If You Have to Choose Between Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania, Choose Mania
Sega released two Sonic games recently: Sonic Mania, in August 2017, and Sonic Forces, in November 2017.Sonic Mania is much more of a throwback title, reminiscent of the Sega Genesis while Sonic Forces includes modern graphics and new mechanics like character creation. All four games are available on Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PS4, which leads to the question "Which one should I get?"
The choice between the two would seem like one of preferences, but that's presuming the two games are equal, with graphics and mechanics being the main differences. That's absolutely not the case, and despite Mania having a few quirks of its own, it's superior by far to Forces
If the release of both games was meant to showcase two different visions for Sonic's future, then Sonic Forces is the "we're going to try new things and push the boundaries" vision. It's a wonderful, astounding vision, but the vision wasn't the problem. Sonic Forces just wasn't the best vehicle for this bold, forward-looking vision. Forces feels like a bad action movie, where the producers emphasized the wrong aspects, including some of the action. The story, the dialogue in particular, is really cheesy. Stories can be cheesy, and Sonic games are no stranger to cheesiness, but the game could've done a better job countering the corny plot and exchanges with cooler action sequences.
For example, after the player defeats Zavok, there's a short scene to explain that the place is crumbling and that "now is the time for running." The scene really issn't needed. Instead, to illustrate the consequences for defeating Zavok, the game could've showed the crumbling at the beginning of the next level. The player then has to figure out, on their own, they need to start running. Or, instead of a scene, it could have utilized the NPCs and their background chatter to let Sonic/the player know the place is falling apart and y'all need to get out now.
Players have complained the game, and each of its levels, are too short. Short games and short levels aren't necessarily bad, but if the idea is to present what future Sonic games could be, then brevity doesn't really give players a chance to experience fully that vision for the future. For example, Stage 7 is a neat level with the Sonic/Avatar combo, the double boost, and the skydiving portion. But the whole thing takes about two minutes to complete. Another minute of play, especially another minute of the double boost or another skydiving portion with trickier obstacles, would've been so much fun to play and could have shown off the new mechanics even further.
Sonic Forces really seemed to emphasize Sonic's speed. Again, that's not a bad thing by itself, and it's what the games are known for. However, nearly every level feels like an adrenaline rush cut off at the knees. They are fun, but the end is more like running into a brick wall, versus the slow down period of a hard, solid workout that could have helped them feel more natural and provide a fulfilling arc and rhythm for each level.
Sonic Mania Isn't Perfect Either
It's easy to point out all the flaws in Sonic Forces and then to say choose Mania, but Mania isn't a perfect game either. When I first saw the Mania trailer, I thought it was a remake of one of the Sega Genesis games. Mania does emulate what fans love most about the Sonic games of old, but it emulates it so faithfully that there is some lack of originality in concept and design.
When going through the levels, I felt much of the same frustration I felt playing Sonic on the Genesis. Sometimes, I didn't have a clue of where I was supposed to go next and ended up going in circles. Perhaps I'm not as a good as other players in finding my way around, but levels can have puzzles without being puzzling. In a way, Mania's vision for the future is to stick with the past and the formula that's worked before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it might not be something that will work forever, and it can't drive the series forward.
The Winner Is...
Overall, if you have to choose between Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania, then choose Sonic Mania. Between the two, Mania is a higher quality game, where everything comes together much more smoothly. It also has the "throwback" charm and emphasizes many series aspects long-time Sonic fans love. Forces has great ideas, but perhaps there needs to be another game or two to flesh them out and get those ideas where they need to be for an enjoyable playing experience.
Now that both games are out, what do you think about them? Which one do you think is better: Sonic Mania or Sonic Forces? Let us know in the comments!