Sonic is back and this time, there's two of him. Sonic Generations uses crazy time distortion to take a trip down memory lane with the original 16-bit-era Sonic and the newer, spike-haired 3D version to create an immense trip through Sonic lore.
- Incredibly creative, roller-coaster level designs
- Old-school design philosophy generally works well
- Both Sonics are different enough to be interesting
- Tons of challenge
- Levels are an odd rehash of earlier titles;
- Controls not always responsive
- Occasionally high frustration factor
Sonic Generations Review
Once, the name Sonic was synonymous with the success of Sega. The little blue fur ball of speed was the only mascot that ever came close to trumping Mario, and provided the 16-bit generation with some of the craziest, most creative, and fastest side-scrolling gameplay ever seen. Sadly, past the original Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, Sonic (much like Sega) has fallen mightily in the 3D era. So, it should come as no small relief for fans that Sonic Generations is, finally, actually good.
It’s Two Sonics in One!
Adding an in-depth storyline and voice to Sonic were arguably two of the worst things that happened to the character. Sonic worked fantastically as a silent 2D icon because of the speed of the game play and creativity of the crazy worlds he ran through. Sonic Generations carries forward the 3D-era tradition of having a convoluted story line full of characters, situations, and dialogue that would feel right at home on a bad Saturday morning cartoon.
It seems some evil dark-cloud creature is messing about with time and has managed to suck up an array of Sonic’s past adventures and worlds into a strange, colorless plain. On Sonic’s birthday, this creature kidnaps all his buddies as well, and it soon becomes clear that he’s brought forth not just the modern, more punkish Sonic, but the original, rounder, and shorter 16-bit Sonic. Thankfully, once all the set up is out of the way, the game actually makes good use of two Sonics.
Each segment of the game is divided up into three distinct two-act areas, a boss round, and an array of challenge levels. Act one is all about old-school Sonic. These side-scrolling wonderlands play out like Sonic in his 16-bit heyday and offer a mix of speedy action, frustration, and exploration, although the latter is the most impressive aspect. Should Sonic miss a jump or path, the level inevitably offers a previously unknown section to traverse.
A Two-Act Play
Granted, there are plenty of spots with instant-death jumps, but this focus on providing such a huge area to explore is one of the great joys of the game. Getting all the rings on a level really isn’t even an option, as back tracking is so limited. The gorgeously updated visuals don’t hurt either, and the overall level design is a solid combination of acrobatic daring-do and fun-to-watch roller-coaster rides as Sonic races over collapsing platforms, rail grinds, and loop-to-loops through 3D environments while still sticking to 2D action.
The second act of a world takes players into the 3D world of Sonic, increasing the feeling of roller coaster madness, though each of these levels also flips the perspective between behind-Sonic 3D gameplay and mostly 2D side-scrolling. The 2D sections of each level are sometimes maddening because Sonic can still move in 3D, which can make for some frustrating missed jumps among other issues.
Jumping frequently feels oddly unresponsive in both styles of game play. There are times when the game just seems to fail to respond to a button press or over responds—the latter is further aggravated by new-Sonic’s homing attack, which is usually workable, but at times annoyingly inaccurate. The problem rears its ugly head enough to add frustration, but not enough to make the game unenjoyable.
Déjà Vu all Over Again
Another oddity of the design is the fact that every world is rehashed from a previous Sonic game. The levels are well-designed and visually spectacular, but players who have followed past games—from the original up to the recent Wii versions—might not appreciate just how much has been reused. It’s great to re-experience Green Hills in 3D, but treading through a level from Sonic Colors doesn’t have quite the same nostalgic effect.
Challenge levels open once all six acts in each area have been completed. The goal for these levels is usually to beat a doppelganger in a race or simply reach the goal before time ends, though some involve challenging or teaming up with the other characters. Each challenge door has an act one and two challenge, but it’s only required to beat one per world to access that world’s boss key. These levels can be a bear to beat, so it’s a welcome gesture to not be required to complete all of them.
The four boss battles are clever, but enunciate just how hard fine steering is in the 3D chase view. The controls aren’t responsive enough to suddenly change course to do things like gather much-needed rings and the battles frequently become frustrating for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully, boss battles are only a small fraction of the game.
Bridging the Gap
Sonic Generations certainly isn’t the perfect Sonic game. The controls have some nagging issues and the levels aren’t exactly original. Despite such complaints, the game hits the high points of what made Sonic so great in the first place. The level design is frequently amazingly, with terrific visuals, and the game is, ultimately, a lot of fun. Sonic still works better in 2D, but both styles mesh well here. For fans waiting for some kind of return to greatness, this is the best Sonic in years.