Sonic Generations could use some more Sonic Unleashed.

What I'm about to say might get me kicked out of the Cool Kids Club, but here goes. I love Sonic games. Not just the 2D platformers from when I was a kid. I mean, I've consistently enjoyed the series from 1991 until today. Sure, there have been missteps along the way, but I appreciate Sonic Team's efforts most of the time. Each major Sonic release is markedly different from the last, and even when it doesn't work, I respect the hell out of them for trying. It's an interesting contrast to the trends of today's game industry, where being “safe” is more important than trying new things. Sonic Team gets an idea, does it, and even if it doesn't hit, bless them for trying.

3D Sonic games have been steadily increasing in quality over the past few years. Sonic Unleashed was a thrilling, blisteringly fast game with the addition of the Boost mechanic. I remember playing that game for the first time and being blown away because it was the fastest Sonic has EVER been. On the flipside of that were the Night stages, less well received by the general public but enjoyed by a few (me plus maybe...three other people?). The night stages were basically God of War with deeper combat mechanics and better level design, but I can admit that they suffered from being too long and committing the unforgivable sin of cutting into BLARING COMBAT MUSIC every time you got into a fight.

Seriously, guys. I'm trying to enjoy the smooth jazz here.

Sonic Unleashed was pretty enjoyable and contained mostly 3D, behind-the-back gameplay as Sonic. There were 2D stages built in for fans of the older games, and the perspective during Day stages would often switch to 2D, but those sections complimented the game. I appreciated the fact that there was a GOOD 3D Sonic platformer again.

Sonic Colors on Wii followed that a few years later. While it was heralded as the “best 3D Sonic game” by quite a few people, I hesitate to agree with that sentiment. The fact is that the majority of this game is 2D. Sometimes 2.5D. But you are not spending the majority of it in the behind-the-back 3D style that Sonic Unleashed, and previous games like Sonic Heroes and the Adventure series did. Don't get me wrong here, it's still a fine game. I just would have preferred if they used their improved 3D gameplay as opposed to mostly ignoring it.

The 3D sections are really well designed in Colors, better than Unleashed even. They lack the cheap death traps and occasional control awkwardness of Unleashed and added multiple paths...but they're incredibly short, often a few seconds long. If Unleashed was 80 percent 3D and 20 percent 2D, I'd say the ratio in Colors is exactly opposite.

I was a bit disappointed by this. The 3D platforming is so good! Why have so little of it? I actually felt like for the first time, Sonic Team was playing it a bit too safe. They know people will always love the 2D Sonic games, so they stuck to that closely to avoid offending lapsed fans.

Then, they came up with something that looked like it could be the best of both worlds.

Sonic Generations is a tribute to the entire franchise that embraces both styles of Sonic gameplay. Modern Sonic has the Boost-happy 3D sections in the style of Unleashed/Colors, and Classic Sonic has the style of the 2D Sonic platformers I grew up with.

Sonic Generations is better than Colors and Unleashed, undoubtedly. The little control kinks from Unleashed are totally gone, the occasionally awkward to control Wisps from Colors have been mostly removed, and they even introduced some old gameplay mechanics that haven't been in Sonic games in a LONG time (Electric Shield!)

Still, I think they could have done more with it. I want to point out a couple of specific areas where Unleashed beats Generations, because I'm enough of a crazy fanboy to nitpick one of my favorite platforming games ever. Generations is fantastic, but they could have had a classic on their hands if they took a few cues from Unleashed.

1. Unleashed has better hub worlds.

One thing I really enjoyed about Sonic Unleashed were the towns you'd visit between levels.

These hub worlds are pretty small, but full of life. The personality comes from the villagers that you can speak to. They'll send you on sidequests or comment on the plot with some short speech bubbles. It's mostly optional to speak to them, but they add a lot of flavor to the game. I especially enjoyed how the dialogue of each character would consistently change throughout the game, based on how far you progressed the plot, or if Sonic was in Werehog or Hedgehog form. I ended up speaking to people a lot more than I thought just to see how much unique dialogue there is.

The hub world in Sonic Generations is...not as good. The White Space is a mostly empty level select where you can just go left to right. At the far left is the space for collectibles and the power-up store. Sure, you “unlock” Sonic's friends as you go along, but they don't have much to say. They have a few canned quips to repeat, mostly tips about the stage they are standing in front of. But they have much less dialogue than the citizens of Unleashed, and it's not nearly as clever. One thing I found out recently is that they'll have one piece of dialogue if you do a cooperative sidequest and talk to them immediately afterward...but only if you finish it and go talk to them RIGHT NOW. Why couldn't they add that little speech bubble to their repertoire permanently? Why is Classic Tails a character but not Classic Knuckles, or Classic Amy? It's little touches like this that make the hub in Generations not feel as lively as it could.

Also, the sidequest gates are occasionally difficult to get to, forcing you to switch between Sonics on the fly to make it easier. It's not great.

2. Unleashed has better music.

Sonic Generations has a fantastic soundtrack. I remember hearing the modern remix of “City Escape” and completely nerding out. It's a remix of the obscure Snowboard Race theme from Sonic Adventure 2 Battle! The guitar solo is ripped from Sonic's old theme “It Doesn't Matter”! Don't even get me started on Classic City Escape sampling “Endless Mine”, that awesome “Super Sonic Racing” remix by Cash Cash, or the composers pulling what can only be described as a near-miracle (nearacle) by making a remix of “Rooftop Run” that is superior to the original. Seriously, don't get me started. We will be here all day.

Still, there are some moments of odd restraint on the soundtrack. Green Hill Zone and Sky Sanctuary have Fast versions that kick in when you hit top speed as Sonic, and that is really cool. Why not do Fast remixes for every stage? There's a couple of themes that are just bummers: Modern & Classic Planet Wisp suffer from poor sound mixing and just being a really bad song, respectively. Modern Chemical Plant is a bit bland, Modern Speed Highway is both barely a remake and inferior to the original, and then there's the issue of the “remastered” tracks from 2D Sonic games.

For some reason, the majority of the unlockable tracks are “remastered”, which means they re-recorded them with instruments that sound worse! I appreciate the appeal to nostalgia, but these tracks just do not sound good.

So, I preferred Unleashed's soundtrack overall. The Day stages are upbeat rock and techno tracks with a bit of orchestral flavoring sprinkled in, but where the game really shines are the jazzy night themes.

Despite my issue with that battle theme cutting off the music every few minutes, I really love these tracks. Sonic Team took the tried-and-true fighting game rule to heart here: beating up dudes while jazz music plays is really cool. I can't think of many songs on the Unleashed soundtrack that I don't enjoy, including the hub themes and cutscene music. I believe it's a better soundtrack as a whole, while the Generations soundtrack has far too many immediate aural disappointments.

3. Sonic Unleashed has better writing.

In all aspects, the writing of Unleashed was superior to Generations. There were tons of funny clips from the NPCs. Professor Pickle was an absolute delight. And the game comes to a very satisfying emotional conclusion in regards to the sidekick character Chip. It's a simple story done very well.

In comparison, Generations is a simple story that could have used some more writing. I wanted more in-jokes for fans of the series. It's a giant nostalgia trip but they rarely reference it in the cutscenes.

There should have been more moments like this! Knuckles should quip about Eggman taking advantage of his gullible nature. Amy should meet Metal Sonic and freak out. There should have been an extra-long load time before Crisis City to poke fun at the awful loading of Sonic the Hedgehog '06.

Also, the dialogue during the final boss battle should have been cut entirely.

I know it's a homing shot. I knew it the first ten times you said it.

I don't know if the writing team was changed, but the script in Generations really lacked the quirky charm of Unleashed and the genuine humor of Colors.

4. Why so much 2D platforming?

Like I stated before, the majority of Sonic Unleashed is 3D gameplay, behind the back as Sonic. It's a bit janky at times, but they improved on it in Colors and even more in Generations.

However, my complaint from Colors is still here. The 3D gameplay is the best in the series, and they don't use it enough! I was under the impression that Modern Sonic would be fully 3D and Classic would be 2D, and only the latter half of that impression is correct.

In Modern Sonic's stages, the majority of gameplay is 2D or 2.5D. I was disappointed in this, because the 3D sections feel right. They're really refined and really fun, and criminally underused. In my view, it doesn't make much sense for BOTH characters to spend the majority of their time in the 2D plane, and Modern Sonic should have stuck to a mostly 3D style.

I actually enjoyed the Modern stages more than Classic in Generations, because the camera for Classic Sonic is a bit too zoomed in, and his controls are a little off. The developers claim to replicate the sense of momentum from the older games, but it's not completely there. He still feels a bit sluggish in a way I can't explain. It's something you'd have to try for yourself. Play Sonic 2 and the Classic Stages of Generations next to each other, and you'll be able to tell that Classic Sonic is not what he used to be.

I don't know much about Sonic Lost World yet, but I'm looking forward to playing it eventually. I know Sonic Team has done the Sonic Team Thing and created an entirely new gameplay style that's nothing like Colors, Unleashed, or Generations. Is it a good thing? I won't know until I get my hands on it. Still, I appreciate them trying new things every time, in an industry where major publishers and developers are actively discouraged from doing so.

So while I might not get the awesome, fully 3D Sonic game in the style of Generations that I want, I'll keep playing and enjoying Sonic games for years to come. You can keep my Cool Kids Club card.

13 Comments
13 Comments
Edited by GunstarRed

There is a ton of crazy in this post, but everyone likes what they like I guess.

Everything about Unleashed (including the daytime stages) is inferior to Generations. The Werehog stages are so, so, so poorly designed. It was never the simplistic God of War stuff that was a problem, but the hideous platforming that not only had a godawful camera, but would occasionally just throw you off to your death when climbing along overly thin platforms. The hub world in Generations is perfect, I could run back and forth listening to cool versions of the old tunes all day long (flute version of Chemical Plant is awesome) Having to run around a town talking to idiots and eating chilli dogs is not my idea of fun (and shouldn't be anyone else's either) Just let me play the stages like most of the newer games do.

Don't go telling me I'm just hating on Sonic because it's cool. I'm one of the few on the site that will stick up for some of the newer games. Sonic Lost world taught me that Sonic Team just don't understand how to make good 3D platforming levels. I love the 3D sequences in Colours and Generations... even Unleashed to some extent, but lets be honest, they're not platforming stages, but races. Lost World completely loses sight of what makes Sonic special and the back end of that game is full of bad platforming and nonsensical design decisions.

Posted by CitizenCoffeeCake

Well he says in his post that "Sonic Generations is better than Colors and Unleashed, undoubtedly." It sounds like @perfidioussinn just wants Unleashed 2. Generations was pretty much everything I wanted in a Sonic game though.

Edited by Hailinel

3D Sonic games have been steadily increasing in quality over the past few years. Sonic Unleashed was a thrilling, blisteringly fast game with the addition of the Boost mechanic. I remember playing that game for the first time and being blown away because it was the fastest Sonic has EVER been. On the flipside of that were the Night stages, less well received by the general public but enjoyed by a few (me plus maybe...three other people?). The night stages were basically God of War with deeper combat mechanics and better level design, but I can admit that they suffered from being too long and committing the unforgivable sin of cutting into BLARING COMBAT MUSIC every time you got into a fight.

...Are you really arguing that Sonic Unleashed had better combat than God of War?

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@gunstarred: Oh, the stuff I disliked in Generations wasn't related to the gameplay. I did say that Generations is a better game in the post. It's more enjoyable to play than Unleashed & Colors overall.

My major complaints about Generations was lack of personality. The script, soundtrack, and hub world were pretty bland and flawed in comparison to the games immediately before it. Also I wanted more 3D platforming.

I love the 3D sequences in Colours and Generations... even Unleashed to some extent, but lets be honest, they're not platforming stages, but races

Fair enough about Unleashed basically being a racing game....but there's a ton of slow, deliberate platforming in Colors and Generations (especially Colors, holy crap!) Can't agree with you on that one. And the fastest way to beat stages in those games is almost never Boost To Win like Unleashed was.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@hailinel: I found it a lot less boring. It's a combination between having a bigger pool of moves and the platforming being better.

Posted by ZombiePie
Moderator
Posted by GunstarRed

@gunstarred: Oh, the stuff I disliked in Generations wasn't related to the gameplay. I did say that Generations is a better game in the post. It's more enjoyable to play than Unleashed & Colors overall.

My major complaints about Generations was lack of personality. The script, soundtrack, and hub world were pretty bland and flawed in comparison to the games immediately before it. Also I wanted more 3D platforming.

I think the music in Generations is kinda perfect, well maybe not City Escape. I think the levels are pretty good interpretations of 2D into 3D and vice versa. The hub world with all the white always seemed like them wanting to point out that Generations is a game. Even some of the writing (And nobody should give a fuck about the writing in a Sonic game.) felt directed at making fun of the hideously self serious stories most of the newer games have. There is one of each stage. I don't really see how this is a problem. There is a good balance of both styles. Unleashed was a completely draining experience because the races were 5 or 6 minutes long and the Werehog stages went on for 30+. It was an anniversary game for both fans old and new and HAD to have the amount of 2D in it that it does... it was the whole point. If there's one complaint with that game it should have been that all the bosses feel completely half-arsed.

Posted by PandaBear

There is a ton of crazy in this post, but everyone likes what they like I guess.

Everything about Unleashed (including the daytime stages) is inferior to Generations. The Werehog stages are so, so, so poorly designed. It was never the simplistic God of War stuff that was a problem, but the hideous platforming that not only had a godawful camera, but would occasionally just throw you off to your death when climbing along overly thin platforms. The hub world in Generations is perfect, I could run back and forth listening to cool versions of the old tunes all day long (flute version of Chemical Plant is awesome) Having to run around a town talking to idiots and eating chilli dogs is not my idea of fun (and shouldn't be anyone else's either) Just let me play the stages like most of the newer games do.

Don't go telling me I'm just hating on Sonic because it's cool. I'm one of the few on the site that will stick up for some of the newer games. Sonic Lost world taught me that Sonic Team just don't understand how to make good 3D platforming levels. I love the 3D sequences in Colours and Generations... even Unleashed to some extent, but lets be honest, they're not platforming stages, but races. Lost World completely loses sight of what makes Sonic special and the back end of that game is full of bad platforming and nonsensical design decisions.

You hit the nail on the head all round, but the hub world in particular. It fit perfectly into a game about exploring Sonic's history. Hub worlds are usual a total waste of time... they're little more than interactive menus. Generations was like a gallery of Sonic's evolving art style. And I mean the OP criticising the script (and by extension the plot) is bizarre. Who care about the story? ALL of the Sonic game stories are rote shit. They should get the Pixar guys to do the next story -- they can make ANY object/creature/person/thing relatable and likable. Sonic Team should be more like Nintendo is with Mario -- make the world better, not the plot.

And you're so right about 3D being races. I never thought of it like that. But maybe that's why I like Generations - a mix of 3D racing and 2D platforming.

Man, Generations was great. Flawed of course, but great.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn
Posted by amani

The hub-worlds being better in Unleashed is the one thing I'll have to disagree with you on. The hubs in Gen. I found to be a nice compromise: you can still run around and listen to cool hub music, but get straight to the action when you want.

That said, completely agree with Gen. need more of the personality that Unleashed (and Colors, in terms of writing) had. Like you and a lot of people say, the cut scenes lacked the visual quality of Unleashed and the charm found in Colors' writing. I don't why they didn't go balls out with the story, especially with the tons of material; EASY material at that (seriously, no classic versions of characters trying to figure out what Crisis City is about? No Mecha Sonic and Metal Sonic teaming up? No Hyper So-ok maybe that's just wishful thinking. Not.) And I'll leave the choices in levels be, as I doubt too many fans, if any, are satisfied with them.

Also, you leave Modern Chem. Plant alone. Right now.

Posted by Bribo

I liked Sonic R.

Posted by CornBREDX

Wow, that's a lot of words for a mediocre game.

Cheers to you for liking it, though. Nothing wrong with dat. I like some mediocre games myself so nothing to be ashamed of. To each their own, as it were.

There is no cool kids club, btw.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

Wow, that's a lot of words for a mediocre game.

Cheers to you for liking it, though. Nothing wrong with dat. I like some mediocre games myself so nothing to be ashamed of. To each their own, as it were.

There is no cool kids club, btw.

I know you're part of the Cool Kids club and are just trying to make me feel better.

Which I do appreciate! Thanks for your support.