Published on November 15th, 2011 | by Cameron Woolsey
Sonic Generations Review
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: 11/1/2011
I wish I had a time machine. Because if I did I would go back five years, back to tell myself as I glared angrily at my TV, while Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) was unmercifully beaming malevolent hate rays at my face, just to wait a little while longer. Things will get better.
Maybe that’s a little extreme, but ask any Sonic fan what the year 2006 was like and they will tell you that is when the hope died. For years Sonic had gone from great to worse and at that time he was nothing more than a bad joke that just got less funny and more pathetic as the years went by. Not even guns, swords and even more lame-ass supporting characters couldn’t slow the descent. Who’d have guessed?
Things have changed, however. With Sonic Colors last year and now Sonic Generations, we may finally be witnessing the end of the darkest chapter in Sonic’s 20-year history.
As Sonic celebrates his birthday chili dog, he and his fellow cast of friends get sucked up by a monster that fractures time itself. Sonic ends up trapped in another dimension where he must now rescue his trapped friends by completing Zones as both the mute, pudgy Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, his taller, thinner future self. The world Sonic now inhabits is devoid of color and only when Zones are beat will the color return. This area acts as a level select and includes some extra areas such as a room to look through unlocked goodies such as music, character bios and concept art. The story itself is inconsequential. The true draw of Sonic Generations is the ability to play through 20 years of Sonic games with completely re-imagined Zones from select eras in his history: the Genesis era, the Dreamcast era and the Modern era. SEGA chose some of the best Zones to highlight Generations such as Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary, Speed Highway and City Escape.
The two Acts of a Zone are played by the different era Sonics. The first Act is given to Classic Sonic who runs through the level in good-old-fashioned 2D while Modern Sonic tackles the second Zone in 3D. It was interesting to see how Sonic Team drew influence from the original games when designing the revamped Zones. They did an admirable job staying true to the original design of the Zones while adding improvements to improve the gameplay and keep them from being a lazy rehash. True to form, Classic Sonic has a limited number of special moves to employ. He has his spin dash and that’s really about it. Modern Sonic on the other hand comes with all the extra perks such as the speed boost, homing attack and rail grind.
Strangely enough, I found playing as Modern Sonic to be far more enjoyable. I would have thought otherwise since I consider Sonic’s best moments were during his 16-bit glory days, but I was happy (and grateful) to discover that Sonic’s three-dimensional runs to be better than last year’s Colors. While I loved running through the re-imagined 16-bit Zones, I feel that the best Generations offers comes from the Dreamcast era. Those who remember Speed Highway and City Escape won’t be too surprised when both zones start out exactly as remembered. It doesn’t take too long though to realize SEGA injected these maps with some much-needed adrenaline. These old zones have been completely revamped to accommodate Sonic’s faster speeds. The Zones feature tighter loops, smoother turns and enough speed boosters to cause your eyes to bleed. And damn is it fun. I laughed during a few of these high-speed acrobatic runs simply over shear insanity at how fast Sonic can run through these levels.
SEGA didn’t simply swap a few palettes and touch up some textures and call it a day. Every zone taken out of the 3D titles has been remade and improved. Small additions such as strategically placed speed/jump bumpers smooth out many of the problems they had when they were first featured in their respective titles. Unfortunately SEGA’s good intent to offer Zones from most major Sonic games doesn’t end up as good of an idea as it sounds as a few of said games were utter garbage, which the poor designs of these Zones contributed to. I commend the designers at Sonic Team for doing what they could, but there’s only so much one can do when you have Sonic’s miserable self-titled outing in 2006 and the Secret Rings on the Wii. Those Zones were bad then and Generations won’t change anyone’s mind. Granted they are much better than what they were, but you shouldn’t expect miracles when the original design was so poor to begin with. Practice makes these Zones a little more bearable, but I would have gladly accepted more Zones from the older and better Sonic eras.
Another issue I had was Planet Wisp Zone which came out of Sonic Colors. Both Sonics must utilize Wisp powers in order to complete each Act–which was excruciating. Classic Sonic is the worst out of the two, and must use the pink Spike power to climb walls and spin gears, all the while enemies are happily firing away and gigantic missiles slowly fly through the air. Getting knocked off of a gear means starting the whole process over, and I quickly became aggravated just trying to do what the game wanted. For both Acts the best parts were just getting to the Goal Ring.
So out of the nine Zones only two or three are not that impressive. They aren’t terrible, sure, but I gladly avoid them when I boot the game up to kill some free time. Thankfully the rest of the Zones are excellent and loads of fun to play thanks to the quality design. I really have no idea why it took so long for the team at SEGA to figure out how to make a great modern Sonic title, but they finally did with Sonic Colors and Generations makes it better with tighter controls and faster gameplay. Speed fans need apply–Sonic has always been the fastest videogame character ever and Generations is a celebration of that fact. Sonic fans should be more than happy with Sonic Generations.
Each Zone has different paths to take in order to reach the goal. Some paths are more fun than others but require some preparation to get to. Well-timed jumps are needed in order to find these extra routes which can require two or three replays. Finding different paths can lead to faster completion times or allow players to find hidden Red Rings. These rings will be familiar to those who played Sonic Colors. Red Rings, when found, unlock concept art or music from games of Sonic’s past, which can then be viewed in the level select menu.
After conquering the three Zone’s challenge rooms appear. The rooms are reached by platform hopping or hitting bumper pads. The level of interactivity in the overworld is a fun touch. Challenge rooms are exactly as they sound. Each room offers a different challenge to overcome using either Sonic. Sometimes players need to reach the goal with only one ring, other times a player must use the special abilities of a saved character to reach the end. Some challenges can be fun but most feel tedious and oftentimes cheap and frustrating. They serve a purpose, however, as Sonic must complete three in one era in order to unlock three keys which are used to unlock the boss battle. Rival battles also pop up after the Zones have been cleared, and in these battles three different characters out of Sonic’s rogue gallery appear to challenge Sonic. After he wins, Sonic receives one of the seven Chaos Emeralds.
Completing Zones earns points which can be spent at the Skill Shop in the overworld. Players are given a Skill Set which they can customize with a special ability bought from the shop. For example, there is a skill that allows Sonic to stop on a dime, one that increases Modern Sonic’s speed, one that gives Classic Sonic a bubble shield so he can breathe underwater, etc. Skills that are purchased can be equipped in one of five available Skill Sets. Each skill takes a certain amount of power, so they can’t all be used at once. Some skills can be used to get to other areas in Acts, so it’s good to experiment.
In an odd move that goes against Generation‘s motives, SEGA inserted the boss battles at the end of each era. For a franchise rich with some memorable boss fights, it’s odd that we can only play against three and then the final boss. Special rooms used to collect the Chaos Emeralds, the series’ staple collectibles, are also thrown out in favor of rewarding Sonic with the Emeralds following rival and boss battles. Why, in a game that celebrates everything great about Sonic, would SEGA deny fans some of the most memorable moments? It’s an odd move that detracts from the overall experience.
Graphically the game won’t turn many heads, but the bright, colorful palette featuring rich colors and classic Sonic checkerboard patterns adheres to the franchise’s familiar style. It’s interesting to see how SEGA chose to bring the classic zones back to life using new set pieces such mist-seeping cooling towers in Chemical Plant Zone and the dilapidated temples of Sky Sanctuary.
The dialogue is thankfully minimal. I’ve never been a huge supporter of Sonic’s massive and often insultingly-bad cast of extras, but at least they only have one line to speak in Generations and only after they have been rescued–it’s only text bubbles from there on out. The only other character that really speaks is Tails who plays as the commentator to the plot. A word of warning: there are at least two moments where both Modern and Classic Tails are in a scene together, once while speaking at the same time. If you want to avoid listening to a female voice actress strain her vocal cords to mimic the the high pitch of a 12-year old boy I suggest stuffing your ears with gauze. It might not drown out all the noise, but it’ll at least help soak up the blood.
Like Colors before it, some of the dialogue can actually be pretty clever, especially when Dr. Robotnik makes his presence near the end. There are a few interesting conversations about over Sonic’s retro history, but none more entertaining than hearing Classic Robotnik declare himself as “Dr. Robotnik” only to have Modern Eggman tell him something akin to “Oh, I’m not called that anymore.” An obvious jab at the Robotnik vs. Eggman arguments.
You know, I almost didn’t write the introductory paragraph the way I did. Nearly every review on Sonic Generations began the same way. I felt, though, that it’s important to keep in mind that Sonic’s downgrade was one of the longest-running in gaming history–longer than it took for Duke Nukem Forever to finish development and stink up the world. Now with two games that Sonic fans can be proud of, it’s my desire that no future Sonic review begins the same way. SEGA has proven itself to finally be able to make a modern feeling Sonic game. After years of a franchise that had nowhere to go but up, I think we can finally say things are finally on the rise for our neglected blue friend.
A fellow Sonic fan and editor Ken told me that Sonic fans would gladly give Sonic Generations a 9.5/10. And for the most part I agree. As a Sonic fan, my first few hours with Sonic Generations were of heartfelt nostalgia and joy. It hit me hardest not as I played Chemical Plant, one of my favorite Zones in the franchise, but at Sky Sanctuary. As I guided Classic Sonic along, while I listening to the music and watching as the Death Egg slowly rose over the clouds, I felt a strong tug at my heartstrings as nostalgia forced a smile onto my face. This is without question a game made for the fans.
Yet it isn’t made for everyone and it certainly isn’t a perfect game. That in mind, I still can’t deny that Sonic Generations is easily the funnest Sonic game in the past 15 years. It takes everything that was great about the gameplay in Sonic Colors and perfects it. Sonic Generations won’t please everyone, but for those who love a high-speed rush with (mostly) solid platforming, look no further than this.
[xrr label=”Rating: 8.5/10″ rating=8.5/10]
+ Sonic is back and better than ever
+ Colorful graphics
+ Solid gameplay
– Limited boss battles
– Challenge rooms are so-so
– What happened to the Special Rooms?
+ Planet Wisp