I'm still in a state of mild disbelief that Sonic Mania even exists. A glorified fan-game by some of the best and brightest creators in a scene that's often looked down on and frequently sneered at. Backed fully by Sega, it recaptured the spirit of what made that weird blue hedgehog a cultural icon through the '90s and beyond.
If only there was a little bit more of it. While not quite the full sequel announcement we've been hoping for, the game is getting a physical retail re-launch under the name Sonic Mania Plus, and the new content will be available as paid DLC for anyone who already owns the game.
Sonic Mania Plus was announced just minutes ago at the Sonic panel at the South By Southwest film festival's gaming wing. The panel is still live at the time of writing, but the final recording should be available here once it's all wrapped up.
Update: In the closing moments of the Sonic panel, they teased a new Sonic racing game, too.
While the price for the DLC upgrade is yet to be announced, and no firm date has been pinned down for its release (although it will be out this Summer, one way or another), we do at least know what the upgraded version will add: Two more of Sonic's lesser known friends - Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel - will be playable in the new edition, originally co-protagonists from the obscure trackball-controlled SegaSonic The Hedgehog arcade game.
While they didn't go into great detail, Sonic Mania Plus will also be adding a New Game+ variant called Encore Mode, which apparently promises graphical changes and some other surprises as you go through the game a second time. They're also expanding the Competition Mode of the game to support up to four players.
For those unwilling to part company with any additional money, there's a nice little extra coming free for everyone later in the year. Sonic Mania Adventures is a series of five animated shorts from the same art crew that produced Mania's brilliant opening, which we've embedded above, just because it's lovely, and you should watch it again.
Just because there's an increased focus on storytelling in the Adventures animation doesn't mean that they're going to be chatty - the world of Classic Sonic remains mute, and their tales will be told without spoken dialogue, putting even more weight on the artist's shoulders, but we believe that they can pull it off. The first episode of Sonic Mania Adventures will be out within the next month, and each successive episode released on a roughly monthly basis. You can see a little (slightly unfinished) clip of the first episode here.
Also announced at SXSW was a weird little bit of cross-promotion: Official Sonic The Hedgehog branded shoes, in classic blue/red/gold colours, produced by Puma. Of questionable value, although expect to see them worn at many a geek convention over the next few years.
Sonic Mania Plus will be out this Summer, as either a $30 boxed retail title, or as a paid upgrade (price to be announced) for existing digital editions of the game.