Sonic the Hedgehog is a seminal video game character. Who knows what the world of video games would look like today if not for the little blue speed ball. So it is with that respect that the venerable Sonic Team has made the newest and most nostalgia heavy Sonic game short of bringing it back to 16-bits.
Sonic Generations is a love letter to all things Sonic, providing game that takes you through the entire Sonic history. The game revolves around a mysterious being that is disrupting space and time. As a result, modern Sonic comes face to face with his classic self and the two speedy hedgehogs go on an adventure to set right the Sonic universe.
There are two main gameplay types in Sonic Generations. The first is a classic super speedy 2D Sonic platforming style of level, and the second is a more modern 2D-3D hybrid style that is common amongst today’s Sonic games. The game has a pretty nifty story explanation for the two types levels, making the switch in gameplay between Acts natural. Each Act One is run by classic Sonic in his typical fashion and each Act Two by modern Sonic.
The game is essentially divided into three sections, each representing a different era in the Sonic pantheon. The first three levels are representative of the classic 16-bit era, the next three dedicated to the Dreamcast years and then finally the end of the game takes you through the modern era. Each era is comprised of three stages, all from different Sonic games from each time frame. This makes for some very interesting instances where you run through the classic stages in a brand new way, or play through a newer world in the traditional 2D Soinc style.
The classic Sonic levels are Act One of each world and are by far the best in the game. Evoking the very best of what made us fall in love with Sonic in the first place. It is very gratifying to play through the old school levels with their next gen graphical face lifts. Although, the real treat of these acts are the later worlds. Playing through levels that had been introduced in more recent, lesser Sonic games in the traditional style is a blast. My personal favorite is Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes, it is a classic blend of beautiful environment and mind boggling speed based platforming.
The modern Sonic Acts are very intriguing in their own right. I did very much love playing through classic Sonic levels like Chemical Plant in a new perspective. It is actually a very smart way to introduce that modern style to fans who long ago left the franchise. After you leave the first era the second Acts really start to wear out their welcome. The controls in these sections are so much more clunky than in the Act One levels, often resulting in frustrating deaths.
I will say that in the third, modern era the Second Act levels do feel tighter and tend to be more fun to play. Rooftop Run, from Sonic Unleashed, is particularly exciting, with many set pieces that are downright jaw dropping. It is probably true that these levels are generally better because they are inspired by worlds that were built for this style of gameplay. It is for that reason that I applaud the structure of this game so much, with such a great variety of levels from all eras of Sonic, you are guaranteed to experience the very best of all the different types of Sonic games.
Beyond the first two Acts, the game also has a large collection challenges that give you reason to go back into each world. These challenges are presented as portals that pop up after you complete each Act. To progress through the story mode of the game you will need to beat at least one challenge per world, but there are so many different types of challenges that you can easily find yourself going back to gain your 100%.
You also have boss battles in between each era, all coming from classic bosses for the games. Each section also has a mini boss that you need to beat to collect Chaos Emeralds. After each boss, both mini and main, you will get a Chaos Emerald, as they are key in stopping The Time Eater.
Story and Presentation:
The story begins with a mysterious entity running amok in multiple Sonic time frames. The Time Eater uses rips in space time to jump from place to place, and these rips have caused areas of Sonic’s past to be nearly wiped away. It is up to our two intrepid hedgehogs to set right these worlds stop the evil time eater.
So the story is pretty meh, but I do really appreciate that they did come up with a valid reason for classic Sonic to interact with modern Sonic. The Sonic Team also gets huge bonus points for keeping the original Sonic mute. It is small touches like that really sell this game.
Graphics and Sound:
Sonic Generations is a gorgeous game, it is the best Sonic has ever looked. The worlds from multiple different eras of Sonic all come together and look cohesive. It is impressive that they were able to flush out some of the older worlds to such an extent that they play perfectly alongside modern sonic games that were built to be so robust. The graphics for this game are especially impressive given the speed with which you are running through the levels. The fact that the beauty is still so evident despite the speed is testament to the developers who clearly gave it their all to make the best Sonic game since the Genesis.
The game also boasts new versions of many classic stage theme songs, including the venerable Green Hill Zone music. Once you get into the Dreamcast era there are a couple less than amazing musical choices, but those were no doubt dictated by the level choices and not a creative decision on the part of the developers. The sound classic sound effects are all here too, making the audible portion of the game one of it’s greatest strengths.
I really liked this game, the respect and nostalgia towards the classic Sonic rings very true to me. Everything about the classic Sonic levels are perfect and represent a great direction for one of the hallmark characters of the industry. Of course the game is not entirely devoted to the classic Sonic, and the modern levels do suffer from clunky controls and are generally less fun. Not all of those sections are bad though, with some of the earlier and later Acts actually being a blast to play.
In the end, Sonic Generations is a fantastic game that is worthy for fans of the adorable blue hedgehog both past and present. It is far from perfect, but it works on too many levels not to be considered a wonderful installment in the long lasting franchise. Hopefully this marks a new beginning for Sonic, because I would love to experience a 2D-3D hybrid platformer like this again. Just maybe next time with just a smidge more Knuckles huh!
Playstation 3 (Also available on XBox 360 and Nintendo 3DS)
Developer: Sonic Team