Sonic and the Generation Divide

Gamers of a certain age are about to feel really old.
Sonic the Hedgehog came out 20 years ago.
And now, 20 years later, Sonic Generations attempts to rekindle the magic of those early days, and celebrate the evolution of Sonic since his inception.
Where two Sonics, Classic and Modern, battle through the best of the past 20 years of Sonic games.

To those who are not Sonic fans, you may be wondering why they felt the need to have two Sonics at all.

While there is the obvious divide of 2D sonic and 3D sonic and their differing abilities, there’s a deeper divide in the Sonic Community which has led to this rather intriguing gameplay decision. Indulge me for a bit while I explain my view on it.

I was but a wee babby when I got a Megadrive for my Christmas, and witnessed the awesomeness of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Okay, I was a little late to the party, and back in 1991 I was 6, and playing Super Mario Bros 3 on my NES. Even so, Sonic 2 kindled a life long love of that furry little ball of spinning… fur.

I got the rest of the games, I watched the Cartoons, I bought the comics. I covered my guitar case in Sonic the Hedgehog stickers. I ran around beating people up pretending I was Super Sonic. Honestly though, charging head first at people screaming ‘POWWARR’ wasn’t a good fighting style, I should have done what the rest of my peers did and copied Power Rangers since I kept getting my arse handed to me by wannabe ninjas.
Having played Sonic 3 & Knuckles to death, you can safely say that I am a classic Sonic lover.

I also adore the Advance series that continued the 2D trend.
And, predictably, I wasn’t terribly blown away by Sonic Adventure.

I never owned a Dreamcast, so I only got Sonic Adventure DX on the PC in 2003. By this time I was 18, and at University. It had been a fun game for the most part. Some of the hub stages were rather frustratingly badly designed, some of the game modes were rather lacklustre (the less said about Amy or Big the Cat’s stages the better), somewhere along the line Sega found out about Rock and Roll, and rather than hire Michael Jackson (like they wanted to do for Sonic 3) they went and discovered Busted, about 5 years before they formed, and got them to make terrible soft rock melodies. On top of that, the voice acting was horrible.

It was mostly Tails and Amy that grated the most, speaking in frequencies that only dogs should be able to hear, but I persevered through these, and had great fun playing what was, for the most part, a competent and rewarding game.

Sonic Adventure 2, however, was the last Modern Sonic game I played. And no, it wasn’t the introduction of Shadow and all his angsty glory that put me off. I thought he was a rather well done antagonist. Gameplay wise, Sega actually listened to their fans and stripped out all the terrible gameplay modes and left us with a core set of 3. Sonic’s speed, Tails’ walker machine and Knuckles diggy diggy Echidna levels. Okay, Knuckles’ diggy-diggy Echidna levels were boring as sin, and Tails’ levels were linear and frustrating, but atleast it wasn’t Frog Fishing with Big the Cat, or Run-the-fuck-away-from-the-robot with Amy.

But what really put me off was the music.
They took the soft rock stylings of Sonic Adventure and Let. The. Band. Sing.
“Rolling around, at the speed of sound,
Got places to go, gotta follow my rainbow.“

Can you feel the sickly sweet coma-inducing saccharine?
Follow that up with some faux gangsta rap for Knuckles and you’ve got a game that’s trying very hard to be ‘hip’ and falling flat on it’s face. Like your dad dancing to Beyoncé, it’s creepy, it’s weird and it just doesn’t feel right.

This is where the Sonic Divide was created. In the crucible of the treble cleft. It set the feel of the game far beyond the story, the characters and controls ever did.
By then however, a new generation of players were beginning to play Sonic. Who had no idea of the old games, or if they did, dismissed them as relics of a bygone era, like black and white film, Disco music, or communism.

They enjoyed what I enjoyed in Sonic Adventure, and either loved Sonic Adventure 2, or manged to ignore its flaws. They had good fun with Heroes (from what I understand, a mediocre but competent game that introduced a few cool new things, but which I never played), glossed over the chronic bugs in Sonic 2006 and by the time Unleashed came out were moulded into a separate breed of entitled fanboy from Classic era’s entitled fanboys, so much so that really the only thing both generations could agree on was that the Werehog levels in Unleashed were terrible, and that the Daytime stages were excellent.
Again, having never played Unleashed I can’t comment on it first hand, but the consensus from fans lead directly to Sonic Colours, the first 3D Sonic game in a decade that tempted me to buy it, but for one problem. I didn’t own a Wii.

Sonic Colours. A Sonic game with one playable character, with multiple powerups giving Sonic various special moves, balancing speed, platforming and puzzle solving. It stripped out the fat that plagued the earlier 3D outings and streamlined what we all wanted from a Sonic game: Sonic.

It sounded so good it actually tempted me into buying a Wii just to play it. But guess what. They announced Sonic Generations was coming, and it was coming on PC. They announced it would have both kinds of Sonic, and that gameplay from every main series sonic game would be present.

And here, in the present day, we come full circle. I’ve played Generations from start to finish, and can say that I undoubtedly had fun. A full review of that will be forthcoming, but let me say this:
Sonic Generations manages to make “Got places to go, gotta follow my rainbow.” sound cool.

Or maybe it’s just a sign that I’m at that age where I shouldn’t be dancing to Beyoncé.

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