Two years ago on August 15th, 2017, Sonic Mania dazzled the world as the blue blur made a brilliant return to his 2D roots. The fanbase is now clamoring for a follow-up, but while a Mania 2 would be all well and good, I can’t help but feel a certain spin-off should be given new lease on life by Christian Whitehead and the crew over at Evening Star first.
To say Super Mario Kart was a revelation would be an understatement. It took the racing genre and turned it on its head, introducing offensive and defensive items, zany courses, and, of course, a familiar cast of characters from the Mushroom Kingdom. Plenty of games soon followed in its footsteps, and Sega was quick to get in on the action with its own mascot.
In 1994, and less than two years after Super Mario Kart drifted onto the scene, Sonic Drift released in Japan for the Game Gear. The system’s limited capabilities meant the game couldn’t nearly match the scope of the plumber’s first outing on the race track, but it still carries that unmistakable ’90s Sonic aesthetic, and that’s to say nothing of the marketing.
Drift remained Japan-exclusive for years until it resurfaced in the west as part of various Sonic collections and Sonic Adventure DX, but its sequel, the succinctly named Sonic Drift 2, managed to make it overseas in 1995.
This follow-up had the same basic formula but expanded on what the game offered. Metal Sonic, Fang, and Knuckles, joined the original cast of Sonic, Tails, Eggman, and Amy Rose, giving us a crew that perfectly encapsulates the franchise as it stood in the mid ’90s. The track selection also increased in scope, expanding beyond the Zones of Sonic 1 and featuring levels from 2 and 3, as well as entirely new creations.
Now, with all that history out of the way, why do I think it should return?
To put it bluntly, the Drift games don’t hold up too well when removed from their original hardware, with their really short draw distances often making the difficulty and obstacles feel immediate and random. Yet beneath all that, the charm remains.
With Classic Sonic essentially becoming a pillar of the franchise with its own merchandise separated from the Modern line, the time seems perfect for a retro racing revival. And that’s not to say it should overshadow Sumo Digital’s rather good Team Sonic Racing, either – Sonic Forces managed to co-exist with Sonic Mania, after all!
As for how they’d do it, well, Sonic Mania’s very own special stages show the team has experience with rudimentary 3D level design, with period-accurate scaling and rotation giving the illusion of 3D depth. Of course I’d rather a Sonic Drift revival use sprites instead of 3D models, but it’s a solid basis.
Sonic Mania was lauded for updating retro graphics with modern flair. The character sprites were able to rotate much more smoothly, everything was displayed in a stunning widescreen resolution, and the music was able to sound that much more polished. Outside of Super Indie Karts and the amazing Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart fan project, few games have even tried to bring the classic kart racer look to modern platforms, and I can’t think of a more fitting team to tackle the concept than Evening Star.
Just imagine the fan-service, too. While the original Drift games were doubtless restricted by the tiny memory afforded by the Game Gear carts, a Sonic Drift Mania could go all out with the characters. Ray and Mighty would be a shoe-in when it comes to newcomers, but we could finally see the return of classic Team Chaotix, and why not throw in some really obscure picks like Bean the Dynamite? A key component of the original Drift games was character-specific abilities, so Bean’s bombs would fit right in.
The track selection seems almost limitless as well – the visual spectacle of racing around a 3D Studiopolis Zone, or a Press Garden course that changes seasons as the laps pass, maybe even some Sonic CD love at long last. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Of course it’d only be fair to reference classic Sonic’s other racing game, too. Giving Sonic R’s fantastic soundtrack a home away from that game’s awkward controls would be a dream come true, and I’m certain someone would like to play as Tails Doll again. Probably.
This is all just wishful thinking, but it’s a concept that seems so perfect it’d be a shame if Sega never capitalized on it. Here’s hoping Evening Star are having similar thoughts as they undoubtedly get ready to take classic Sonic for another spin-dash…Leave a Comment