Review by SR71halo
"Sega pays tribute to Sonic the Hedgehog's 20 year history with the best Sonic title in over a decade"
In 1991 came a blue hedgehog who could run fast, had an attitude and gave us a brand new spin on the platforming genre. His name was Sonic the Hedgehog, and he was a video game legend ever since with his unique gameplay style that is still cherished to this day. After his Genesis days, things got kind of messy for the blue blur. His first step into 3D wasn't so bad with Adventure 1&2, but then came nothing but a decade of mediocre to bad games like Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic & the Black Knight and the one 3D title that everyone just loves so much, Sonic the Hedgehog (aka Sonic 06).
Then came Unleashed and Colors to show that there was still some life in this old hedgehog and things only got better. Now, for Sonic's 20th anniversary, Sega made Sonic Generations, a game made especially for the loyal fans who have stuck by Sonic through the good times and the bad times. With the return of the Unleashed/Colors gameplay AND by bringing back the classic gameplay, could Sega continue their recent success?
The story starts off on one beautiful day where Sonic's friends throw him a surprise birthday party. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a mysterious creature appears. This "time eater" opens up several time portals and captures all of Sonic's friends. Sonic tries to fight back but is knocked out almost immediately. He wakes up in a void and then comes across a very familiar sight; Green Hill Zone. Now, using his speed, Sonic must team up with his past self to restore time, save his friends, and defeat this mysterious new threat. That's all there really is to the story and it's not quite as deep as we had hoped. I know it's a Sonic game but I was expecting more story and cut scenes. The best part of the story, what little there is, is we come across Classic Sonic. He is a mute the entire game, but it is cool to see the two Sonics interact. There are also some jokes and references towards other games in the series and most of them are actually kind of funny. Other than that, and the fact that Roger Craig Smith returns as Sonic's voice (as well as the other new voice actors, not a bad thing though), the story is kind of disappointing.
The game is split up into two types of gameplay per level: Act 1 which is the Classic style and Act 2 which are all done in the modern style. First, Classic Sonic plays a lot closer to his old Genesis self like Sonic 1, 2 and 3&K. As Sonic's Genesis design, you are put in a 2D sidescrolling perspective and you are left with your jump, spin dash and momentum physics to overcome your obstacles and enemies throughout each level. Although the physics are slightly off, Classic Sonic plays like you would expect and almost any fan of the Genesis games will be happy to see this sort of gameplay return. Complete with top notch stop-and-go platforming level design, the classic style is as enjoyable as ever.
Surprisingly enough, even the modern gameplay is a lot of fun. As the more modern design of Sonic, this game continues the success of Unleashed's and Colors' gameplay where you must use speed and homing attacks to get through each level that switches between 3D and 2.5D. There is definitely plenty of boosting and homing attacks to get to the goal, but Unleashed's "boost to win" formula is a little more dumbed down this time. That's right, Generations focuses more on platforming than just running fast and in the end, finds that fine balance between speed and actual platforming. Like the previous games, the boost is represented in a bar but it runs out much faster now and so you'll have to use it accordingly. You can build it back up by either defeating enemies, collecting rings or doing air tricks which are pulled off by pushing the joy stick in any direction while in the air. Doing this can also give you more boost than the maximum amount. Balancing the boost with platforming elements, along with much tighter controls, makes this an improvement over the Unleashed formula. In the end, both gameplay styles are fast, fun and exciting and almost any Sonic fan can enjoy both of them.
In addition to the return of Classic gameplay and an improvement on modern gameplay, you also get to play 9 of Sonic's most memorable levels from his past games. The levels are split into 3 eras: Classic, Adventure and Modern with 3 levels per era. Play through old favorites like Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary, Speed Highway, City Escape or Seaside Hill to more recent entries like Crisis City, Rooftop Run and Planet Wisp. Each level is beautifully redesigned for both Classic and Modern gameplay with their own unique design, look and sound to capture the feel of the game they're from. Each stage also has their own remixed track for both acts to fit the gameplay style and they all sound great. Those aren't the only tracks represented though, for you can unlock up to 50 tracks from various Sonic games to play during each level. How do you get these? One thing you can do is keep collecting red star rings within levels and every couple of those will unlock one (every single one unlocks artwork otherwise). The levels are short and the game can be completed in 5 hours but the level design is actually quite good as each level is a blast to play through. There could have been a little more variety in the level themes like less city stages, but at least they don't feel the same. Completing both acts of each level will restore life into it and free one of Sonic's friends, though the only thing they do is give you advice and help you on certain challenges.
With the levels comes 5 challenge levels each. These challenges vary from level to level that usually involves using an item to navigate through a stage, racing your "doppelganger", or using one of Sonic's friends to use their abilities to help you (or have them compete against you) like using Knuckles to help you dig for coins, or use Tails to help you fly through Chemical Plant. There is almost always something new to tackle per level and beating a challenge will either unlock artwork or a new track (which are obtained by ringing the bell and chasing a music note.....yeah). They may seem easy at first but the modern challenges can get really difficult. There isn't too much reason to replay them upon completion other than getting a higher rank, but the challenges are surprisingly interesting.
After you complete a certain amount of levels, you will also be faced with one rival fight (Metal Sonic, Shadow and Silver) and one boss fight (Egg Robo, Perfect Chaos and Egg Dragoon) also from Sonic's past games. All bosses and rivals have also been reinvented to keep them fresh and some of them have interesting concepts. However, they're pretty underwhelming. Sometimes they're fun, but they are way too easy and every single boss only takes exactly 4 hits to defeat. There is a hard mode to help this, but it hardly does anything to make them more difficult except for adding an extra hit or 2 or make their attacks last a little longer. The only boss that's noticeably harder is maybe the Egg Dragoon (and I swear Perfect Chaos is easier in hard mode). They're interesting, but they're just too easy and the final boss just plain sucks.
Of course, what's a 3D Sonic game nowadays without a hub world? This one is actually not bad though. Well, it may not look like much due to being in a white void but that's the only downside. Set in a side scrolling view, you can switch between Classic and Modern Sonic and select your stage or boss, or you can go to the skill shop, listen to your unlocked tracks or look at your unlocked artwork. The skill shop is used to spend points (which you get for beating levels) on new moves, items (like shields) and improved physics, so you can upgrade Classic to play a little closer to his old days. Plus, you can also buy the Sega Genesis Controller which actually unlocks the original Sonic the Hedgehog from 1991 and all its former glory. Overall, this is probably the most useful hub world in a long time.
Sega wanted to make sure that this 20th anniversary game for Sonic the Hedgehog counted, and it really shows. Spite a few issues like how short the game is and the bosses being underwhelming, this is by far one of Sonic's best games to come out in a long time. The levels are uniquely designed and their is plenty of nostalgia to be had for any Sonic fan to enjoy. Whether your a Classic fan from the Genesis days, an Adventure fan from the Dreamcast or a fan of the most modern Sonic, you are sure to enjoy Sonic Generations.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/17/12
Game Release: Sonic Generations (US, 11/01/11)
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