Sonic Mania is a game that I used to play a lot of when it first came out - but I never got very far. I would always get to "Flying Battery" and go "this kinda sucks" and put the game up. This is a shame, at the end of the day, because Sonic Mania FUCKS.
I'll get one thing out of the way - this game's overreliance on past nostalgia and other game's stages do drag it down. I get it - this is an anniversary title, it makes sense, but when its stage selection is sort of baffling, I sort of just wish it was only new stages.
Especially because the new stages are all peak 2D Sonic. Seriously it does not get better than this. "Studiopolis" is an ABSOLUTE bop. The stage's aesthetics are so damn good, the music is wonderful and the boss of the zone is so damn fun. I just love it.
"Press Garden" is even EPICCER. I love the dynamics of the stage, and the music is so fucking cool. I guess I shouldn't bitch about the reuse of old stages so much, because the "Stardust Speedway" in this game is terrific, but yeah back to new stages.
"Mirage Saloon" and "Titanic Monarch" are probably the weaker of the new additions, but both are still great. "Mirage" has a really cool act 1 that puts a new spin on a Sonic 2 stage, and act 2 is full of really cool easter eggs. "Monarch" just goes on too long. I love the aesthetic, music, and gimmicks of the stage. The gravity balls really allow for some fun momentum jumping. I just think that the level should've been cut down, especially in act 2. It's still easily the best final zone in one of these games, though.
I also love the final boss. It's such a fun gauntlet to jump around with all these phantom ruby versions of other bosses. It's a true challenge and it was fun to have a final boss that didn't feel extremely bullshit or too easy. Just a great, fun challenge.
Still, this is a great swan song for my 2D Sonic journey. All of the references work so well after playing through everything, not even just old stages, but mechanics from other 2D games in stages they weren't originally in. Just a ton of really cool things.
Wait...I have to play Sonic 4 next? Oh man.