Originally Reviewed: 2011
Sonic has long been in the doldrums of the platform gaming world. Once the biggest rival to Mario and a genuine icon in gaming, the spikey blue ‘hog has endured a lot of criticism in recent years from both critics and gamers and has arguably still never starred in a truly great 3D platformer. Sonic Generations aims to offer up a veritable plate of platforming hors d’oeuvres in order to get everyone to come back to the Sonic party, but is this mix of styles a good choice?
The answer, in a nutshell, is yes. The two variations of Sonic – classic side-scrolling 2D Sonic and modern 3D homing-attack Sonic, give the game a lot of variation. Levels in Sonic Generations are all from previous titles in the series and playing older levels in 3D and vice versa is a nice trip down memory lane with a refreshing twist.
Sonic Generations’ biggest achievement is not simply mixing both styles of Sonic games through the years, but developing them at arguably the highest level the series has seen. Whilst still not perfect, especially the modern levels, Sonic’s mechanics have never been better and, even though it’s taken Sonic Team more than long enough, the game should be commended for being reasonably solid throughout.
The two styles both have almost equal strong points that mean that both are as entertaining as the other. Classic Sonic does exactly what it says on the proverbial tin as the 2D stages act as the perfect nostalgic taste of Sonic that series fans have been salivating for since Sonic & Knuckles. Playing tweaked versions of classic sonic levels like Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone is still a blast and is an excellent reminder of how exhilarating Sonic can be in his two dimensional form. Everything you know and love about the Mega Drive games is here and it’s still great.
Modern Sonic is much more of an improvement over an established formula than classic Sonic’s re-tread of the 2D style. 3D levels are an absolute blast and, taking influence from the day levels in ‘Sonic Unleashed’, brilliantly mix full 3D sections with side-on 2.5D in an almost effortless way. Sonic blurs around the screen – one second he’ll be snowboarding down a hill, the next he’ll be flying through those trademark side-scrolling loop-the-loops. 3D Sonic has never been as fast or as fun as in Generations.
Graphically the game is acceptable. Whilst not pushing any boundaries, the game is nevertheless full of the bright colours and sprites you would expect from a Sonic title and the older Mega Drive levels are done no disservice in their updated form. The levels rush past your eyes smoothly and both versions of Sonic are animated well.
The soundtrack is also excellent, with modernised takes on retro sonic tunes fitting nicely alongside the more recent cheesy-as-hell-but-infinitely-catchy rock tracks seen in levels such as City Escape, which itself is like ear candy – sickeningly addictive. It’s fun to hear the older Sonic songs re-written for a modern game and an added bonus is that any songs that players can’t stand can be turned off as levels can be played along to any one of the tens of unlockable songs obtained in the challenges instead.
The challenges themselves are a nice touch and serve to extend the game’s lifespan more than force themselves upon unwilling players. Sure, some can be annoying, but most of them add cool stipulations to levels and mix up the traditional formula in an interesting yet familiar way. There are several involving Sonic’s friends, however, that feel like some sort of sick joke. A particular one involving using homing attacks on musical notes produced by Vector the crocodile is one of the most frustrating and horribly presented mini-games in recent memory. You have been warned.
The word ‘frustrating’ is one that has too often been hurled at more recent Sonic titles, often when being compared to a certain plumber, and unfortunately there are several instances in Generations where this still hasn’t been eradicated and therefore still holds Sonic back from overtaking Mario in the platform world.
The 3D sections can still suffer from camera issues and Sonic does still love to hurl himself off the side of a cliff all too often. Whereas Mario’s deaths can almost always be accounted to lack of player skill or focus, one wrong tap of the analogue stick or even simple use of the homing attack in Generations can cause ridiculously annoying deaths. It’s the feeling that some levels are impossible to complete without a few trial and error runs first that can turn a fast, flowing romp into an annoying and twitchy mess.
Boss fights are good fun for the most part, but some can also lead very quickly to game rage. Platform sections in some can be nigh-on impossible to traverse thanks to Sonic’s less than perfect jumping skills and the final boss is an utterly abysmal and wholly boring climax to an otherwise enjoyable game.
The choice of levels is good at the beginning of the game, but the decision to include some from Sonic’s less popular (and in the case of 2006’s ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’, downright hated) recent games is very odd indeed. Any Sonic fan that claims they would rather see a level from a Wii game released just over a year ago over one from Sonic 3 is lying. Although, technically, Generations does serve to give a broad picture of all of Sonic’s 25-year history, celebrated or not, and inevitably it’s impossible to please everyone.
Sonic Generations is easily the best Sonic game of the current generation and arguably tops the efforts made by any title since Sonic 3. It’s a delightfully fast and relentlessly entertaining platform game that excellently blends tight, traditional Sonic gaming with vastly improved modern mechanics.
The game invariably still frustrates at times and is reasonably short if you take out the tacked-on challenges, but the negative points don’t detract from a very enjoyable game. Without any large cats with fishing rods or Werehogs in sight, the game avoids all gimmicks and goes back to the basics of what Sonic does best – fast, intricate and exhilarating platform gaming. Welcome back, old friend.