Review: Sonic Generations (Multi)

Originally Posted on November 10, 2011: Link.

There is nothing that can keep a good hedgehog down. Sonic has been the poster child of reckless abandon ever since he left the confines of South Island to seek out the evil Dr. Eggman and stop him from taking over the world with the Chaos Emeralds. In his first outing on the Sega Genesis way back in 1991, Sonic became Sega’s cherished mascot, and with his legendary agility and laid-back coolness, quickly became a stark contrast to Mario’s slow and careful drudgery. Of course, the amazing music and surprisingly grim level design were all some of the best the industry had ever seen up to that point.

I may stand alone in saying that for every Sonic game out there, there has always been something appealing, even with the more debatable titles like Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and Sonic Riders. Despite this, there is no denying that the reputation of the series has been tarnished over the years by critically panned entries that have left many outside of the absolutely die-hard crowd feeling like Sonic’s days were numbered.

However, it seems that with last year’s release of Sonic Colors for the Wii and DS, Sega was finally taking the time to listen to all of the criticism lobbied against them and figured out what fans really wanted to see in a modern-era game. This was thanks in no small part to producer Takashi Iizuka who has helped bring Sonic back from the brink of disaster and back to positive equilibrium.

With a renewed sense of excitement for the Blue Blur, and following the very well-received first episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sega has been able to keep its head held high as it celebrates the 20 Year Anniversary of their mascot that many said would never happen. Sonic Generations serves as not only a fancy montage of all the great moments in Sonic’s grand history and where it all began, but as a solid example of where the hedgehog will be going in the future and how it will still be able to stand toe-to-toe with the other big dogs of the industry. Though it does still have its issues to deal with, the game is able to flex its impressive muscles enough to ward off even the most adverse denigration.

Sonic Generations pits the pot-bellied Sonic the Hedgehog of old alongside the slick Sonic the Hedgehog of today as they have been attacked by a rather frightening purple apparition called the Time Eater. As its name states, it has arrived to rip a hole through the very fabric of reality.

Thus, our two blue, crude dudes along with their respective versions of Tails must work together to restore the balance of time to the world and rescue their friends who have been kidnapped by the phantom and trapped inside a bevy of noteworthy Sonic levels from the series’ strong catalogue. There are over nine chapters for players to wade through, each with their own 2D sidescrolling Classic Sonic and 3D-traversing Modern Sonic variant, adding up to a satisfying 18 stages in all.

There are also several Challenges to complete, many of them optional, that add a healthy amount of replayability to the fold, which include Time Trials, Races, breaking boxes, finding hidden coins with Knuckles, and more. A few are required of each section in order to unlock keys to fight the bosses, which include Death Egg Robot from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Perfect Chaos from Sonic Adventure, and Egg Dragoon from Sonic Unleashed.

Players will also need to find the cherished Chaos Emeralds, some of them obtained from so-called Rival battles against Metal Sonic, Shadow the Hedgehog, and (sigh) Silver the Hedgehog. These usually entail Sonic running away or towards the fast-traveling creature and figuring out the pattern it takes to destroy them.

Skill Points also come into play—obtained at the end of every stage and challenge, they can be used in the game’s designated Skill Shop. Skills include things such as being able to run faster up slopes, jump higher, land on your feet when damaged, a longer or infinite boost. Not so good at the game? You can buy an extra life for that rare moment where inexperienced gamers may have depleted their stock. You can even buy a controller to hook up to a Sega Genesis found near the Green Hill Zone to play the original Sonic the Hedgehog!

Though I did grow up having an immense level of joy and satisfaction from playing the original Sonic games, I felt myself becoming more and more accustomed to Modern Sonic’s level designs. Of course, full disclosure – I loved playing Sonic Adventure 2 on my family’s Dreamcast, and the dozens of hours I spent playing around in the Chao Garden is evidence of that fact (why the hell didn’t you include that feature, Sonic Team?), so I am already accustomed to their style. However, it really came down to the sheer amount of fun and excitement I had playing in these areas over the slow and frankly tedious retro areas.

I loved being able to see where I was going and have the benefit of using Sonic’s homing attack to cross large gaps. Plus, a lot of the modern stages are incredibly sublime and well-paced with a fine attention to detail that removed some of the frustrations that plagued some of the series’ earlier 3D outings. In some cases, even the remixes of classic Sonic songs actually sounded better than their original tracks. Some may cry blasphemy, but I honestly feel that is the case, and I am sure many would agree after lending their ear to the music. Sky Sanctuary, how I love thee.

One of the unfortunate problems that detracts from the game is its tendency for pop-ins. This can become especially arduous during some of the fast-paced Modern Sonic sections. For example, while I was racing on a road towards a giant Dr. Eggman contraption, I was tasked to use one of three booster ramps lined up next to each other to fly up onto a set of rails that lined the sides of the course.

On several ocassions during this excursion, at least one of those ramps would randomly disappear. This also happened during a time trial challenge when a robot was launching spiked projectiles in my direction and some would vanish, only to reappear right in front of my face and thus too late to react. Fortunately, aside from some framerate issues and rather agitating enemy placements that almost always puts Sonic in danger of being hit, this was the only real problem I faced during my tenure with the game.

As I mentioned before, there is a decent amount of replayability to be had, with a large collection of challenges, skills to purchase, and different difficulty levels to partake in. Being able to find all of the hidden unlockables, such as music and artwork, or simply gunning for an “S” rank in every stage is a great way to extend the life of the game. Of course, having more levels and perhaps being able to play Sonic 2 and Sonic & Knuckles on the same Genesis would have been a great addition to fully celebrate Sonic’s impact on gamers, but this could be added by way of DLC.

With one step back but three steps forward, Sonic Generations may be the triumph that the series has been waiting for to show to fans since it went into the 3D era, and I have no shame in admitting that I had so much damn fun playing this exciting game. In the face of adversity, Sonic has come out on top in vast array of colors—all of them blue. Let me end this review with a quote from a famous writer: “Sonic, he can really move. Sonic, he’s got an attitude. Sonic, he’s the fastest thing alive. He’s the fastest thing alive.

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