A Step in the Right Direction
In 1991 Sega’s speedy blue mascot made his debut on the Sega Genesis. He became popular almost immediately spawning numerous sequels and spin-offs. In 2001 Sonic made his transition in 3D as most platforming heroes did. Now we’ve made it to 2011 and Sonic is 20 years old. It’s a common belief within the gaming community that Sonic games haven’t been good for a long time. Some believe that the original 2D games on Sega Genesis were the peak of the hedgehogs career, while others believe it’s Sonic Adventure 2. Regardless of where you stand on the peak of Sonic’s career, Sonic Generations captures the best and worst of both worlds. Sonic Generations has the right idea, but it doesn’t live up to its full potential.
Sonic Generations seems as if it’s meant to please longtime fans of Sonic and the deeper you go into the game the more obvious it becomes. The story starts off at Sonic’s 20th birthday party. All of his friends from the modern Sonic games are there to celebrate. As always things immediately go bad. A giant time monster comes and kidnaps all of Sonic’s friends. He tries to fight back, but is incapacitated. When he wakes up he’s in a mostly white world. After playing for a bit you find out that something is messing with time, which is how the game gets away with its main selling point, which is that Sonic Generations features both Classic 2D Sonic and Modern 3D Sonic.
Classic Sonic looks and plays like Sonic did back in the early 90’s. You’re running to the right collecting rings, jumping from platform to platform, and defeating enemies. The Classic Sonic stages do a fine job of emulating the Sega Genesis games. Sonic can still spin dash. Holding square will allow him to curl up into a ball and zoom forwards at top speeds. Jumping works almost exactly like it did on the Genesis. You need to be precise. I found it easy to misjudge jumps, which often lead to Sonic falling to his death in bottomless pits. Overall I think that playing as Classic Sonic feels good. The controls are tight and there’s a good sense of speed. It feels like the classic Sonic games used to, which is refreshing after the extremely floaty controls of Sonic 4.
Modern Sonic is fast and a whole lot of fun to play. The sense of speed is something that is done very well with Modern Sonic. Killing enemies and collecting rings fills up a boost meter. When you hold square Modern Sonic will boost forward at high speeds running through enemies that get in his way. Enemies can also be defeated in rapid succession by pressing the jump button while Sonic is in the air to home in and smash them to bits. If the jump button is pressed too early or at the wrong time Sonic will fly off into the distance, which can be extremely frustrating. The same can be said for boosting. If you boost at the wrong time Sonic will most certainly fall into a bottomless pit. The pain of these deaths is eased by the liberally placed checkpoints in Modern Sonic’s stages.Like the stages in Sonic Unleashed, Modern Sonic’s stages will sometimes flow into 2D platforming sections. The platforming seems to be a bit easier with the help of Sonic’s homing attack, but the controls aren’t as tight as 2D Sonic, which can lead to problems. These sections seem out of place, because they take away from Modern Sonic’s speed.
Both Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic can buy and equip skills to make your trip through the game slightly easier. Whenever you complete a stage you will earn a certain amount of points. These points can be used to buy skills while in the hub world. The abilities do a wide variety of things from making Sonic faster to having you spawn with a shield. The system is interesting, but it doesn’t run very deep. There aren’t very many skills and they’re not always helpful.
Generations features nine stages, three rival battles, and four boss fights that span Sonic’s twenty year history. The stages, rivals, and boss fights go in chronological order according to Sonic’s history. Each of the nine stages consists of two acts. In Act 1, you play as Classic Sonic and in Act 2 you play as Modern Sonic. It’s interesting to see how classic levels translate to modern levels and vice versa. They don’t always work out the best, but they’re still fun.
You choose which level you want to play by traversing a highly stylized 2D hub world. Only three stages are available at a time. In order to gain access to the next set of three stages you must complete Acts 1 and 2 for all three stages, gather 3 keys, and defeat the boss. In order to do all of this and run right through the story will take about four to five hours. For a $50 dollar game that’s not much gameplay. It’s extended by challenges and secret ring collection that will award you with art, music and skills. However these rewards will only appeal to the most dedicated Sonic fans.
Sonic Generations is a fun game, but at $50 it’s a hard sell. Frustrating deaths and a lack of content blemish an otherwise fine product. If you didn’t like Sonic before, Generations isn’t going to change your mind. I’m confident in saying that Sonic fans are going to want to pick this game up regardless of price. It’s got the best of both 2D Sonic and 3D Sonic and both are surprisingly fun to play. The soundtrack features a great mix of classic and remixed tracks that will bring the memories flooding back. Sega and Sonic Team have been trying to get back on good terms with their fans and I think that Generations is a good start.