Sonic Generations Review - November 11th 2011

We'd like to say that Sonic the Hedgehog is a character that has had to endure much ridicule over the past few years, but he really hasn't. While it's true that the series did go through an especially rough patch, there have been quite a few decent games leading up to the release of Sonic Generations. Its primary reason for existing it to celebrate 20 years since the release of the first Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) way back in 1991.

Sonic team celebrated his 10th birthday by giving us Shadow the Hedgehog along with Sonic Adventure 2. And the 15 year anniversary 'gifted' us with the 2006 iteration, which is a strong candidate for the title of worst game to hold a beloved character's name ever produced. To celebrate Sonic's 20th though, they have brought us something fans have been wanting to see return ever since the end of the 16-bit era. Sonic Generations literally delves back into Sonic's past and creates a chronological adventure for fans both old and new.

The graphics are simply wonderful.

After pressing the start button on the main screen, the game kicks off immediately by starting the classic iteration of Green Hill Zone, bringing back memories of times gone by when you could just pop games in and play. After this, we get a more common opening where Sonic's friends surprise him for his birthday, but the party is cut short when a giant monster appears and sucks all of them into time portals. Sonic, who tries to fight back, finds himself in a vast white expanse, filled with colourless formations that look strangely familiar. Upon re-entering the Green Hill Zone colour is restored to the area, as well as to his trusty sidekick Tails. Therefore, Sonic must speed through each zone from his past in order to restore the flow of time and rescue his friends.

Sonic's ever increasing cast of hanger ons have become something of a sore spot for many fans, many of whom would rather they simply disappear for good, leaving Sonic as the primary character. I'm also siding with those who would be happy never to see the faces of Cream or Blaze the Cat ever again, but thankfully, they don't actually butt their heads into the narrative very often after they're rescued. (Also, why was Rogue the Bat even at that party?)

The only time I had a real problem with all of these secondary characters was during one of the later stages. During a boss battle, you must get through the drawn out fight while constantly hearing each of them, in turn, tell you not to fly into the enemies projectiles. After the 30th time of hearing this, I think the message has sunk in! Thankfully, cut scenes are brief and to the point in Sonic Generations. To be honest, they could be skipped all together if you're hankering for a more classic Sonic experience.

There are a lot of nods to previous games.

These issues can easily be ignored however as the main thing is the gameplay, which is split into two stages. Each level has two acts. Act 1 has players taking control of the classic version of Sonic in a (almost) purely two dimensional sidescroller/platformer in the true form of those first three Sonic games, while Act 2 of each stage will feature Sonic as he is most often seen today, in full 3D.

The modern stages are usually the more difficult of the two, involving all of the gameplay features that have become commonplace in the more recent Sonic games including grinding, boosting, aerial tricks, skidding, quick stepping and the homing attack, to name but a few. People who played games like Sonic Unleashed and, particularly, Sonic Colours will be familiar with these abilities. However, those coming back to the series after not playing a game since the Dreamcast era might find themselves a little confused as to how the modern style levels work. The good thing is, the game constantly gives tips and indicators as to where to go and what to do, which is particularly useful during some of the trickier sequences.

You can turn them off, which is good because it sometimes feels far too "hand holdy" for me. During certain parts of the game, such as boss fights, the game doesn't give you any chance to figure out the tricks for yourself at all. Within the first few seconds of the fight I was told me exactly how to beat it. It robs the player of any sense of accomplishment when they're lead about by the nose and not given an opportunity to figure these things out.

Level design is very imaginative.

This is one of the few issues that have started popping up in the more modern Sonic games, and has also now found its way into Generations. I don't understand why developers give kids no credit for effort whilst playing their games. This isn't to say that the challenge has been taken out entirely. Generations does at least reward players for revisiting and exploring the various routes through the stages. This can be really frustrating at times though because but you're often going so quickly that precise jumps you need to make are next to impossible, and thanks to ill times checkpoints, the game forces you to start the stage over and over until you can make this ridiculous jump so you can get that red ring. It all comes down to a matter of practice in the end.

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