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Welcome back to Sonic Sunday! It was an eventful week for our favorite hedgehog, as plenty of announcements were made regarding his two upcoming titles down in Texas. Project Sonic 2017 was dubbed Sonic Forces, and Sonic Mania was hit with an unfortunate delay. To make up for this delay, the return of the fan favorite Flying Battery Zone was revealed for Sonic Mania.

This week, I’m joined here on Sonic Sunday by special guest Ricky Berg to discuss some other classic Sonic levels we’d like to see make a return to Sonic Mania. We already have confirmed selections from Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic & Knuckles, so we’ll be focusing on the other three classic titles: Sonic 2, CD and 3. Without further ado, here are the Classic Zones I would love to see in Sonic Mania!

Sonic 2 – Hidden Palace Zone

The Hidden Palace Zone was not originally included in Sonic 2. However, the Zone became playable in the iOS/Android remake of the title years later. We all know that cell phone screens aren’t the best way to experience Sonic, so I’d love to be able to experience this long-forgotten level through a traditional controller. This Zone has great potential to make it into the game, as Christian Whitehead closely worked on the smartphone ports, and he’s the man behind Sonic Mania.

As for the Zone itself, it’s a creative level featuring bright, vibrant colors and dinosaur themes Badniks. There’s also a clever puzzle mechanic that involves shattering crystals to reveal springs. This Zone is definitely worthy of inclusion in Sonic Mania.

Sonic CD – Stardust Speedway

Stardust Speedway is one of the fastest and most thrilling levels in 2D Sonic history. Sonic has always been known for the soundtrack, and this level features musical instruments surrounding Sonic at every turn. When Sonic changes the past to correct the future, the Speedway is bright green and pink, giving off an amusement park vibe. It’s a thrilling, fun level that deserves to be in talks for the top 2D Sonic Zones.

Sonic 3 – Launch Base Zone

There’s nothing I love more in Sonic than when the Death Egg is looming over Sonic in the background. It’s an epic moment that foreshadows terrible events to come. This Zone was featured in the 3DS version of Sonic Generations, but I still believe it deserves the classic treatment for Sonic Mania.

This level is full of traps and tricks to keep Sonic from boarding the Death Egg, and it’s a very nostalgic level in that you know the final showdown is fast-approaching. It’d be exciting to relive this feeling near the end of Mania.

And now for his picks, here’s Ricky!

Sonic the Hedgehog’s revving up for a big year, and the recent SXSW panel for him was a great look at what’s to come. Sonic Force’s name reveal and gameplay snippit may have stole the show, but the blast processing goodness that is Sonic Mania is the one that got me thinking. Sonic & Knuckles’ Flying Battery is a great choice for a Classic Zone to revisit, and just like Generations before it I’m wondering what other picks the development team has up its sleeves.

I’m personally ruling out Zones that have already reappeared in other games, so Chemical Plant and Casino Night are out of luck. That’s alright though, because for my Sonic 2 pick we’re going underground.

Sonic 2 – Mystic Cave Zone

You know you’re already hearing the music, and with good reason. Mystic Cave’s intro notes are Genesis-era perfection and are ingrained to my memory to this day. Past that there was always something about this Zone that set it apart from others. It felt claustrophobic without limiting Sonic’s movement at large, and featured some unique stage elements like vines drawbridges to maneuver around and through. The color palette of the stage would also both stand apart from all other revealed stages while also looking better than ever with the game’s improved visual stylings.

The biggest reason I’d love to see Mystic Cave make a return (outside of making a great friend happy) is the potential Mania has to expand on its identity. Christian Whitehead has already tackled Mystic Cave via the mobile port of Sonic 2, and he added in an awesome extra for fans familiar with that game’s history. Access to the fabled and unfinished Hidden Palace Zone was via Mystic Cave’s deadly speed trap of a spike pit. Imagine being able to enter into a subsection of the cave modeled after the Hidden Palace within Mania itself, unifying the Zones and upping the representation of what might be the most lauded game in the series.

Sonic CD – Tidal Tempest

Oh, water-based zones. Almost always a nightmare in the making, only two exceptions stand out to me from the Mega Drive days. One is unfortunately losing out to my favorite Zone of all time in the next section, but the other is Tidal Tempest. There were no moments that felt like unwarranted deathtraps, and instead we got a layouts that felt fittingly fluid. It captured a similar vibe to Labyrinth Zone but holds an identity all its own, standing out even amongst the other Rounds in Sonic CD.

Sonic CD was full of interesting elements and set pieces, which seem to be a theme of Sonic Mania’s level designs. Assuming there can only be one Zone per game, Tidal Tempest could pull from the entire game. This “greatest hits” idea has already been seen in some way, with Mania’s Green Hill featuring elements from levels like Emerald Hill and Angel Island. The real question is if CD’s time travel mechanics would be present in some way and if Metal Sonic would have a place here via a Stardust Speedway style race.

Sonic 3 – Ice Cap Zone

With apologies to Hydrocity Zone, Ice Cap Zone gets my backing to represent Sonic 3. It’s got a snowboarding intro and a bassline tailor-made for a smooth criminal, making it a standout in a game of standouts. Sonic 3 has always been my favorite in the series– while there’ve been ice and snow based levels since, none have quite captured the magic quite like this one. Maybe I’m just a sucker for cavern-like stages, but being able to race through the insides of a frozen mountain with open-air sections as bookends just seemed way past cool.

Ice Cap would allow for another series staple to return as well: an endless loop section. These have been around since the first game and usually tasked players with timing and visual understanding to get out of the situation. While they can occasionally be a bother, I feel that the game’s development staff would know how to put together something that does right by the game’s histories and the players. Just no Carnival Night barrels, please…

Stay tuned

Thanks, Ricky!

That’s all for this week’s Sonic Sunday, folks. Make sure to zoom back next week, as we’ll dive into all the news and speculation about Sonic Forces.

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Written by Logan Plant

Logan loves voicing his opinions just as much as writing them. When he isn’t gaming or writing, Logan’s probably recording a podcast or chatting on the radio. Video game journalism is his passion, and he hopes to cover video games for years to come.