Developer: Sonic Team
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
The Sonic Team (and Sonic) renaissance continues with another solid and hugely fun to play Sonic the Hedgehog game. While not flawless, Sonic Generations does a mostly stellar job of recapturing the nostalgia of the blue hedgehog’s early days while also giving gamers a Shake ‘n Bake of pretty much every major Sonic game (and a few minor ones) that’s come along since. Those well-versed in Sonic lore will be grinning ear to ear at the presentation, looking for references all over the place as they play through the game. Like the classic games it cobbles its levels and characters from, the overall experience is somewhat brief. However, just like the old days, this is one game you’ll blow through once and go back to over and over until you’ve aced every challenge and scored “S” ranks across every single map.
There’s a goofy story here about some evil time-warping beastie appearing while Sonic and friends are celebrating his birthday, sucking them all into a black hole of sorts and dumping everyone into separate worlds. Of course, the original stubby 16-bit Sonic and today’s leaner, meaner talking Sonic get pulled in as well and before you can say “Huh?”, both characters are off to the races in “Classic” and “Modern” stages based on Sonic games from the beginning all the way up to last year’s Sonic Colors (a game I liked quite a lot on the Wii as well as on the DS). The best way to enjoy the game is to not think too much about all the story’s hows and whys at all. You’ll need to save that brain juice for the fast-paced dashing and platforming action ahead. Opening with a fantastically perfect HD version of Green Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog, the game brought me back to the first time I played the original and if you’re one of those gamers who remembers that feeling (or just love excellent platformers), you’ll be grinning madly as well.
What’s so thrilling about the game is how Sonic Team has re-imagined the stages from the classic Sonic era and revamped elements of the modern Sonics into a set of awesomely fun maps that are challenging and packed with secrets, shortcuts and tons of replay value. While speeding through a map in record time is indeed cool and can net you some great rewards, it’s only when you revisit stages a few times to see what you missed (or to collect hard to reach red stars or the three keys needed to unlock each boss encounter) that the sheer size of the stages becomes clear. The old Sonic 2D stages have been enhanced with slick “2.5 D” sections where the camera swings around a corner as Classic Sonic jets forth, while Modern Sonic’s 3D sections have side-scrolling areas that play like the old games save for his moves. Shifting between the two gameplay styles takes a bit of practice if you’re more used to one type of Sonic, but the game isn’t impossible and frustration is kept mostly to a minimum.
With each Sonic and his stages, there are some cheap deaths to be had, but the majority of them will be via your own through mistiming momentum, panic jumping or rushing too fast into some spikes, into a bottomless pit or an enemy. Even when you’re having trouble with certain stages, the game is so colorful and thrilling that you’ll find yourself pushing onward just to see what’s next. The presentation is superb throughout with a riot of Sonic history everywhere from the menus, classic remixed tunes, bits and pieces from the Dreamcast and current gen Sonic games and more stuff that will make the most hardcore Sonic fan get misty-eyed. As you play through the game, you’ll earn coins that can be used to buy skills for either character as well as unlock all sorts of cool stuff. The skills system adds a RPG-lite element to the game as it puts you in control of how easy or hard you want to make things. You can trick your Sonics out with a handy shield, a guaranteed ring bonus even if you slam into something, special boosts and more.
Generations also has a cool sense of humor about it in nice little touches like the great hub world layout, both Sonics’ idle animations and throwaway bits in cut scenes like Sonic fighting off Amy Rose’s advances while trying to eat a hot dog in the opening movie. There are also some cameos by familiar favorites as well as long-forgotten Sonic cast-offs from games you may never have heard of. Everything gels wonderfully, but this is Sonic’s show and Sonic Team knows it. You may find it strange that somehow no one can tell that there are two decidedly different Sonics running about, but I guess you can chalk that up to everyone just being happy to be rescued from the stages they’re trapped in. Of course, you won’t be busy trying to apply any rules of reality to what’s here at all, I’d bet. Do that, and you’re sentenced to be strapped to a chair with your hands glued to a controller playing Shadow the Hedgehog instead of this gem…
What’s great about the game is it’s SO packed with content that while you can beat the main mode in around six hours (depending on your skill level, of course), you won’t have seen everything at all. There are Challenge and bonus stages to dive into, an art gallery to unlock and even a fantastic HD version of the original Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog you can play (provided you save up 7777 coins). Clearly, Sonic Team had a blast making this game and the end result is outstanding, nostalgic and definitely the best take on the character since Colors. There are a few bugs here and there that keep this from absolute “perfection”, but the overall sense of fun here can’t be squashed once you get rolling. If there’s a major gripe to be had here, it’s with the game’s packaging. For a 20th anniversary, the thin manual is a bit of a letdown for longtime fans expecting some sort of blowout Deluxe Edition. Then again, that’s what its come to in this age of DLC and online manuals to save money, so don’t be TOO hard on Sega.
As I don’t own a 3D TV, I didn’t get to take the game for a spin with a pair of funny-looking expensive glasses on. However, given that this one’s a keeper, it’ll go in the collection until that day comes when I get the chance to see how it looks with everything popping out like Jayne Mansfield on the Cyclone wearing a paper dress. I do, however want to try the 3Ds version of Generations, as it’s the only portable version available. If it’s anywhere as good as what’s here, it’s a must buy title. Which also means you get a really bad pun or two as a closer: Dash down to your favorite game shop and ring up a copy of Sonic Generations – Sonic Team and Sega are on a roll here, so definitely support them so we can see more Sonic adventures of this caliber in the future.