Sonic Generations for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Despite the infamous ‘Sonic-cycle’ of misery and sadness, the blue hedgehog has been on something of an upswing lately. Sure, his newest games such as Sonic Colours aren’t as good as the originals, and don’t even come close to the recent offerings of his great rival Mario, but things have certainly improved since the miserable says of Sonic Heroes and Sonic ’06. Sonic Generations continues these tentative steps in the right direction, and is probably the best home console Sonic game since Sonic Adventure 2 on the Dreamcast and Gamecube.
Sonic Generations begins at Sonic’s birthday party with all of his obnoxious friends, which is mercifully interrupted by an otherworldly being, which captures of all Sonic’s pals and sends him into a white void. Time has been broken down, and the past is mingling with the present, as the Mega Drive-era (and blissfully mute) classic Sonic and the ganglier, wisecracking modern Sonic team up to save their friends and return the world to normal.
There’s an element of self-mockery to Sonic Generations that I enjoyed, but not enough of it, and the story is mostly made up of ultra-sincere dull Sonic fare. Although we’re invited to lightly mock terrible characters like Cream the Rabbit, we’re also sort of expected to like them, which is beyond the pale for me. Cream the Rabbit for crying out loud. At least the Australian raccoon from Sonic Rush Adventure doesn’t show up. Sonic at one point tells his younger counterpart that he has a great future ahead of him, but that’s not really true is it? If Sega had truly bought into the self-awareness that Generations shows glimmers of, we could have had something really entertaining here!
Sonic Generations’ main gimmick is that each level, based on a level from Sonic’s past, can be played both as ‘classic’ and ‘modern’ Sonic. There are only a handful of levels, with classics such as the original Sonic the Hedgehog’s Green Hill Zone, alongside Sonic Adventure 2’s City Escape (follow me, set me free, trust me and we will escape from the city) and even entries from the newer, terrible games such as Sonic 06’s Crisis City. The classic Sonic levels play much like the Mega Drive games, although there’s an element of 2.5D stuff coming through. The modern Sonic levels are a mishmash of basically on rails twitch based running, 2D sections and Sonic Adventure style gameplay. It’s odd, but it manages to generally take the best from those games without the worst. Alongside the main levels are a handful of actually really fun bosses, although the final boss is terrible. There may not be many levels, but the game is extended pretty nicely through challenges within the levels, which unlock collectibles. I was cynical about these, but many of them genuinely do offer an interesting and inventive spin; you may have already played these levels, but it doesn’t feel like you have.
This game is, simply put, a lot of fun. The classic levels are tricky and well designed. Sega never quite matched the tight platforming of Nintendo, and I’ll always prefer Mario to Sonic, but there were some things that Sega did better, chiefly the branching levels. I like that falling doesn’t necessarily mean death, it just means a lesser path with fewer rewards. The modern levels are more about spectacle, and there are some genuinely awesome moments, with the highlight for me coming from the level based on Sonic Unleashed (weirdly enough).
Sonic Generations looks nice enough, although there’s a weird fuzziness during the cut-scenes. The music is a treat, with some nice remixes of classic Sonic themes (City Escape!) that will set those with a huge investment of nostalgia into raptures. The voice acting is, well, Sonic the Hedgehog voice acting. It’s a neat little package, if relatively unambitious in its presentation.
Overall, Sonic Generations is a solid release, entirely worth the now low asking price. It’s not the glorious come back of an icon, but it’s at least good, and in this day and age that’s really the best we can hope for from a new Sonic game.