Played a little bit more Sonic Mania. Went Chaos Emerald hunting, which is easy to do on a completed run-through save allowing you to access any zone and therefore go for the special stage entrances that you know the location to, but there’s no fun in that, is there? I did play the first two zones again though and tried to hunt down the last two emeralds I needed, but I mostly found the entrances I’d already found and a ton more rings…so, that’s nice, but I don’t really need more lives. Still, exploring is fun and there’s so much land to traverse if you want to. Anyhow, the hunt for the special stages came to an end in the second zone when I beat the seventh special stage, appropriately challenging, finding entrances by usually going in the opposite direction to where I needed to go. There’s a fun one at the beginning of the second level of the second zone that you can reach simply by slowing down, going left a bit and then doing some simple platforming to reach. It highlights the trick to Sonic; knowing when to go fast and when not to.
With Super Sonic available, I exited and reloaded into the final zone, a deceptively not-as-hard-as-you-might-think zone that throws so many rings at you and threatens to take them away from you, but a bit of confidence can make sure that that doesn’t actually happen. The mini-boss was eliminated by Super Sonic, much too the final boss in the final level which knowing its gimmick (teleportation is involved, in a sense) was a lot more comprehensible than my 3-4 single shot through the game first time around. As per tradition, Super Sonic gives you access to the Final Final Boss which is…fine. Its most challenging feature is not using an extra ability you’re given (the old Hyper Sonic’s dash) which I couldn’t determine did anything useful and drained 5 rings on use. The next challenging aspect was that rings are sort of thrown up in the air for you to dash and catch (fortunately they’re magnetised to make it slightly easier) which would be fine if not for one attack that can actually knock some rings out of you; the difficulty of getting those rings and an attack that knocks them away from you are problem inducing enough, I don’t think both were necessary.
The final cut-scene for doing this though is…odd? I think it’s supposed to actually tie Mania into Forces which is sort of neat, but the way it’s done feels very unclear. Perhaps beating the game with a few more characters and options will illuminate that somewhat. Talking about different characters, Knuckles’ turn! Immediately he starts off in a different Green Hill Zone position to Sonic and Tails, but eventually rejoins the beaten track. Knuckles is definitely the explorer player’s choice, I feel. Whilst Tails does offer flight, Knuckles can break open some terrain that the other two cannot, leading to level portions unique for him. There’s also smaller things too, where I broke some wall next to a spring opening up an invincibility box. There’s no sign that the wall can be broken, so I imagine these things are dotted about here and there.
Unfortunately Knuckles’ glide has led me to some more collision issues, in one corner getting into the wall itself, albeit easily able to leave it (and then replicate the issue). Given the devs are clearly still invested in addressing smaller issues and more attentive players than I will be finding more things, I’m confident that some of these things will be resolved. They’re by no means game breaking and in some cases you have to actively hunt them down, but they are still there.