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Sonic Generations Review


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On 11/06/2011 at 12:00 PM by Jason Ross

Chili Dogs. Dr. Robotnik. Spin Dash. Death Egg. All things forgotten in the history of Sonic, and all things that make their return in Sonic Generations.
RECOMMENDATION:

Fans of classic Sonic gameplay who can tolerate the stuff found in Unleashed or Colors would enjoy this, as would fans of modern Sonic gameplay who can tolerate what's there in Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Knuckles. Generations is a fun game with a few flaws at its heart, but none ruin the entire title, unlike some of Sonic's more recent outings.

Sonic Generations begins, aptly enough, with classic Sonic playing through a new stage based on the original first Sonic stage: Green Hill Zone. Sure enough, there are all sorts of enemies like Motobugs (lady bugs on wheels) and Choppers (piranha bots that bite at Sonic while he crosses a bridge.) Sonic runs through a two-dimensional plane through the entirety of the stage, and with just the press of a button (or the traditional down + the jump button) he can charge up a spin-dash and take off.

Soon enough, after the stage is over we see a cheesy cutscene with all of modern Sonic's current friends gathering to celebrate Sonic's birthday, complete with cake and chili dogs. In a flash, all of Sonic's pals are sucked into time portals as Sonic is left behind. Suddenly, Sonic finds himself in a place that looks familiar. A 3D version of Green Hill Zone awaits Sonic, where he can home in on enemies, use a high-speed dash at the press of a button, perform short hops without losing any speed, and even drift or do a quick shift left or right in some areas. After the stage, Sonic is puzzled from seeing a place from his past. As he scratches his head, the Green Hill Zone representation in the game's white, time-devoid overworld fills with color, as does as does what seemed to be a statue of a two-tailed fox. Tails, now unfrozen in time, discusses Green Hill Zone's familiarity with Sonic, and thus we see what Sonic Generations has to offer.

The first two stages of Sonic Generations are a microcosm of the entire game. Each world/level/zone hails from one of nine previous Sonic games, though I suppose I might spoil some of the games by listing them all, it should be known that three of the games hail from the Sega Genesis, three hail from the last console generation, and three hail from this current generation. As a call back to the Genesis days, these worlds have two acts, with Classic Sonic and his strictly 2D gameplay traversing the first act, while the second act consists of Modern Sonic utilizing his speedy Sonic Unleashed-style 2D/3D gameplay. Using both formulas allows plenty of variety, so gameplay never feels stale, but even more, the zones all look beautiful, with lots of items and details littering the backgrounds. Everything is very busy, in the best sort of way. Never before has Sonic looked quite this good, and in motion, he looks even better.

Alongside the stage remakes comes a hoard of classic Sonic music and remixes alike. Each world has two new remixes based on the stage's original music, but several more songs can be unlocked from challenges and hidden items in stages. These unlocked songs can be chosen before any stage. Some of the remixes sound great, but others fail to live up to the originals. Either way, there's no issue since each stage can be played to any unlocked song in the game. I can say this with a degree of certainty: many stages are made more enjoyable when Sonic Boom is played in the background.

Everything detailed above sounds great. Yes, it's true that Classic Sonic's spin-dash is a bit uncontrollably fast, faster than even Modern Sonic's speed boost. Yes, the hill/ramp physics aren't quite as perfect as they were in the Genesis days, but the reality is they work very well in this game, unlike Sonic 4: Episode One. Meanwhile, Modern Sonic has eliminated the odd floaty jump, and no stand-alone stage reuses level areas from the ones before it, like in Sonic Colors. Even more, with so many Sonic games to choose from, enemies aren't limited to one bot wearing a different hat holding a whisk, sign, or pickaxe. There's no werehog. Sonic Generations is substantially better than any of the hedgehog's recent outings.

Still, Generations leaves much to be desired. Bosses really aren't designed very well, consisting of running chase sequences where either Classic or Modern Sonic has to damage Robotnik/Eggman or his rivals, like Mecha Sonic or Shadow. In nearly all cases, these fights have new mechanics or uncertain twists on what's already there that aren't explained well or offer little chance for attack. In a few cases, I was left scratching my head as to how to even come close to succeeding against the boss, and in retrospect, the final boss still has me puzzled, though some how I was able to defeat it. In all cases, these boss battles fail to reproduce the same atmosphere and gravity as they did in their original games.

Worse, perhaps, are the cutscenes. Modern Sonic can speak, but Classic Sonic cannot. This nuance is a little fun, a memento of a time when heroes in video games who weren't named Q-Bert didn't make too much sound, but oddly enough, while Classic Sonic can't say anything, Classic Tails can speak just fine during cutscenes. I am being nitpicky, yes, but when one Tails proclaims that some beast is traveling through time, wrecking and pulling places from the set spots in time and space and bringing them back to the void that is the colorless overworld, I have to wonder why Sonic Team couldn't have just made all the characters mute to tell a simpler story without words.

After each trio of zones, one of ten challenges for each individual zone must be completed to unlock a key to a boss. Challenges can require a Sonic to collect a set number of rings and reach the goal. Others want a Sonic to reach the goal under a certain time. Others ask for a Sonic to race a friendly character, and still more ask a Sonic to race a doppelganger as it runs through the stage. Some challenges, mostly racing-related ones, take place in the established zone acts. Others seem to use quickly constructed stages that take cookie-cutter pieces of the zones but lack the original's spirit. A few are a little more creative, with one, for example, allowing Tails to be summoned to fly Sonic around, like the buddy-flights of Sonic 3. In all cases, these challenges disrupt the flow of the game. Half of the game's unlockable content in the form of songs and original Sonic art is barricaded behind these experiences. Annoyingly, the specific piece of locked content each challenge holds isn't revealed until after the challenge has been beaten. It was by stroke of luck that I managed to capture Sonic Boom by picking and completing a random challenge as I progressed through the game. Fortunately, only one challenge from each world must be completed to move on to an area's boss.

I really have to say Sonic Generations is a good game. It's a good Sonic game. Certainly, it's not the best, but Generations is far from the worst as well. While the stages and the two Sonics work well in tandem, the cutscenes, the challenges, and the boss fights really weigh Sonic(s) down. As someone who has enjoyed Sonic's Genesis days, and someone who groaned through the issues of Sonic as of late, I'm satisfied with the hedgehog's latest adventure, but I still see clear room for improvement. Given this, Sonic Generations really does capture the whole of Sonic's history in its entirety, from the good to the bad, and even a little bit of the ugly.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

11/06/2011 at 01:43 PM

Totally have to play this. This game has Chaos and Mecha Sonic, even though they call him Metal Sonic.

Anonymous

11/06/2011 at 08:35 PM

Apparently, Mecha Sonic and Metal Sonic are two entirely different characters. Metal Sonic is, in fact, the one that they introduce in the game; Mecha Sonic is the boss you first saw at the end of Sonic 2 that stands about twice the height of Sonic.

I agree for the most part with this review. I wanted more classic levels, and it's rumored that Casino Night zone will appear in some capacity. The strangest thing is, when I play a Modern Sonic level and then play a Classic Sonic level, although I long for the nostalgia of Classic Sonic, Modern Sonic is just... so much more fun. o_O I jump into a classic level and I can't tell you how many times I've tried to use a homing attack, something that was a total dealbreaker for me in Sonic 4.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

11/06/2011 at 08:59 PM

I just love the fact that chemical plant zone is in the game. definitely gonna rent, or buy when the price dips

Jason Ross Senior Editor

11/06/2011 at 10:52 PM

Hey Anonymous, the homing attack is an unlockable upgrade for Classic Sonic. A few different skills are available for Sonics to equip that I didn't really find impressive.

But really, I'm not much of a fan of the game's reliance of the Homing Attack. I always feel like it's just another way to make things run on auto-pilot.

And JD, you could likely rent it and experience nearly everything pretty well. I didn't feel like there was much to come back to with it aside from the basic unlockables, so I can definitely recommend it as a rental.

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