AUSTIN, Texas—Sega hosted a South By Southwest 2018 panel about all things Sonic the Hedgehog, and the panel began with good news for anyone wanting a physical version of last year's tremendous 2D throwback, Sonic Mania. Their wishes will be granted in the form of Sonic Mania Plus, a physical release for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in "summer 2018" for $29.99.
Shortly after that announcement, Sega also offered a surprise "one more thing" about an apparent new Sonic racing game.
The panel noted that Mania's positive reception was tempered by one consistent complaint: that fans wanted a disc or cartridge version. So Sega moved forward with a boxed version of the game, and while its boxed version has its own physical perks (32-page art book, "holographic" cover, reversible Genesis-styled cover), the more interesting stuff comes in the form of new gameplay features. The most obvious of those are two classic-series creatures, Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel, being added as playable heroes. (These characters originated in the series' first Japan-exclusive arcade game, 1993's SegaSonic the Hedgehog.) Sega didn't confirm how differently those characters will control or whether existing levels will be opened up or changed for any unique mechanics.
Additional content, which was only briefly teased at SXSW, will include a new "encore" mode of remixed stages and a new version of the original's "competition mode" that will let up to four players race side by side. How exactly those remixed stages will play out was not demonstrated. Sega confirmed that owners of the game's original digital version can pay for an unlock of the Plus content, though the company was not ready to confirm a price.
Sadly, the game's PC version was not included in the Plus version's announcement banner. We have sent questions to Sega about that version's potential and will update this report with any news.
The panel's "one more thing" announcement came in the form of the above image, which started out entirely black and exploded with a single letter "R" by the end. This followed a number of car headlight images and engine revving sounds, so the fact that the word looks like it spells "racing" is no surprise. The panel confirmed that this game is "not a sequel" to any existing Sonic series but said nothing more.
This follows months of rumors about a followup to Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing, which has been loudly hinted at by way of various toy companies announcing products that tie into a Sonic racing game of some sort.
The panelists offered one other hint when a fan asked about further classic Sonic game ports to mobile platforms like iOS. "We've stolen Christian Whitehead away," one panelist said in response, referring to the Sonic Mania developer who previously built Sega's best existing iOS Sonic ports. This is as loud a hint as we've yet heard that another official, retro-styled Sonic game may be in the works at Sega.
Listing image by Sega