GAME NAME: Sonic Generations
DEVELOPER(S): Sonic Team
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, 3DS
RELEASE DATE(S): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3: November 1, 2011 | PC: November 3, 2011 | 3DS: November 22, 2011
When I played Sonic Colors for the Wii in late 2010, that game quickly became my favorite Sonic title. While it wasn’t without a few hitches, the game really managed to capture the speed of the blue hedgehog in proper fashion, and it did so in some of the loveliest environments the series had ever seen. This was Sonic 3D done right. Likewise, Sonic Colors for the DS was a great throwback to classic entries in the series, and it was a shining example of how to make a new side-scrolling Sonic game.
About a year later, Sega and Sonic Team would release Sonic Generations, a game that hoped to capture the best of both the 2D and 3D Sonic games by revisiting past worlds and turning out brand new levels in them. Sonic Colors may have been my favorite Sonic game in 2010, but now, that honor goes to Sonic Generations.
The first thing Sonic Generations does right is present a story that’s not very heavy. Basically, some mysterious foe has caused a rift in time, and now there are two Sonics running around. You’ve got the short and chubby Classic Sonic, and the tall and chatty Modern Sonic. Together, the blue blurs must restore time and order. And that’s about it. Though there are cutscenes throughout the game, they’re never imposing and hardly get in the way. And that’s exactly how it should be for Sonic games.
There are two main types of stages, each suited accordingly to both Sonics. Classic Sonic must speed through side-scrolling stages while Modern Sonic is tasked with zipping through 3D levels. Despite being broken up into two formulas, Sonic Generations makes this setup work by delivering some incredibly paced, interestingly designed levels. Most of the 2D levels encompass everything that was great about the Genesis Sonic games, while the 3D levels are some of the best the series has ever seen.
Sonic is all about speed, and that stays true in Sonic Generations. Whether you’re playing the Classic Sonic or Modern Sonic stages, you’ll find yourself racing through them at crazy speeds. Unfortunately, this doesn’t hold true for every stage. Planet Wisp, for example, is one of the slowest levels in the game, requiring you to focus on using Wisp abilities to proceed. This is a shame, because Planet Wisp was one of my favorite areas in Sonic Colors, and it is easily the most beautiful stage in Sonic Generations. The fact that you can’t race through it and witness its wondrous eye candy at high speeds is damn near criminal.
Thankfully, despite a few duds here and there, the level design in Sonic Generations is absolutely top notch. There are countless loops, bouncy springs, and plenty of hidden paths sprinkled throughout every single stage to keep you coming back for more.
Each Sonic is treated to nine new stages in pre-existing zones, making for a total of 18 levels. Though this seems like a rather small number, there are special challenges in each. You can race against a Sonic doppelganger, challenge another character to a race, or get to the goal with only one ring. Admittedly, not all of these great, but there are certainly more good challenges than there are bad, and in order to get to the end of the game, you only need to clear one in each of the nine worlds. It should also be pointed out that most of these special levels, while retaining the themes of the 2D and 3D stages, are new levels themselves.
Getting to the end of Sonic Generations should take you about five hours. That’s criminally short, especially considering how great the package is as a whole. Of course, clearing the added challenges should double your time with the game. And if you dare go for that coveted S-rank in each stage, you’re bound to spend a great deal of time playing. There’s even an online component that allows you to upload your fastest time in each level.
It’s safe to say that Sonic Generations looks even better than it plays. And given just how much fun the game is, that’s saying a lot. Simply put, Sonic Generations has an incredible visual style that compliments both Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic nicely. 2D levels look exactly how a modernized side-scrolling Sonic game should look. Meanwhile 3D stages offer some really beautiful set pieces. Speeding through Green Hill, Speed Highway, Sky Sanctuary, Rooftop Run, and the oodles of other levels is a treat for the eyes. I simply cannot stress enough just how great Sonic Generations looks. From the beautiful atmosphere of Sky Sanctuary to the dozens of little rooftops you witness as you plummet downward in Rooftop Run, Sonic Generations is a graphical treat with wonderful little nuances peppered throughout.
Oh yeah, and the game sounds pretty damn good, too. You’re treated to enjoyable themes during the course of your adventure, and while I’m not too crazy about every song in the Sonic series (particularly anything with vocals), there’s no denying that Sonic Generations hits the right notes in practically every stage. There are also unlockable themes such as the Star Light Zone music, and these manage to exude some fitting nostalgia for this stellar package.
Sonic Generations is a fitting celebration of the blue blur’s 20-year anniversary. The game encompasses everything that made the series great back in the Genesis days, and it shows that Sonic can definitely succeed in a 3D environment. There are a few blunders along the way, but even those are fitting representations of the errors Sega has made with the series. That’s not to excuse them, though. When Sonic Generations screws up, it’s highly evident. But there’s just so much about the game that’s great and special that it’s easy to overlook these flaws. Sonic Generations is a love letter to Sonic fans—to those who have been pissed about the series for the last decade, and to those of us who have stuck with it throughout the good and the bad. Here’s to the future of Sonic the Hedgehog!
[This is a review of the PlayStation 3 version of Sonic Generations.]