Developer: Sonic Team
by: Paul "EastX" Acevedo
This console generation hasn’t been easy for Sonic fans. The legendary awfulness of Sonic ’06 (a game that was basically released incomplete) left such a bad taste in my mouth; I’m only just now getting over it. Sonic Unleashed could have turned things around, but instead whizzed all over Sonic by turning him into a goofy ‘werehog.’ I feel dirty even typing that word out. But Sonic 4, despite mixed reception from fans, was certainly a step in the right direction. Now, five years after Sonic 06 broke the hearts of gamers everywhere, Sega has finally put things right with Sonic Generations, the best Sonic game since the Dreamcast days.
Sonic Generations brings the cute, silent Sega Genesis version of Sonic together with his edgier, more talkative modern self as they battle the mysterious Time Eater. They’ll revisit famous levels and bosses from the Sonic games of shore and rescue their many friends along the way. The story is told via sparse but interesting and clever cut scenes that will put a smile on the face of anyone who knows a thing or two about Sonic.
Sonic Generations' 8 levels are taken from past Sonic titles, starting with Sonic 1’s Green Hill Zone and ending with Planet Wisp from Sonic Colors. Each level has both a 2D act for Classic Sonic and a 3D version for Modern Sonic. You can’t avoid the 3D acts or vice versa, but they can be tackled in any order. Since every stage originally played in only one of the two gameplay styles, the addition of a new style (with its own beautiful remixed music) makes the old stages feel fresh again.
Adding further excitement to each zone is a multitude of new paths to follow. Sonic’s stages have always included high and low routes, the higher one requiring greater skills to reach and offering greater rewards than its lower counterpart. Sega has really outdone itself this time, littering each stage with an astounding number of nooks and crannies. Every act contains five hidden Red Star Rings. Hunting down and collecting them all teaches you the best paths and ins and outs of every stage. Plus collecting all of the Red Star Rings unlocks new skills for Sonic (and Achievements/Trophies), so the exploration is worth the trouble.
Speaking of skills, a wide variety of them can be purchased with points earned from completing levels. The higher your letter grade, the more points you get. Skills can make Sonic run faster, breathe underwater, enable the elemental shields from Sonic 3, and even give classic Sonic a homing attack. I like tweaking my skill set for different situations, but you can set it up, forget about it and still do just fine.
While you can run through the main stages of Sonic Generations in a day (just like the 16-bit games), it packs an ample amount of extra content to keep players busy. Every zone has ten challenge levels (5 for each version of Sonic) that mix up the gameplay in various ways: giant enemies, races against a doppleganger, and lots more. While these look like existing levels, they often vary so much as to feel completely different. Other unlockable bonus content includes character profiles, concept art, and my favorite: you can replace any stage’s music with dozens of tunes from previous Sonic games (even Sonic R!).
Sonic Generations isn’t perfect. The methods for damaging the last couple of bosses are extremely unintuitive, and the 3D stages sometimes punish players for doing something other than what the designers expected. The first part of Crisis City is a great example: if you boost your speed immediately upon starting the level, an action usually encouraged elsewhere, you’re guaranteed to fall in a pit and die. The rougher parts are mostly confined to the final third of the game - typical of a rushed schedule. But hey, problems like that are much easier to forgive when they’re wrapped within such an otherwise energetic and delightful package. You can’t please the crazier Sonic fans, but most enthusiasts of the blue blur will love stepping back into his speedy shoes.