Sonic is one of gaming's most tragic falls from grace. Once he was a gaming icon: he had three television series, a stellar series of games, books, merchandise, and was the icon of Sega's brand, but ever since his transition into 3D, fans of the series have had to bear the brunt of shovelware quality games rife with terrible design, awful controls, broken difficulty and bosses, and countless glitches. After the disaster of Sonic 2006, he had hit the lowest point of his career. Fortunately, it seemed Sonic Team realised that the only way to go was up – Sonic Unleashed was passable, the Sonic Rush series on the Nintendo DS were a fine example of the timeless gameplay of his Genesis era games, and Sonic Colors was considered the best console Sonic game since his transition into 3D. Now, Sonic Generations has been released promising to be a shining example of the best the Sonic series has to offer. Curious, I bought the ps3 version from EB Games for $28 and gave it a try.
Sonic Generations' story is minimalistic: Sonic and his friends are sucked into another dimension called White Space, a realm where time and space end up after they've been erased, by a villain called the Time Eater. Sonic discovers his past self is also in this world and the two race through history to restore time to normal and rescue their friends. Storytelling is kept to a minimum but it's at least passable enough to give the player motivation to see the adventure through to the end.
Graphics and Sound:
Sonic Generations' graphics are by far the best the series has to offer. I always liked the art direction of the Genesis era sonic games with highly stylised characters and enemies, but Sonic's transition into 3D often set him in the real world which clashed immensely with his design. I'm happy to say that the art direction for Generations, while following the basic design of levels from previous games, remains consistent with the genesis games. Each level is graphically diverse and the framerate is smooth (a huge improvement over past games). Music is also strong, many of the themes have been faithfully recreated or remixed.
Sonic Generation's gameplay is the best the series has offered since its transition into 3D. Levels are separated by a hub world called White Space. There are 9 levels in total, which must be played through with both Classic and Modern Sonic to advance. Each of the levels is recreated from one level in each preceding ranging from the original game that started it all to Sonic Colours. The player can switch between classic and modern Sonic to play a different act of the level. Classic sonic is 2.5D and faithfully recreates the timeless gameplay of the original Genesis era series. This, in my opinion is where the game shines. It's classic Sonic at its best with tight controls and fun level design. Cannons and grind rails can also move the player into the foreground or background to transition between different parts of the level. If the entire game was like this, it would be just about perfect.
It looks pretty, but unfortunately has issues with controls and camera
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Modern Sonic, his levels take place mostly in 3D, occasionally switching to 2D during certain parts and while the controls are certainly the best seen in modern series so far, they can lead to many cheap deaths and frustration. Enemies in this mode also don't pose any threat to you either. The AI in Classic Sonic may be poor but at least in that mode you need to bypass enemies on a 2D plane. It's all the more noticeable in 3D environments when the player can simply either run around enemies or dispatch many of them with a series of homing attacks. There are also some problems with the camera. The player can't control it and if you ever need to backtrack for whatever reason you usually won't be able to see what's in front of you. Players also in this mode have a Boost which instantly brings the player to top speed and the meter can be replenished by destroying enemies and collecting rings. I didn't find this mode fun, but instead rather frustrating and a huge let down to the stellar 2D levels.
Apart from the 9 levels, there are also a few dozen Challenge Stages which essentially are parts of the level or the entire level with restrictions on it such as finishing the stage with only one ring, within a time limit, racing a doppelganger of yourself, and experimenting with a new item. These Challenge Stages are also compulsory. You need to clear two from each world to unlock a key (that you can find in the Hub World) which unlocks the boss. There are also mini boss fights which must be finished to collect the chaos emeralds, in order to access the final boss. Beating a challenge stage will also grant points that can be spent on new abilities, new items that'll appear in the environment, and even unlock the original Sonic the Hedgehog game. I must admit though I was a little disappointed that this was the only unlockable game. It would've been great to see some more titles from the Genesis era in there for a complete package.
Boss fights in the game are pretty well designed, sadly though all except two of these fights take place from Modern Sonic's perspective. Still, I enjoyed these fights and the best part is that you can fight a harder version of the same boss after beating it.
The Final Boss however, is a big complaint. The fight is deceptively easy and the on screen hints actually lie to the player, all you have to do is hold down the boost button and avoid the obstacles while collecting rings, it felt very uninspired and until I figured it out, was rather frustrating.
As for replay value, unless you're a completionist there really isn't much of a reason to keep playing after finishing the game unless you're determined to get an S rank on every stage, however without even trying I almost always got at least a B to A rank. The challenge stages get old and uninspired fast (especially the modern ones).
Alongside Sonic Colours, the Blue Hedgehog is making a comeback
Sonic Generations is a good Sonic game, and it seems that in tandem with Colours Sonic just might be making a much needed comeback. I recommend this game to any Sonic fan who has been awaiting a game that recreates the magic of the original series.