Sonic Generations is a game that attempts to please all types of Sonic fans, Past and Present, with not one, but TWO playable Sonic characters. Both the classic Megadrive sonic and the modern 3D sonic, travelling through time, revisiting past glories and revising old failures.
I like this game, both Modern and Classic Sonics play really well, the remixed levels are a joy for the most part and while the whole cast of characters are back, they get very little screen time and they’ve actually hired some decent voice actors this time!
One problem rears itself right at the start. They’ve introduced a Skill shop to give both sonics some extra bonuses. However, this contains atleast two powers that are required to make Classic Sonic behave as I remember him.
It’s a strange decision, honestly, not giving you them at the start, since you can buy them the first time you enter the hub world. I understand why these things are skills, since you can swap them out for other abilities if you feel you don’t need them, and because you can’t have them and activate the Super Sonic skill, meaning you have to gimp normal Sonic in order to be able to transform in normal levels.
Otherwise, Classic Sonic plays quite well. It’s not quite as seamless as the old Megadrive games, but it’s close.
Modern Sonic plays like he does in Sonic Colours, with the boost and homing attacks working really well in the 2D side-scrolling segments and the normal 3D segments alike, and is overall a very enjoyable, if easy, experience.
The boss fights in particular are very easy. Perfect Chaos, for one, was really just a series of linear platforms, and a quick-time event. Press X to Win. Once I’d gotten past him I began to feel that the game was lacking any real difficulty. Indeed, some of the special trial missions felt a bit patronising. There’s a Green Hill race against Knuckles that, even if royally screw up (like I did the first time) Knuckles waits at the end for you to catch up, and when I say wait, I mean, glide through the air with all the horizontal speed of a snail with a Zimmerframe, all the while doing barrel rolls.
Then I hit Crisis City, the level from the buggy, ham fisted mess of a game, Sonic the Hedgehog from 2006. Not that it was buggy, the modern Sonic version was as slick, streamlined and fun, even if it did have a load more instant-death pits than the rest of the levels. The Classic version however was boring, it’s layout uninspired, it’s obstacles frustrating, unforgiving and, like the modern version, arbitrary in it’s bottomless pit placement. A random difficulty spike and exercise in futility. Otherwise the game is relatively easy to complete. Crisis City was my only real stumbling block, and very little else required me to do it more than twice.
To say Sonic Generations is too easy is a bit harsh. Yes it’s easy, but there are hard mode bosses and challenges for those who want them. For me though, Sonic has never been about difficulty. It came from an era that would define the term “Nintendo Hard” as something utterly unforgiving (I’m looking at you, Battletoads), yet sonic bucked the trend by making something enjoyable that was hard because it was new, not through some punishing combination of sadistic programmers and poor level design. Sonic stood out for it’s speed, it’s music and it’s wonderfully themed environments.
While the first two of these are present in Sonic Generations, they have a real thing for city-themed zones. Crisis City, Speed Highway, City Escape and Rooftop Run, leaving only 5 non-city themed zones, three of which are ‘green’ zones, Seaside Hill, Planet Wisp and the quintessential Green Hill, with Chemical Plant and Sky Sanctuary being the only two without a shared theme, and even then, parts of Planet Wisp can be considered to share Chemical Plants “Factory” setting.
Maybe I’m being picky, each zone does stand out as unique despite similar theming, and there’s more than one environment in some of the zones, as I mentioned with Planet Wisp.
Most levels are well designed, having multiple paths and hidden secrets. The branching paths, even in the 2D sections, have a tendency to tease you with what you missed by either showing it in the background of shot, or by bringing you tantalisingly close to that Red Star Unlockable but ultimately denying it. Each zone has it’s own gimmick, normally relating to the game it was released for. Planet Wisp has two kinds of Wisps (Spikes and Rocket), City Escape has the skateboard/snowboard, and even Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes has everything in groups of three, like rails, booster rings and springs, an allusion to the fact the course was intended to be done with three characters.
It’s not only the art and level design that sets these zones apart though, there’s all that lovely remixed music too.
Sonic’s had a lot of really bad music, starting, really, with Sonic Adventure 2. Which insisted that everything have lyrics. Leading to such crimes as Knuckles’ faux Gangsta rap, Shadows Angsty Emo Punk nonsense and the ultra-soft cheery sub-J-pop sweet-fest that was the City Escape theme. God did that make me cringe when I first heard it. I was embarrassed to be playing the game with that song on.
Surprisingly, both remixes of City Escape are a marked improvement, and I can actually say the Classic City Escape theme is really starting to grow on me. Who’d have thought that Endless Mine – an also-ran in Sonic 3’s time attack stages – could combine with that monstrosity to become something fun and energetic. Sure, the lyrics haven’t changed, but the melody has infused it with a bizzare power. It’s still generic, coma-inducing bubblegum pop, but damn it’s catchy now.
There’s also the Hub level’s various remixes. Most of which are string and flute renditions. They’ve really outdone themselves with the music in this game.
Overall It’s a solid game. It’s a fun game. It’s by no means perfect, but what is? It’s a celebration of Sonic’s ups and downs over the last two decades and it’s done a fantastic job of it. It even made me hate Sonic 2006, despite never having played it. And what better reflection on Sonics history is there than that?
This is a very good game. Easy? yes, stylish? definitely, fun? Absolutely.
Oh, and don’t play it with a keyboard. Use a Gamepad.
You can buy it now for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and on PC through Steam. It’s honestly worth it.
One final note. I remember when I first saw Sonic the Hedgehog. It was a preview of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Bad Influence. I remember being blown away by the 3D special stage they revealed over the closing credits. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bRQ_Y_gYW8#t=8m35) God I feel old.