Sonic Generations. The game to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, and to hopefully make a decent Sonic title after years of disappointments. The story, despite being very vague and expendable, is about a mysterious creature, tearing up time and space, voiding every level of life and colour, and bringing both the modern, cocky Sonic, and the iconic, silent retro Sonic together. They must work together to bring the life back to the world, to free Sonic's friends from being trapped in the lifeless areas, and to bring down this enigmatic monster. With an interesting concept and back to basics 2D levels, it looked like Sega had finally seen the light, and made the game that we've all been asking for for years. Did they pull it off? Read on to find out...
The first time you play Sonic Generations, you will probably love it. Green Hill Zone, remade with amazing graphics, three dimensions and remastered music will fill you with nostalgia. It's a wonderful feeling, and will even carry on over the next couple of levels. Chemical Plant Zone, City Escape, they all look awesome, and it's great to be back. Eventually though, you'll stop reminiscing, and discover what Sonic Generations really is. An average platformer, which is for the most part, extremely frustrating and once again, fails to capture what made the first few games so perfect and addictive.
Every level of the game is split into two, Act 1 and Act 2. Act 1, which is usually the easier one, is played by Classic Sonic. It is played just like the original games, from a side view, with simpler gameplay. No homing attacks, no acrobatic air-tricks, just simple Sonic gameplay, the way it should be. These levels are definitely the best, but they are too fast. The unlockable in-game Megadrive with the original Sonic the Hedgehog just shows the difference in speed, and really proves that the new games are just way too speedy. If the speed was just dropped a little, maybe not as much as the early games, the quality would greatly improve, as would the player experience. Act 2 puts you in control of Modern Sonic. He talks too much, has an attitude problem and inhabits the worst games of the Sonic universe. There isn't much going for him. His levels are played from a mixture of angles, in a 3D environment. Now and then it pops into a side scrolling view, and you should savour these moments, as soon enough you are thrown back into the dodgy camera angles and awkward controls. Modern Sonic's movement is more random than Classic Sonic's, and it's much harder to land on the correct platforms and areas. It is easier to defeat enemies as Modern Sonic, but it also takes the challenge away. Jump, and a target will appear on the enemy, indicating that you can home in on them with another press of the jump button. This feature is sometimes quite satisfying, but it also feels like the challenge is dramatically reduced. There are some amazing set pieces throughout the game, and a hell of a lot of destruction. The classic City Escape level has Sonic being chased down San Francisco style streets by a huge, saw wielding truck. Cars, buildings and bridges are no match for it's raw power, and it simply wipes them out.
Once you finish the two acts for all of the levels in each area (usually three levels to each area), challenge rooms unlock. You must complete one challenge from each set to unlock three keys, which unlock the boss gate. The challenges are a nice change to the core gameplay, and present nice twists on the levels. The challenges are incredibly varied, and often have game modifiers, such as giant enemies and increased speed. One challenge, set in Green Hill Zone, has the level overrun with wasps. You can avoid them or kill them, but with a careful eye you will notice rows of wasps, leading to secret areas. It's little details like this that make the game interesting, and the competitive gamer will definitely enjoy the challenge levels. Once you have completed the set number of levels, you can finally take on the boss. The first boss is your old nemesis Robotnik (or Dr. Eggman, depending on your locality), complete with a hedgehog killing machine. The bosses are quite simple, usually requiring just one repeated technique. Finding the technique can be fun though, and there are some cool set pieces.
The graphics, on the other hand, are for the majority of the game, fantastic. Green Hill Zone in HD, high quality 3D graphics looks stunning, and when you first see it you'll be awestruck. The textures are really great, the levels look smooth and the effects are decent. One level sees you spiralling upwards around a tower that is collapsing, and the destruction looks great. To be fair, you can't really focus on it due to the speed, but it's an impressive moment, and it's similar moments that keep the game interesting and entertaining.
Somewhere behind him, there's a homicidal truck...
Whilst Sonic Generations is disappointing in a number of ways, it's definitely a step in the right direction. Sega need to stick with the 2.5D, dramatically reduce the speed and try to recapture the magic of the old games. There are some great set pieces, fantastic remakes of old levels and some of the best music in gaming history. Throw in lots of hidden content, challenge rooms and medals for completionists and the hardcore fans, and you've got quite a lengthy game. All in all, it's far from perfect, but it's also better than the majority of the 3D Sonic titles so far. In the modern climate, where everyone strives for innovation, the best thing for Sega to do would be go back to their roots, to create the perfect Sonic the Hedgehog experience.
by Louis Gardner