Sonic Generations: Review
20 years ago the world was introduced to a short, pudgy blue hedgehog known as “Sonic the Hedgehog”. In the U.S., Sonic was released on the system that was proclaimed to “Do what Nintendon’t”, the Genesis. Utilizing “Blast Processing”, Sonic Blazed through levels at record speed and became an instant phenomenon. As time went on, Sonic started to lose speed and with the revolution of 3 dimensional gameplay, Sonic seemed to drop off from success.
There was a short revitalization of the series when Sonic Adventure arrived for the Sega Dreamcast. This and Sonic Adventure 2 were hailed as bringing the blue blur to the third dimension in a great way. Soon after this time, the Dreamcast started losing profits, Sega lost money and had to give up on video game systems. Since then, Sonic has tried to maintain the momentum he had with the old days and Dreamcast age, but somewhere down the line, he lost his way. Titles such as the “Sonic the Hedgehog” game for Xbox 360 and other ridiculous titles like “Sonic and the Black Knight” or “Sonic and the Secret Rings” only helped to bring the once favorite mascot down into a pit that no one could ever hope for him to get out of.
“Sonic Unleashed” and “Sonic Colors” were seen as slightly improved titles in the franchise, but still didn’t seem to obtain that original appeal that Sonic had. The newest title, “Sonic Generations”, celebrates Sonic’s 20th birthday and tries to bring about the greatest fan service possible by combining both classic Sonic 2D controls and levels along with 3D Sonic controls and levels that span across the entire 20 years of Sonic’s lifetime. Does it work and bring back the original feel and love for Sonic that once existed? Or does Sonic fail once again in trying to get his fans back?
Sonic’s Havoc powered engine is still looking about the same as it did in Sonic Unleashed, using high speed as it’s way of covering up anything that may be less detailed or textured incorrectly. Modern Sonic levels will blur past you with an amazing feeling of speed and look like anything you’d see in a modern racing game. The effect is done well and makes you want to make sure you keep your speed up. There are a few times where there appears to be too much on screen for the engine to handle and you’ll see a considerable and very noticeable slowdown in framerate at certain parts of the game. It never seems to occur during gameplay, but during cutscenes it will show itself to the player.
Speaking of the cutscenes, while they’re pre-rendered scenes, the video conversion for the title pixelated everything to the point that it looks like you’re watching a poor youtube video in full screen. When you’re not paying attention to the pixelation and compression of the video files, Sonic and all of his friends look just like they have for years. They’re not so detailed that they look more realistic, but they don’t have so little detail that you don’t care about the characters.
The environments between the two different Sonics are wonderful. The 2D styles of classic Sonic look alive and you rarely find yourself having trouble understanding where to go, the 3D styles of modern Sonic blaze past you with a feeling of nostalgia and entertainment. The use of a 3D view during the 2D side scrolling looks great and you’ll find that watching the backgrounds in some landscapes will lend to some moments that you’ll recall from memory if you’ve played any of the old Genesis titles.
Classic Sonic is back with his old Sonic 2 engine of gameplay. You have a spin dash that you can use in order to gain a burst of speed from the start and you jump on top of enemies in order to kill them. It’s a simple scheme and it still works in all of its retro glory. While the momentum of Sonic’s speed doesn’t seem to be as on par with his 16 bit self, the feel of classic Sonic in this title is better than Sonic has felt in years. If the team behind Sonic 4: Episode 1 could take some notes from this title, it’s possible to see more solid titles coming our way from Sega. Playing through older levels like Green Hill, Sky Sanctuary and Chemical Plant were like being a kid again with no cares in the world, speeding through memories like they were yesterday. As you get further into the title, you get classic 2D styles of modern Sonic levels, such as City Escape and Rooftop Run from the Sonic Adventure titles. These are done just as wonderfully as the classic levels and give you the idea of what it would be like if Sonic had stayed 2D for all of these years. These levels are a blast to play through in both the literal and metaphorical sense and they appeal to any of those who have been yearning for classic Sonic’s return.
Modern Sonic is also back after not so long of a break, just coming off titles such as Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors, the modern blue blur has had some rough spots, and the past few titles have been trying to change that pattern, taking away some of the ridiculous mechanics in exchange for classic ones. Modern Sonic plays exactly as he did in these past couple titles, running on the hedgehog engine, he looks and feels the same. Each level is done with a mix of 3D and 2D segments. While these levels are blurred and smashed through like nothing else, they typically end up being longer segments than the classic Sonic acts. Sonic can use his speed boost, homing attack and rail sliding but unlocks other attacks as time goes on (Each of these new moves are unlocked in accordance to whatever game he unlocked them in) such as the ground stomp maneuver, ring dash and the use of the cute creatures from Sonic Colors.
The older levels redone in the 3D space bring a new feel to them and it’s like blending that line between your working memory and your long term memory. Certain iconic moments from each act show up in these 3D remakes and any Sonic fan will appreciate these. The toughest part about the modern Sonic levels and gameplay is that it seems to have created two different kinds of reactions. Those who think that the controls are simple and don’t require anything except to move the analog stick forward (Which isn’t entirely true although there are certain moments where that will happen) and those who like the idea of quick reaction times and are able to find the hidden secrets that you’ll only get if you go through the level a couple of times, thus heightening the replay value of the title. It may sound like a cheap shot at getting someone to replay a level, but like old Sonic titles, whenever you found something you didn’t noticed before you or missed, you have a sense of accomplishment when you discover these new paths and see other parts of the level.
If you didn’t like the gameplay of Sonic Unleashed or Sonic Colors, you probably won’t get much out of modern Sonic in Generations, but if you’ve enjoyed what they’ve done since some of the more abysmal titles such as Black Knight or Secret Rings, you’ll enjoy the way this game is designed.
The classic, 16 bit tracks are back when you play as retro Sonic and the newer songs from later titles have returned as well with some minor changes. Playing through the older levels as classic Sonic only further invokes old memories as you speed through the levels to the original beats to the game. It makes for a great travel through memory lane and one that cannot be dismissed as mediocre. As you get further on to the more modern levels, you can see that the team tried to remake the original songs with more of a 16 bit feel, bringing more distortion and MIDI files into the mix, but you still feel like it’s just a remake of a current song for a current generation. One song even keeps the original lyrics within the 16 bit remake of it, which completely destroys any feeling of it being older, as any classic Sonic song was without any lyrics and was purely instrumental. In this regard, it’s a bit of a letdown, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that you can choose which songs you want to play during a level, so you can change it to your heart’s content.
Modern Sonic gets his own remakes of songs as well and you’ll find that all the songs from the more modern games have returned with all of their glory, but also there are remakes of classic songs done as if done today. These, unlike the botched attempt at remaking newer songs old, end up being a great score of classic tracks made with more attitude, speed and beats. The inclusion of electric guitars, synth and other real world beats makes all of these classic songs sing with a new, revitalized splendor. Racing through the new age Green Hill listening to a new arrangement of the theme with electric guitars surely gets the blood pumping.
Sonic himself and his friends are still being voiced (Although classic Sonic has no voice and is preferred that way) and it’s just as ridiculous as always. Sonic and his pals will make constant remarks that date backwards to older titles and the hedgehog will even, at times, admit to the absurdity of his own history. While missing some clear jokes about an old rivalry that turned into a partnership, Sonic seems to joke about some of the mishaps that have occurred over the years and does so with a light heart.
Sonic is celebrating his 20th birthday when out of nowhere, a purple looking demon (One eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater?) swoops down and grabs all of Sonic’s friends that he’s acquired over the many years of the series. While some of these characters couldn’t be cared less about (Like Cream the Rabbit or Charmy bee) other, more important characters are taken as well (such as Tails and Knuckles). While doing so, this creature seems to create a problem with time. All of the past environments and events stop and lose color and It’s up to Sonic (both of them) to bring them back to life. In order to do this, it’s posed that the two Sonic’s need to go back through past levels of their life and use their speed to start time back up. While this doesn’t entirely make sense (If Sonic went into a timeless, lifeless level it wouldn’t be moving or in color) it’s a decent basis in order to have a game that stars the original Sonic.
Every achievement is tied to the story, challenges or online trials/records. You’ll probably find yourself unlocking roughly half of these by the time you’ve completed the main story (Which won’t take very long. 3-5 hours max). Doing certain things like restoring each level and beating bosses will earn you points as well as getting good grades on levels and some are even tied to getting through a level within a certain amount of time. Some of these are reminiscent of the achievements you’ll find in Sonic 1,2 or 3 on Xbox Live Arcade and it’s nice to see that there’s a connection, once again, to the classic titles.
With a completion time under 5 hours, this game is short, but you’ll find some reasons to play through levels again. Whether it is in order to replay old levels in a new perspective or play them in an old perspective but with different graphics, you’ll find yourself going back to play levels again. You’ll also find yourself playing through them again when you unlock new upgrades. As you go through the game, you can purchase upgrades such as the ability to stop on a dime, get an added speed boost to get through levels that much faster and the ultimate unlock of being Super Sonic. All of these perks make it more likely that someone will want to go back through each level and try out these different effects to their hearts desire. You also have challenge maps that are the game maps redone in order to add some new obstacles or puzzles for you to solve in a certain amount of time. While it’s not an incredible incentive to keep playing the title, it’ll give the game a little more time to show off what it’s done to the Sonic retro players.
- Old levels breathe new life and new perspectives
- Classic Sonic returns for old school 2D side scrolling
- Hearing old tracks is a treat and hearing them redone is just as entertaining to the ears
- Gets rid of having to bother using Sonic’s other friends
- Achievements aren’t too hard and not too easy
- Lots of customization to change up replay of levels
- Some textures are bland and video cutscenes have bad compression
- Classic Sonic could have used more momentum
- Hearing new tracks done in 16 bit is a failure
- Story doesn’t reel in the player
- Not enough levels for a solid feel for replay value
Sonic Generations is probably the best attempt to bring the blue blur back into good light in recent years. While it still needs some work, it’s one that classic and modern Sonic players should give a shot. While it would have been nice to see more classic levels from titles such as Sonic 3, Sonic Spinball or even Sonic 3D blast, the choices made are clearly more reminiscent of key moments in Sonic’s history, however the inclusion of anything the Sonic the Hedgehog Xbox 360 title could always be questionable. If you’re a fan of classic Sonic titles, this is something that will give you a new found hope that Sega might bring the hedgehog out of the deep pit they’ve dug for him over the past years. If you’re a fan of modern Sonic, you’ll find the same gameplay you’ve gotten accustomed to along with a refreshing new way to look at the way you play the game. Either way, it’s a recommended play for anyone who wants something better from Sonic.