The announcement of Sonic Superstars sparked excitement among the fan base thanks to the return to the 2D style of gameplay found in the beloved retro entries in the franchise but complemented with gorgeous modern visuals. The game plays very much like an homage to those games that primarily lived on the Genesis, but developers Arzest and Sonic Team are adding various new elements to Sonic Superstars to expand on the classic gameplay fans are looking forward to.
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“It really started with recreating those Classic physics and making sure the game had the Classic physics in there,” Sonic Team creative officer Takashi Iizuka says. “After we got the physics working right, we said, ‘Okay, now we need to work the level design,’ because the level design is very specific, and we needed it to feel like a Classic game from a level design standpoint. After studying the level design, after getting the physics in, and both of those were working together, then we started saying, ‘Okay, now what can we do new and how can we implement that in?”
In addition to elements like four-player cooperative play and various new gimmicks throughout the game’s zones, Sonic Superstars also introduces players to Emerald Powers. These all-new powers grant Sonic and his friends special abilities for Chaos Emeralds they obtain through the Special Stages. In Sonic Superstars’ Special Stages, you swing from floating bubbles toward your goal. If you entered through a giant gold ring (like Sonic 3 & Knuckles), your reward is a Chaos Emerald. If you entered through a giant blue ring, you can earn medals. Regardless of the prize, the mission is the same: Swing from floating bubbles toward the moving objective. While most of the bubbles simply factor in your momentum and point of release, others can stop you dead in your tracks, while others still send you flying toward the goal.
Emerald Power Inspiration
Unlike past entries, where you only receive the benefits of collecting Chaos Emeralds once you gather all seven, Sonic Superstars gives you shorter-term satisfaction. “We wanted to say, ‘How can we reward someone for getting just one?'” Iizuka says. “And if we reward someone for getting just one, that will motivate people to get each individual one and see what they are. So, part of the new ideas and how Emerald Powers started was in that process of trying to get people excited about getting each individual Emerald.”
Each Chaos Emerald offers distinct Emerald Powers, and all powers are available to each playable character. These powers are selected with the right stick and operate on a cooldown, with each star post checkpoint replenishing your cooldown meter.
The overarching idea for Emerald Powers draws inspiration from the Wisp mechanic found in the Modern series, starting with Sonic Colors. However, there is one key difference with Emerald Powers. “In Colors, you need to use the Wisps in order to get around in the level and complete the game, but we didn’t want that to be a part of the Superstars game,” Iizuka says. “We wanted the Classic Sonic gameplay to still remain true, so when we were looking at the Emerald Powers and the Wisps, we wanted to make sure you could still beat Superstars without having to use any of the powers, which is what we needed to balance during game design.”
Full List of Sonic Superstars Emerald Powers
Each Emerald Power in Sonic Superstars is tied to a specific Chaos Emerald, and while we don’t know the exact order they are unlocked, we know every single Emerald Power that Sonic and his friends will have at their disposal.
Sadly, there are only seven Chaos Emeralds, and Iizuka shoots me down when I float the idea of Super Emeralds enabling them to expand the arsenal, so several ideas were left on the chopping block. “We actually had lots and lots of ideas about what kinds of powers we could put into the game,” Iizuka says. “But as you know, there are only seven Chaos Emeralds, and we needed each of the powers to be associated with an Emerald, so there are only seven powers we could choose. So, of all of the ideas, we had to whittle it down to only seven, and unfortunately, we did have some really interesting ideas, but we couldn’t put them in the game because it would have gone over that seven.”
Check out the powers that did make it into the final game below.