A fully charged spin dash in the right direction.
Sonic Generations is a good game and a deserving entry for the franchise, that much simply must be stated right away considering the history of the franchise. Whether you love them or hate them, the first two Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Sega Mega Drive are two of the most beloved games of the early nineties and created astronomical expectations for the future of the series. Ever since then, the subsequent Sonic games never seemed to grasp exactly what made those early games so fun and enjoyable and just simply weren’t as fun to play. Not to mention the fact they introduced about three games worth of secondary characters that were impossible to like... but, we’re not going to talk about them.
You’ll take control of two Sonics in Sonic Generation, the classic light blue Sonic from the nineties, and the modern Sonic from the Adventure and onwards era. The story is your usual Sonic fodder, Dr. Robotnik (I refuse to call him eggman, deal with it) is up to no good once again and you’ve got to stop him. The best thing about the story is that all the annoying supporting characters (apart from Tales) are completely gone for the entire game bar the beginning cutscene. This game is all about Sonic, which is the way it should be. I did find it bizarre that classic Sonic has literally no dialogue in the entire game when he’s right next to his future self. That could be due to the fact that if he did speak to future Sonic, I imagine he’d have some pretty harsh words to say about him defiling his future legacy.
The gameplay is an almost perfect mix of the best of classic Sonic from the nineties and the good parts of the new Sonic games. The game is constantly centred on momentum, keeping you pushing forwards as fast as possible as often as possible. The modern Sonic levels are more successful in achieving this though, while Sonic has always been a platformer, the emphasis has always been on speed rather than memorising and timing complex jumping sequences. These sections become all too common after the first few stages in the classic stages, and while they do go against the strengths of the game, once you practice and get them figured out, they are still really fun to play.
Sonic has all the tricks you should be expecting, in both modes of play. The traditional spin ball has been altered slightly when playing as modern Sonic to a straight forward dash move that blasts enemies away from you. Unlike the spin ball, this has a gauge that can be replenished by collecting rings or defeating enemies. The in-air homing attack is done by simply hitting A while jumping and chaining this along a string of enemies and springs is way more satisfying than it should be.
There are 9 main levels each containing two acts, one for either Sonic and four main boss fights. Apart from the time intensive final boss, they are extremely tightly paced and make excellent use of each Sonics’ abilities. When you’re not actively playing a level, you’ll be placed in the hub world, which looks like a giant 2D level inspired by the older games. This hub is a ton of fun to race around in just by itself. This hub is split into four separate parts, each containing three of the main levels and a boss fight with the last one being the final confrontation. Once you complete all six acts in a section, you’ll unlock individual act challenges of which there are 90, 45 for each Sonic.
Now if that sounds a little excessive, that’s because it is. Most of these challenge take no longer than a couple of minutes, but there are some where the objectives really don’t play to the strengths of what Sonic Generations does best, which is the classic speed. Several types of these challenges are also repeated fairly often, like the doppelganger race or one ring challenge. This doesn’t by any means ruin the challenge system, but less is always more here and it would have been better to have about half the amount and make each one stand out a little.
By completing either challenges or acts you’ll gain experience points which can be used to purchase abilities for either Sonic. Some can be used while playing as either and some are unique to either classic or modern Sonic. Each ability requires a certain number of skill points to equip, of which you have 100 when a skill set is empty. These skill sets can easily be described as loadouts; you have five which you can customise as you please. Some of the abilities are quite specific and have bonuses for some levels whereas in others they won’t really help all that much. This system is a great way to make figuring out those insane speed runs a little more interesting than relentless replaying of the levels, but expect to do quite a bit of that as well if you’re into that sort of thing.
The Sonic franchise has always struggled to stay relevant past the 2D era, there have been awkward 3D attempts, very good 2D attempts and some entries that have just been plain bad games as well doing their part in disgracing the once great name Sonic used to hold. Because of the sketchy history the Sonic franchise has, any new game in the series is expected to be bad and the very notion of Sonic returning to his former glory was ridiculous. Sonic Generations is the first significant step in the right direction the franchise has seen in years. If this is the blueprint used for the next instalment and they focus on what people actually want (that being Sonic and not the awful secondary characters) then dare I say the next game could be quite spectacular. If you are someone who has missed what Sonic games used to be about, then you need to play this game and even if you aren’t. Sonic Generations is strong enough on its own merits to make it worth playing.