Okay so the time has come, after months and months and months of waiting I finally have played and properly experienced Sonic Generations, so what is my verdict?… It’s bloody awesome!
Sonic Generations happens to be a love letter of a game for fans of the series, highlighting all of Sonic’s big moments in gaming from the early days on the Sega Mega Drive to the here and now on the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s a game that’s full of nostalgia from not only the levels, but also in the cut scenes and use of music in the challenge missions, it’s like looking through an old photo album remembering and celebrating what you love in life, in this case it’s Sonic. The game isn’t perfect however, it has its problems here and there, but there is so much awesomeness in the game, it outweighs the bad by miles and while I can’t say it’s the best Sonic game ever, it makes a pretty damn good effort and I was left smiling.
Now before I go in-depth, let just say that this review is purely based on my impressions of the game after completing it and they are subject to change possible over the next fortnight, plus this is my opinion not only as gamer but as a loyal Sonic fan so don’t be hating, thanks 😀 Alrighty let’s do this thing!
So the story of Sonic Generations is a simple one, one day Sonic and his friends are celebrating his birthday when a mysterious dark entity shows up and creates holes in time, sucking up everybody into different dimensions and tearing time apart. Sonic then finds himself in a white dimension where everything is lifeless and lacking in colour. And so as he travels through the different worlds, he happens to restore colour to those worlds, find his friends along the way and even run into his former self, and eventually discovers who is behind the whole time collapse in the first place.
Overall the story was alright, though there was some questionable voice acting (Amy!), some poor dialogue for characters to say, a general lack of cut scenes and a story not as big as Sonic’s previous two outings (Sonic Unleashed & Sonic Colours). But it’s an interesting and funny little tale that really reflects on the past in a great way and there are several moments of joy and laugher to be found, I did find myself smiling and laughing a lot throughout my playthrough. So in short I believe any Sonic fan shall get a kick out of this.
But enough about the story, what you really want to hear about is gameplay, you want to know how good or bad it is don’t you? Well I can safely day that it’s good, sometimes it’s absolutely amazing and sometimes a tad frustrating, but it really does depend on which Sonic you’re playing as at the time. So what I’m going to do now is describe my opinions of both Sonic’s taking into account, gameplay, handling, level design, music and difficulty.
With Classic Sonic you are getting classic 2D gameplay reinvented with a 3D graphical makeover rendered in HD and the gameplay result is an incredible one. This is Sonic from 1992, from his days in Sonic 2 with a few new features here and there. Playing as Sonic in 2D hasn’t felt this good in like forever, not since the Megadrive days have I felt that true sense of speed you get when you the Spin Dash downhill and feel the momentum carry you along. It’s an amazing feeling realised in this game. Long before this game had come out the most important factor on everybody’s minds was the physics, they had to be solid or this game would fail. Luckily Classic Sonic’s physics are up to scratch, they are miles ahead of Sonic 4 and feel about as close as you’re going to get to the originals in a 3D game format. Everything feels great from jumping, the speed and acceleration, my goodness it’s all just lovely. However the physics aren’t perfect, but they’re as close as we’re going to get for now. Though fans of the Megadrive titles who really played Sonic to death will notice the difference especially when you play Sonic 1 in Generations and see how different the Megadrive version is from its latest incarnation. Also unless you charge the Spin Dash when immobile, when you try to curl up into a ball while running, you are still slower than when you are running at top speed which is still kind of annoying. For me it took some time to adjust to the fact that the Spin Dash was now mapped to one button, but after a while it becomes second nature.
When it comes to level design Classic Sonic is totally in full-effect, his levels are nostalgic, well-crafted and are just a blast to play. The balance between speed and platforming is done well here as well as enemy placement too and thanks to the multiple pathways one can always find different routes and create interesting speed-runs too. Now when it comes to acts in specific obviously Green Hill Zone comes to mind and it really is the best level in the game, it can be played over and over and never get boring. The reworked version of the Chemical Plant Zone kicks ass as well with the look and feel being preserved well and feeling totally similar to the original. But I think Classic Sonic really comes alive when he tackles the Dreamcast and Modern Era levels, with Speed Highway, City Escape and Crisis City being some of the games highlights in my opinion. When it comes to difficulty I think it’s fair to say that it’s your standard Sonic game affair, starts out easy and progresses as you go along, though some levels do have some harsh areas, Sky Sanctuary is a tad unforgiving, Crisis City as much as I like it had me dying a good number of times, the level design of Seaside Hill was very questionable and I wasn’t too keen on it either. But those are just nitpicking points. In the end Classic Sonic works and it kicks so much ass to be playing as him when you find your feet, you feel invincible and I feel that the classic levels sort of outshine the modern ones because they are well-balanced and have a massive nostalgic factor that one can’t ignore.
Now that I’ve talked so much about Classic Sonic, you’re probably expecting me to say that Modern Sonic sucked or was very terrible. While I’m not, its pretty much the opposite, Modern Sonic is incredible and there is a great sense of speed and adrenaline once get when playing as him. Even though a lot of his levels require a lot of boosting and homing attacks, it does pay off as the game has been designed around those factors of speed, platforming and technique and it comes together in a spectacular fashion. When it comes to handling Modern Sonic those who have played Sonic Unleashed will feel right at home here, the same could be said for those who have played Sonic Colours too. The homing attack is tight and responsive (at least 90% of the time), the trick system works like a charm becoming very addictive and blasting around at breakneck speeds in using the boost feels incredibly satisfying. The difficulty of Modern Sonic comes across as fair at times, then switching to being unruly, to then being just downright unfair.
If you’re not too careful, towards the latter half of the levels (mainly in the Modern Era) is where things start to become frustrating very fast and then its cruel death after cruel death. Though if you choose to persevere and refine your skills then the levels do become a blast to play. When it comes to level design Modern Sonic’s levels have platforming sections that feel well put together, better enemy placement and has a good sense of speed too. And depending on what moves you use during levels you can chain them together and move through levels faster while looking cool at the same time. However the later levels in the game are very questionable in content and they suffer from some familiar problems that Sonic has faced in Sonic Unleashed, Colours and the Rush games like bad enemy placement, questionable platforming areas, strange level design and the all too common pitfalls. The places I had issues in were a little bit of Seaside Hill and more so with Crisis City, Rooftop Run and Planet Wisp (funny how I liked the latter two levels before in their previous games and now not so much in Generations.). They were just lengthy, unforgiving and left little room for error and its surprising how Sonic Colours seemed to write some of the wrongs in the gameplay department and yet this game felt like a step backwards, probably due to lack of innovation or inventive gameplay. The best levels with Modern Sonic are easily Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Speed Highway and City Escape.
Now in the game both Sonic’s will have to fight main bosses from their pasts, some of which is fun and some of which is confusing and hard to figure out. But the one thing that all of these bosses share in common is their length… The battles are too damn short, hit them around 4 or 5 times and bang! It’s over and you’re left thinking “Is that it?” Yes, all bosses in this game once you figure out how to beat them can be destroyed in a matter of minutes in a very anti-climactic way. Plus none of them offer any real challenge as they all have a simple method of destruction. However the last boss in the game I have to say is one of the worst bosses in Sonic history, it is long, tedious and a right pain in the ass.
Now when it comes to presentation Sonic Generations definitely doesn’t disappoint there. Graphically speaking the game looks wonderful, its sharp, colourful and just oozing with character and charm. The game’s graphical highlights is seeing all of the classic Megadrive levels redesigned and updated, they feel so alive and there are so many nods to the past and little intricate details in the foreground and background taken into consideration when looking at stages like Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone and especially Sky Sanctuary. The Dreamcast levels also look fabulous in this game with Speed Highway and City Escape looking amazing and brimming with life and nostalgia. And to be honest I’ve always wanted a HD remake of City Escape and the end result in Sonic Generations made me so happy when it got announced and playing it brought all my memories flooding back. While I haven’t been able to check out the game in a HD format, it still looks great in standard definition. One a whole the game looks pretty good, however I don’t feel the game looked as great as it could have, there’s none of the pre-rendered cut scenes to enjoy like in Sonic Unleashed or Colours or the ones used for the advertising campaign preceding this game’s release. I also feel like the production values were a lot highly in Sonic Unleashed too. It’s not too much of an issue but one does have to question why the visual production of Generations hadn’t been pushed all the way to the max for the 20th anniversary Sonic game.
But what’s probably even more impressive is the audio; the soundtrack of Sonic Generations is completely jam-packed with Sonic music from nearly every corner of Sonic’s library. If you’ve been keeping up with Sonic Generations since its conception then you would have heard the epic remix of Green Hill Zone, if you haven’t then I have to ask why not? The music from all nine levels have been remixed and updated for this game, when it comes to my favourite song I’d have to say the modern versions of Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Sky Sanctuary and Crisis City take the cake. When I started getting into this game and heard songs from challenge stages I so surprised at all the songs I heard, so many songs you collect from the along the way your eyes will be filled with nostalgia. The Sonic tunes in this game show up from nearly every Sonic game in existence, from spin-offs you’d never expect to hear like Sonic Advance 2 and Sonic Battle, to Sonic R and some surprising songs from Sonic 3 and Sonic 06. All of these songs are just filled with memorabilia for the fans.
So now it comes to the longevity of the game and for me it’s good but not nearly enough. At the time of writing this review I had played the game for a round 11 hours straight and I had completed the main game and done half of the challenge missions. There are 9 levels each made up of 2 acts, along with I think around 5 main bosses and loads of challenge acts to do as well which is pretty good, but I found myself a little underwhelmed once I started to plough through the game. Now don’t get me wrong there is a lot of stuff to do and collect in Sonic Generations and it is a lot of it is fun, however some of the challenge missions come across as tedious, cheap additions that the developers put in without proper care. And I feel a lot of this stuff could have been left out in place of a possible multiplayer component or something more worthwhile like the Chao Gardens from the Sonic Adventure games. And considering how hard some of the later levels can get some of these challenges do become very cruel and frustrating. Most of them you’ll just want to get through so you’ll never have to do it again. It’s strange, in some ways Generations feels like it’s missing something, this game feels so small, I guess when you take the challenge acts out of play you are left a pretty small Sonic experience. Now this may sound strange but I feel like the last two Sonic games (Unleashed & Colours) felt a lot bigger as an overall package than Generations. I guess without some fancy, innovative gameplay or proper additional acts or gimmicks like in Colours, Generations feels just feels a little empty. It’s still good but still lacking in some ways. I think it’s the lack of a Chao Garden.
So in conclusion Sonic Generations is still a pretty damn good game, it met and exceeded my expectations in a lot of places and had many surprises here and there for me to enjoy. However it’s still not the game that’ll replace my love for Sonic 2 or Sonic Adventure 2 Battle. It’s got the gameplay down, but some of the later level design is off, challenge missions are more a chore than they are fun, boss battle are too short and the last boss in the game is the worst one in the history of Sonic. But all those nit-picking points aside, the game is still a blast to play; I replayed so many stages over and over trying to discover more routes and get faster times or get more music. Sonic Generations may not be perfect, but it’s pretty damn close, for true blue Sonic fans this game is a must.