Platform(s): Xbox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Nintendo 3DS
Developer(s): Sonic Team
Release Date: November 1st, 2011 (US)
Price: $29.99 – AVAILABLE HERE
Sonic may have had his ups and downs over the years, but no one can deny Sega’s blue mascot his place as a true legend in the world of videogames. With Sonic Colors arguably breaking the “Sonic Cycle” last year, fans have been expecting big things out of Sonic Generations. Why wouldn’t they though? This title packs in nine past worlds, where players can take control of both Classic and Current Sonic. To make things better, each version of Sonic will get to trek through these stages with their own unique abilities. Yes, Sonic Generations had the promise to be great, but did Sonic Team put together a work of art or hype fans up for a tragedy? Here is my review for Sonic Generations.
Sonic Generations starts off with the likes of Amy Rose, Tails, Cream, and many past faces from the series celebrating Sonic’s birthday. Shortly into the celebration, a dark and mysterious beast known as the Time Eater abruptly interrupts the fun and sends everyone into a colorless dimension, trapping all of Sonic’s friends into many of the past worlds that were prominent in this mascot’s history. Due to the past being altered, Sonic’s younger self is also in this limbo and seeing the current threat, both blue blurs must work together to restore the past and present back to it’s normal state with the power of speed.
There isn’t a huge, oscar-worthy storyline present as the whole narrative seems a bit cliche for the series, but that really isn’t the point of Sonic Generations. This game as a whole is one gloved fist of nostalgia, filled with the charms and quirks that have kept the series relevant for the past 20 years. As you would expect, Current Sonic still has that same chip on his shoulder that he has carried since he was given a voice, so not much has changed in that area. The Classic Sonic however was given a flawless rebirth, being completely mute and only able to portray emotion through expressions and sound effects. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the new Sonic and his personality that has developed over the years, but Sonic Team did a fantastic job on making the retro hedgehog more likeable overall.
Hardcore fans will also be elated to know that most of the other characters have also been fully restored for Generations, just the way you will remember them. From chili dogs to light jabs at the series’ infamous decline, there is certainly a lot to experience this time around and the writing in Generations can easily be enjoyed by all due to it’s accessible nature. If I had any gripe, and this is just nitpicking when it comes to the story within, I simply would’ve liked to have seen a bit more. Yeah, Sonic Team touches base on nearly every game in the series in one form or another, but not a whole lot of those past titles are given much representation in the plotline, as the game is truthfully divided into three arcs and has just a handful of proper cutscenes. Either way though, the light plot is still rather interesting and I never felt like cringing throughout Generations’ entirety, which is quite an accomplishment for a modern Sonic title in my opinion.
If you have been itching for that classic Sonic experience or have been simply wanting better levels for the more modern hero to trek through, you will be happy to know that Sonic Generations gives you both. As I mentioned, there are nine worlds in the entire game. Each world features a newly redesigned version of it’s former self, while also providing a brand new layout for whatever hedgehog hasn’t traversed the location in the past. This means that there are 18 areas in all, and each fit in with the gameplay styles of both current and classic Sonic. Ever wanted to roam Green Hill Zone in the same way that Sonic Adventure and it’s predecessors played out? Now you can. The same could be said about playing famous stages such as City Escape and Emerald Coast in 2D. The variation is certainly there, but I couldn’t help but feel out of place when going from 2D stage to a more open 3D one. Now to be honest, the game does let players choose to go on to the next area right after beating it with just one hedgehog, but I personally felt the urge to complete each stage with both before proceeding further in the game.
As for the way Sonic controls this time around, both versions each have their own distinct feel due to the 2D and 3D level designs. Modern Sonic is faster than he has ever been and can fly through loops at a lightning pace. Also returning is the boost technique, along with the jumping homing attack that helps you quickly fly through the large levels while bashing all enemies in the process. If you have played Colors, Adventure, or any of the more recent Sonic titles, this method of control will feel very familiar as nearly everything we know about this new-age hero has remained unchanged. This may worry some who disliked those entries due to bugs or the gimmicks attached, but I actually found the modern Sonic to feel faster than his younger kin due to how responsive the controls were this time around.
Classic Sonic has also been left almost untouched as far as control goes. You can still hold down and grind up speed by tapping the jump command, or the player can now tap one button and get nearly the same result. Platforming is a big part of this hedgehog’s levels, as each jump’s timing can either make or break the momentum you have going at the time so just like the past, obstacles must be taken into consideration before just blazing through non-stop.
While both Sonics control with ease, the level design is what truly defines each re-imagined stage from the next. Unfortunately, the highly varied and nostalgic affair is a bit hit and miss. The game starts out brilliant, tapping upon the roots of the series in the Green Hill Zone. A few stages later, I encountered the true icing on the cake, which was none other than City Escape. I’m sure many of you remember this stage back in Sonic Adventure 2, but this time around everything flows even smoother than before and the final result of both the 3D and 2D versions players get to experience is truly magnificent. It isn’t until Crisis City from Sonic ’06 where the game starts to lose it’s momentum a bit. As many of you know, the past few titles in the franchise have had some level designs that didn’t click. Crisis City magnifies this fact even further as even though the stage is now glitch free (from what I could tell, anyway), there still is some problems that remain from that point on.
You see, Sonic has always been a game all about speed rather than platforming. Yes, the platforming is very important, but the reason why the classic games are more loved is because they were built with speed in mind. The last three stages let the player build up a good bit of speed and then it’s like they can’t make up their mind if they want to throw in platforming-heavy sections at random times, which completely stops any adrenaline rush and has the player come to a complete and abrupt stop at several points. This lead to myself being completely immersed and ready for action, to then skyrocketing off an edge because I dared to execute Sonic’s #1 trait. In the Sonic Colors stage, even our classic friend suffered due to these constant stops, as the “Wisp” gimmick took over and made the entire area feel like a massive chore. Even with all that said, I still feel like the redesigns are much better than before, but ending the game with such tedious work dampered my overall feelings of the past few games that were represented.
I can say though that the boss stages are all fun to play and redeemed any of my frustrations due to their imaginative designs. These foes are quite large and end each era of levels with a nice feeling of meaty satisfaction due to their innovative concepts used. The reason why I say this is because it’s never just one task the player must achieve to succeed. Bosses take many different elements from their particular era and mix them together for one epic battle. The only downside of this is that to get to these battles, the player must perform one of the challenges from each world to obtain a key, which in turn unlocks one of the locks needed to open the massive boss door. There are 90 challenges in all that range from races to time trials and while they definitely lengthen the game, I felt that the mandatory obligation to finish three threw off the general sense of progression. On the upside though, these challenges still give 90 more reasons to continue playing after you finish the story, and with the grading score, red rings to collect, newly added skill customization, and all of the many secrets buried within, Sonic Generations offers what feels like an infinite amount of replay value.
NEVER…and I do mean never has Sonic ever looked as good as he does here. Every detail of both Sonics completely capture everything a rabid fan would expect to see, and then go even further by giving us enhanced animations and a fine coat of polish. The stages are also beautiful, bringing back popular locations that are booming with both bright colors and life while staying true to their original concept. You can really tell that Generations has been a pure labor of love for Sega, and I can’t imagine anyone leaving the experience unsatisfied considering just how much is offered overall from a visual standpoint.
With such gorgeous graphics, the soundtrack truly needed to hit this one out of the park. I can easily say that this is yet another home run for Generations though, as the game gives one of the most soundtrack-worthy tracklists that we have seen released in the past decade. From remixes of those classic Crush 40 songs to the revamped versions of tunes from the past, players will never have a problem in keeping their volume at full blast. Classic Sonic’s sound effects are used well for the 2D stages, as this former mascot still has the same effects played when jumping, snagging a ring, or scampering across a stage in record time. The voice actors also do a good job in reprising their roles, even with Cream and Charmy Bee’s irritating but “lovable” dialogue being featured. To make things even better, players can now even customize each level’s audio with 50 different songs from the series as a whole.
2011 marks Sonic’s 20th Anniversary, and Sonic Generations is a gift to all those who stuck with the series during the good times…and the bad. Sonic Team’s recreations of the past stages may not be perfect for the game’s entirety, but one can’t help but smile while their memories come rushing back. The classic stages are fast and nostalgic, and the 3D levels have now shown that this studio still know how to make Sonic great again, as they were easily my favorite portions of the game as a whole. Is this the best Sonic game to date? Not quite. What Sonic Generations does offer though is a chance for fans to cherish the past, forgive the missteps of the present, and look towards the future. For now though, we can strap on a party hat, grab a chili dog, and celebrate Sonic’s birthday with this massive high note of the franchise.