Reviews: Sonic Generations
A fun but underwhelming anniversary (3DS version review)
Sonic's old character design returns alongside his modern counterpart for Sonic's 20th anniversary, and thus Sonic returns to the two gameplay styles format from Sonic Unleashed. The difference here is that the gameplay styles are more similar and relevant to each other. The game's story is conveyed through embarrassingly minimalistic cutscenes—animated 3D models slide around and speak with almost no voice acting, as if the game only made half the transition from DS. Thankfully the levels, on the other hand, are beautiful and perfectly capture the look of the originals. The soundtrack is compiled from some of the best music of Sonic's anthology. Classic Sonic's gameplay is a faithful reproduction of the Genesis games, with almost the exact same physics and the first three of his levels being facsimiles of the originals, and Modern Sonic's gameplay is more similar to the Sonic Rush Series and Sonic Colors (including the 2D sections of the Wii version). I enjoyed Modern Sonic's boosting and ring-jumping even more than Classic Sonic's spin dashing and rolling. There are seven bosses, three of which are races against three of the four other hedgehogs, and they're all executed well, despite Shadow and Silver's warping and attacking. The gameplay is fun overall, so what's the problem? The problem is that there isn't enough of it. There are only seven levels, each with a Classic act, a Modern act, and a very easy Special Stage like the ones in Sonic Heroes but polished. All levels are quite short—never the length of some of the more complex levels in Sonic 3 And Knuckles. The game tries to make up for it with missions, which unlock music tracks, 3D models, and artwork when cleared, but these are bland and reusing the same content. Particularly noteworthy are the missions where you must clear a level without losing a life or under a lenient time limit, which is already pretty much mandatory to earn an S rank on a level, a task that is more fun and easier than several missions. Earlier Sonic games remedy the problem of only having fourteen levels by adding other characters, making the levels longer, and adding interesting alternate objectives, but this game has quality and little quantity. As a result it just feels incomplete.
Great nostalgic blend of past and present, but could have been more
After the surprisingly fantastic Sonic Colors, I began to look forward to Sega's newest creative take on their famed mascot. The concept of two Sonics - modern and classic - co-existing was too meta and silly for my tastes at first, but I warmed up to the idea after playing a demo. What this game easily does right is the two gameplay styles. There's no denying that the Sonic games played very differently on the Genesis than they do now, and it was great not only to revisit classic Sonic games, but to take classic Sonic into the modern era. Likewise with the reverse. The reimagining of classic levels in 3D, and modern levels in 2D is very well done. My personal favorites are classic Crisis City, and modern Chemical Plant. I also fully expected to hate Sky Sanctuary (I hated it back on the Genesis), but ended up loving the modern version of it. It's probably my third-favorite level in the game. Some "modern Sonic" versions of the already modern levels, however, fail to capture their original appeal. As much as I disliked Sonic 2006, I loved Crisis City. The modern version of it feels like a very different level, with new obstacles like chunks of ground floatining on lava, which need to be pushed down to move on. It's very much not the same level. Likewise, I'm not happy with the new Speed Highway. Also done well is the differentiation between modern Sonic and classic Sonic. Classic Sonic is less "cool" and more cartoony, with funnier animations and a very different personality. If modern Sonic is a teen concerned with his image, classic Sonic is like a hyperactive kid who puts up an air of "cool" in front of his friends. These are definitely not the exact same character, even though they have a lot in common. I find classic Sonic to be endearing, and would like to see him return for more games. Unfortunately, what brings the game down for me, is the lack of levels, and the challenges used to compensate. There are 9 settings, with a modern and classic level each. To add extra content, there are 10 challenges per setting, but most of them are short and not that much fun for me. I'd rather have additional levels, like Sonic Colors did. Do that instead, and I'd easily call this the better game.
A step backwards from Sonic Colors
Positive: First let me say that I love this game (at least I feel the good out weighs the bad). Being a fan of the gameplay introduced in Sonic Unleashed day levels and Sonic Colors I enjoyed playing as modern Sonic. While I'm not one of those retrofans who hated anything post genesis I'd have to say I was impressed that they did a good job with Classic Sonic's gameplay as well. They replicated the genesis style physics and everything (even adding a few new yet fitting items like the skate board). I like the fact that modern Super Sonic can actually levitate in game play and avoid obsticles. I like the fact that you can alter your gameplay with the inventory menu option (bringing back a few well loved items for classic Sonic, ie: the elemental shields). Negative: One complaint is that it was too short. Okay, I guess 18 levels not including the challenges, minigames, and a few boss fights isn't THAT short but the 20th anniversary seemed to deserve more. That's one thing Sonic Colors seemed to do better, have more levels and worlds to explore. My biggest (non-fanboy) complaint is the lack of multiplayer in the console (360/PS 3) release. That's inexcusable, considering it was in the previous game (not to mention it seems sega tried to fix this mistake in the 3DS version). I think other characters should have been playable, instead we go mini-games (and boss battles). My favorites were Silver, Shadow, Metal Sonic, and the Tails race. The rest were... ehh? One of my fanboy gripes is the fact that Sonic lost his ability to use is spin attack to maneuver in the water as seen in Sonic Colors. I liked that additional ability because it seemed like an evolution to his character (considering modern Sonic is supposed to be Older Sonic). Also the fact that Modern Sonic's super form looses rings WAY too quickly while boosting. The latter may be a "welcome challenge" to some but I like a game breaking ability to be as game breaking as possible (like in Sonic Colors). Not to mention Super Sonic isn't given as much fanfare as he received in the previous games (going back to Sonic 2 up to... you guessed it, Sonic Colors). The game seemed extremely lacking probably due to Sega walking the tight rope of requests the fans were giving them. I hope they relax a bit in the next game.
A fitting birthday gift for the blue blur
So, this is it: One of the big ones. The one Sonic game that was meant to unite the divided fanbase and pay tribute to out favourite hedgehog. Did Generations do the job? Yes, and more. The levels are wonderful. They just feel so good to play, and the amount of speed you can get is simply fantastic, especially in Modern Sonic's stages. Also, there's this really powerful sense of nostalgia, blended in with this feeling of experiencing something completely new, that really makes this game a treat. The bosses are great, although they range from despicably hard to disappointingly easy. The Rival boss fights are pretty good, though, and more enjoyable than the regular bosses. Hell, they actually pull of the impossible task of making SILVER a sweet, enjoyable fight. The only problem I've had was a one-off (I think) glitch during the Shadow fight - running around the track, I realised he wasn't chasing me, and when I caught up to him, I realised it was because he'd glitched himself into running continuously into a wall. Not sure if that happened to anyone else, but it's still worth mentioning. For the game as a whole, I LOVE the graphics. They're so detailed that, during cutscenes, you can make out the stitching on Sonic's gloves. That's just incredible. Even on the Classic Sonic levels, the backgrounds are so wonderful to look at that you wonder how they managed to design it all and fit it all in. No detail was spared in this game, and it shows. The Sonic games have always been good with their music, but this one takes the cake. It's all remixes and re-recorded versions of old tunes, that again have this feeling of nostalgia and discovery. Move on over to the Crowning Music of Awesome section for more on that. The voice acting is great - while I didn't actually mind Jason Griffith (shock horror!), Roger Craig Smith is a pretty decent replacement. The problems are few, but jarring. The length of the game means it's over in hours, and the plot is nearly non-existent. I guess it's a call-back to when there WAS no plot aside from "beat Eggman", but it still felt poorly done. It's still fun, but it doesn't last long. As a tribute to a hero, this game is one of the most loving out there, packed full of nostalgia. It's just pure Sonic fun, and I'm loving it. Happy Birthday, Sonic, old friend - you deserve to have gotten this far.