Sonic has been the target of a lot of criticism over the last decade or so with lack luster games, pathetic story and bad gameplay decisions. Not to say that all Sonic games since the Dreamcast have been terrible but there hasn’t been a stand out. Sonic Generations is Sega’s love letter to the fans by bringing old and new Sonic together. Is this the game we’ve been waiting for? A little bit.
It’s Sonic’s birthday and he and his friends are celebrating with chili dogs. They are promptly attacked by the Time Eater and captures Sonic’s friends. He wakes up in a white void and runs into his younger self. The two of them have to visit locations from their past in order to save their friends and restore time and space.
Sonic Generations’ gameplay is divided between classic and modern. The game is divided into three eras each containing one stage from the main console games. The first era Sonic 1, 2 and Knuckles. The second era Sonic Adventure 1, 2 and Heroes. The third era Sonic the Hedgehog, Unleashed and Colors. Each era has two iconic bosses from the games. The Sonics have an Act of their own in each level needed to progress. The white void is a hub to levels, bosses, challenges etc. You can to purchase skills to give Sonics improved abilities or give you an edge for various situations. Each stage has 5 red rings to collect often hidden in the difficult to reach optimal routes.
Classic Sonic’s Act 1 stages are 2D side scrollers but you move in a 3D space. This style has been done in Sonic Rivals where the environment will move around you moving forward. Sonic controls how he did in Sonic 2 and with skills you can equip new and old abilities like the homing attack or the elemental shields. The most significant change is that you can perform a spin dash without crouching. This doesn’t sound like much but it allows you to spin dash without a full stop and retain momentum.
Modern Sonic’s Act 2 stages plays how he did in Sonic Colors which felt like a roller coaster ride. Sonic can perform homing attacks, wall jumps, slides, light speed dashes, stomps and boosts. The 3D Acts are fun but difficult to master. Utilizing Sonic’s skills you will have to make tricky jumps and be aware of your surroundings to take advantage or optimal routes and collect red rings. Act 2 stages have 2D sections where you can use modern Sonic’s abilities. 3D Sonic controls well but there’s difficulty in running straight which is alleviated by pressing the shoulder buttons to changes lanes on a straight away.
The style of Sonic games are cartoony so there’s a limit to what can be done to the cast and the environment. Sonics and the levels don’t look bad but they’re not amazing either. What Generations does is make them look good moving at top speed. The camera shifts around Sonic focusing on everything around you but not distracting you enough so that can avoid any danger. The 2D levels are impressive not because the graphics but because it’s in a 3D space. You can have enemies and routes visible in the foreground and background that you could reach taking different routes. You can also see different parts of a level on different angles and heights that look nice.
The music is composed of classic themes and remixed tracks from most of the Sonic games. The remixes are modernised in rock and techno forms. Many of the remixes sound great and puts you in the mood while playing levels. There are 50 unlockable tracks and you can edit which song you want playing as the background music. The hub also has very nice music that changes when standing in front of each stage.
If you have played the Sonic games associated with levels in Sonic Generations then there probably will be a smile on your face. If not then you will be introduced to fun and impressive levels. Even though the levels are based off of old designs they are quite different while still feeling familiar taking key elements from the levels. More variety in stages would have been welcome as several stages take place in cities but regardless they all play differently.
Sonic games lives or dies off of level design and Generations does impress. What made Sonic games great was the potential to go fast when the level would slow you down. Enemies, spikes and the level itself would try to stop but with foresight and creativity you can breeze through sections of a level in seconds where taking your time would take much longer. Sonic Team gets that and remembers that enemies are supposed to be threatening not just springboards. My fondest memories of Sonic were the times I would run full speed in to spikes or enemies because even though it felt like the game was dicking with me it was still fun.
The Act 1 2D stages are well done and a step up from Sonic 4 and even the Advance and Rush series. Sonic Team has taken Classic Sonic and the best parts of the levels from the 2D and 3D Sonics and wrapped them into a neat little package. There are alternate paths and enemies which you can bounce off of to get to higher places or avoid difficult games or sections. Generations makes it clear on how to reach most of these places and it’s enjoyable takes some time and figure out new and efficient routes.
The Act 2 3D stages are an improvement from Sonic Colors which had several long sections of on rails running, touchy physics and frustrating level design. Not everyone is a fan of 3D Sonic games playing Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 I know that it can work. Adventure 1’s levels were huge and easy to find shortcuts. Adventure 2’s levels were straight forward but were action packed. Recent 3D Sonics have been more focused on the spectacle rather than levels. Generations has spectacle but there’s less focusing more on the level and the action. The 2D sections are fun but half the game is dedicated to 2D so the 3D feels cheated. Sonic Team taken the opportunity to experiment or improve on the 3D but it’s a lost opportunity.
I’ve been a Sonic fan as long as I can remember but Sega hasn’t made it easy for fans to be excited. Sonic Generations is a step in the right direction but it’s a short game that you can beat in one or two casual sittings if you don’t get distracted. For a next-gen game that is unacceptable. There are 18 Acts and 7 Bosses required to beat the game. Compared to the Genesis Sonics they’re hitting the average. There are also 90 challenge stages, red rings to collect that adds a lot of replay value. If you don’t care for those then other than online rankings there’s not much for you. Sonic Team could have easily doubled the content if they took two stages per game. There is a DLC level of Casino Night Zone coming soon and I hope that Sega supports releases several because Sonic Generations is a very fun game that deserves more.