Sonic Generations is a game that has been a long time coming but, as the popular aphorism goes, better late than never. Sonic Generations takes Sonic back to his roots, all the while managing to update the series formula with the necessary sheen we expect in modern gaming. There are a few jarring elements but, in comparison to other recent Sonic titles, Generations is the return to form that we have all been waiting for.
The plot, or at least what I could understand of it, revolves around a mysterious beast sundering the space time continuum in Sonic’s world, forcing Sonic and his retro counterpart to venture through their collective pasts in order to save their friends and restore order. It’s ridiculous and often irrelevant but, whilst I’m normally pretty tough on games that conjure up cheap narratives, Generations often feels very self aware of its occasionally rushed story elements. Let’s be honest, you’re in the wrong franchise if you’re looking for deep characterisation and emotional stories. Instead of trying to make Sonic what it is not, Sega have used the plot as a device to bring retro and modern Sonic together, the feature that really allows Generations to shine.
The two Sonics travel through the stages together, all of which are based on famous stages from Sonic’s past and present. Each character features a slightly different style of gameplay but, seeing as how they are both technically the same hedgehog we know and love, the game never deviates too much from the fast paced platforming the series is renowned for. Retro Sonic plays out just like Sonic in his glory years, with entirely 2D stages that are based purely on speed, quick reactions and dexterous platforming. It feels just as good as it did back then, and the refined elegance of the classic Sonic gameplay remains relevant even today. Modern Sonic has a slightly different approach, with his stages blending 2D and 3D gameplay together seamlessly. The 3D sections play out as they did in the 2008’s Sonic Unleashed, except with much more polish and none of those retarded werehog sections.
It’s all very slick and smooth, with the defining feel of speed bolstering the solid gameplay. The level design too is accomplished, with classic stages like the Chemical Plant zone, the City Escape from Sonic Adventure 2 and plenty more of the great stages from Sonic’s illustrious history getting a modern makeover. There are definitely moments of the same old frustrating platforming sections that have plagued 3D Sonic games since their inception, but the exciting moments far outweigh the tedious. What really boosts the game’s stages and their respective nostalgia factor is the game’s use of music. Whilst retro Sonic’s stages feature the same 16-bit tunes of old (albeit in higher quality), the modern Sonic variations of the stages get modern remixes of the old tunes with fantastic results. The game looks the part as well, with everything having a really smooth and detailed level of polish. Seeing so many classic Sonic levels in HD for the first time is breathtaking, and I never once noticed any slowdown during my time with Sonic Generations (although the side effect of this is some pretty beastly loading times.) 3DTV owners can also get the experience in stereoscopic 3D but, without the necessary equipment to hand, we were unfortunately not able to test this particular feature.
So Sonic has finally got back on track, but some of the flaws of the past remain. Even with both characters having slightly different unlockable skills and abilities, the game can become repetitive in long doses. Sonic has always been the sort of game you just tune into for a quick burst of speed and, even today, it cannot justify any longer than an hour or two at a time before the average player will get bored/lose patience. Boss encounters keep the game going with a steady selection of new gameplay ideas, but the challenges you need to do to unlock these can become repetitive. There are some good ideas for differing challenges for each Sonic, but they use exactly the same stages as the main levels, which begin to become monotonous after a while. Even when pacing yourself, the game is also not particularly long. Some replay value is added by collectible coins, better ratings and alternative paths through each stage, but the game still isn’t going to give you the largest bang for your buck overall.
Though there are a few issues in terms of the quantity of gameplay, the sheer quality of it brings Sonic out of the slump he seems to have been in for so many years. The odd moment of frustration and repetition locks Sonic Generations out from achieving a higher score but, if you’re hankering for some good old fashioned Sonic gameplay like you remember from the golden years, then Generations is the game you have been waiting for.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Graphics are smooth and vivid, Gameplay is simple and refined, No alternative characters to water down the proceedings, Interesting challenges and boss fights, Awesome music, Great stage variety
Can get repetitive from time to time, Challenges just re-use main stages, Not especially long, The odd frustrating platforming moment, Long loading times
The return to form that Sonic has needed for years, Generations offers an undiluted and highly self aware Sonic game that will please new and old fans alike with style, tight gameplay and a real sense of speed