sonic Mania, in my view, discourages players from persevering with tricky bosses by penalising far too harshly. Being returned to the start of a zone doesn't sound bad, but in the context of having spent five or six lives trying to beat an Act 2 boss (no name drops here, but there's a LOT of Ray Winstone hard bastards in Sonic Mania), it's crushing.
When you fail at a boss fight, you failed to beat the boss. You've already proven that you can reach the boss by making it to the end of Act 1, beating the Act 1 boss, and making it to the end of Act 2, so why is the game forcing you to prove yourself all over again? It's infuriating, and it breeds a vicious circle where the sense of injustice is so high that mistakes are made while trying to reach the Act 2 boss for the second/third/fourth time. Inevitably you'll reach whichever version of Sarah Connor (T2 Edition) disguised as Eggman caused you problems packing only a couple of lives, and fail again. The circle repeats and your hate for the game rises.
Depending on your personality and willingness to use free time on thankless activities, you might choose to give up there and then. Why bother investing more time into a game that, frankly, couldn't care less about yours? And yes, I'm sure a lot of you reading this want games to deliver crushing blows in order to feel a sense of achievement, but beating the boss should be achievement enough.
Sonic Mania actually includes a mode that has no save file, in a nod to the original games, so why not include a mode that doesn't piss in your Cornflakes (I'm not sure if American readers eat Cornflakes, so replace that with Lucky Charms or Independence Day Loops or something) every time you fail. Checkpoints exist before every boss in Sonic Mania, so why not allow the game to save there too?
I like Sonic Mania a lot. It's a rather wonderful modern nostalgic hit that manages to be more than just a repeat of what came before. But that doesn't mean I don't hate it for the amount of times I had to replay two Acts in order to take another failed stab at beating a boss that resembles something from Paw Patrol, but with the annoyance of Peppa Pig. Retro revivals don't need to copy everything from the past to be great.
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