Sonic recently celebrated his big 25th Birthday and what better way to celebrate it then going back to the game many highly regard; Sonic Generations. This title blends the Sonic of new and old into a package that pushes quality, past memories and a return to a style of level design not seen since the days on the Genesis & SEGA Dreamcast.
Does the game accomplish its goal of being the grand celebration of the Sonic series, or does it falter in many areas?
Taking place after the events of a Sonic title called Sonic Colo(u)rs, Sonic and friends are celebrating the Blue Blur’s birthday with cakes, chilly dogs and more. But a purple creature pops up and sucks all of Sonic’s friends into portals, with it knocking Sonic out cold. While this is happening, we have Sonic of old running through Green Hill Zone and right before is black eyes, the creature sucks up Green Hill Zone too.
Older Sonic wakes up in a white void and enters a washed-out Green Hill to see what is going on. From this point onward, the story kinda ‘dies’ in some respects. It has some moments here and their, like the ending cut-scene before the final boss and a nice little joke when you clear Chemical Plant but the plot is literly an excuse to revisit older Sonic zones again and nothing more.
The sad part is that they could of done more with the jokes, as they could have touched upon many jokes, references and more within the story itself but sadly this concept is dropped after clearing Chemical Plant.
But you can’t be mad at a simple story if the rest of the package is done well, so lets look at the gameplay next.
Gameplay – Classic Sonic The Hedgehog
I’m going to be splitting up the Classic and Modern versions of Sonic into unique sections with their own score, as they are different games in many respects due to both feeling & controlling very different from one another.
Classic Sonic has all the abilities you would expect him to have from his Genesis days, being able to spin-dash at fast speeds, roll down hills, run super fast and curl up into a ball when jumping in the air. What makes his gameplay so rewarding is that the level design for his levels is ripped from the Classic Era.
What I mean, is that Classic Sonic’s levels are designed like a Sonic 3 level or a Sonic CD level; three tiers of paths to take all with unique rewards and goodies for the potbelly hedgehog to collect. This makes his levels very replayable and you will always find new things to see and do.
The ‘visual flare’ from the 3D games is present here too, but in clever ways. You have set-pieces in levels like Crisis City or Rooftop Run Classic that open up fun platforming challenges to tackle for Classic Sonic, making the levels have a dynamic feeling to them.
So, with all of this great praise, I must have no issue with Classic Sonic’s gameplay, right? I do and its from its controls feeling ‘off’ compared to the source material. Sonic had a special feel to him in the Genesis games, with the ability to roll being useful for gaining speed and his movement feeling ‘instant’. In Generations, Sonic has his momentum when running and jumping, but his rolling is useless compared to the Genesis games and he feels heavier as well.
Both Sonic’s have the ability to buy items in a shop with points earned after beating zones, but Classic is special in this regard; you can buy the Elemental Shields from Sonic 3 & Knuckles once you complete different missions in each Era. Once you complete a mission, you can equip them via shop purchase and they work exactly like the Genesis games; you press jump again in the air to activate them for a double jump (Elec), bounce (Water) or dash forward in the air (Fire).
Overall, the controls was easy to adapt to, but for those expecting Sonic in the Classic Levels to be 1-to-1 like the Genesis games, that is not the case. Classic Sonic is a joy to play as and despite my early issues with his controls, I swiftly got use to them.
Gameplay – Modern Sonic the Hedgehog
Modern Sonic is what you would expect after past titles like Sonic Unleashed or Sonic Colors; high speed platforming while you bounce from 2.5D too 3D at various points during the level. Sonic has a lot of control options, with ever face button doing something different; jumping/homing attack (lock-on to foes and homing in on them), boosting (running into objects at high speed and not getting harmed), sliding (to attack foes or to get under tight spots) and light speed dashing (specific glowing rings allow you to fly across them when pressing Y/Triangle). The shoulder buttons do different things too, with the bumpers giving you the ability to turn sharp corners with the Sonic Drift and the trigger buttons to swiftly dash left or right.
Sonic moves at the forward direction of the analog stick but at every angle, the controls have multiple actions mapped to different buttons and Modern’s physics are great here. In addition to some smart fixes to issues in other 3D Sonic’s, such as the drifting acting like a power slide in a Kart Racer now compared to how loose it was in Unleashed, you also have level design that understands how Sonic should work in 3D.
Sonic Adventure and Sonic Heroes came close to this, with levels that were either using the physics engine to great use or level designs that were built similarly to how the Genesis games worked. But Generations gets that balance of Speed and Platforming in 3D Sonic that some felt was lacking in the 3D titles in a long time.
Sky Sanctuary Modern and Seaside Hill Modern all have large open places to platform but also have many paths to take and some great set pieces sprinkled about. Seaside Hill Modern is a massive level, with the middle section of the stage having two completely unique layouts depending on when you go through a loop; you either have a small go-kart section or platform over a sea of moving turtles.
The only issue I have with the Modern Stages is that you have no camera control and that Sonic can be a bit stiff to control sometimes. Otherwise, Modern Sonic’s levels are are a blast to run through and are some of the best 3D Sonic gameplay in the series.
Sonic Generations offers a lot of content, as once you complete three levels per Era, you can access various side missions for each zone for the two Sonic’s. They have some similarities (time attack) but some missions are completely unique having mechanics not in the main game. One example of this is a Classic Sonic mission in Chemical Plant where you can use Classic Tails to fly like in Sonic 2 over a massive bottomless pit. It is not used in anything else but this spot though, so its a fun one-off mission. Each zone has 10 missions and that equals 90 missions to complete in addition to the two main acts and one rival & boss fight for each Era.
The main game can be beaten in a few hours (2-3) if you just rush though it but if you take your time to complete every mission and collect every unlockable music track (which can be played in any of the main levels and bosses), art work and more, you can extend the game length by 3-4 hours.
Presentation & Performance
The game runs at a very stable 30FPS on both PS3 and Xbox 360 but the PC version supports 60FPS and higher quality visuals. But all HD versions of the game look fantastic, with amazing art work that honors the series across the ages.
Chemical Plant looks like the Genesis original but in HD, Crisis City looks like it was ripped out of 06 but it has a sharper look and color to it all, Rooftoop Run is having a party to celebrate the events post Sonic Unleashed, and more. Little details also stand out, like the Sonic’s waiting animations when you are still, little signs and posters of other Sonic characters in zones and even the smallest details only fans can pick up on will make you smile. The game is a work of art visually and one of the best games visually of its generation.
Musically, Sonic music has always been strong. Catchy beats and melodies flooding our ear drums from City Escape too Green Hill Zone. This continues with Generations with some high quality remixes of a number of tracks throughout the series. The new versions of Crisis City, Sky Sanctuary and City Escape have to be noted for example.
Overall, the game visually and musically is all around fantastic with no bugs or glitches getting in the way.
Story: 4 out of 5 / Gameplay (Classic): 4.5 out of 5 / Gameplay (Modern): 4.5 out of 5 / Replay Value: 5 out of 5 / Presentation & Performance: 4.5 out of 5
Sonic Generations is one of the best games in the series, honoring many of its past settings with breathtaking visuals, high amounts of replay value, and some of the strongest gameplay & level designs in the series. Outside of some control quarks you might need to overcome if you are too used to the Genesis games, you will have a great time with this title. I highly recommend you give Sonic Generations a shot and have a great time celebrating the Blue Blur’s 25th Birthday through this title.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
You can play this on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC via Steam. You can also play this game through Sony’s PlayStation Now Program on Vita/PS3/PS4 but it has input lag (responsiveness issues) depending your internet connection speed. The game also released on the Nintendo 3DS but it is a completely different title we will be reviewing at another time.