Sonic Generations is a Platforming-Action Adventure game developed by Sonic Team, Devil’s Details and Dimps for the Xbox360/PS3, PC and Nintendo 3DS platform respectively. The game can be picked up on all platforms boxed retail with the exception of the PC, which also allows digital distribution via the ‘steam’ platform. During the game you play as Sonic the Hedgehog from two different time periods; “classic sonic” from the genesis/2D era of sonic games and “modern sonic” from the Dreamcast era onwards. The game’s main hook and profound gameplay aspect is the differences between these two different yet similar characters. The story begins with each Sonics’ time-zone being attacked by a mysterious entity, attacking Sonic and his friends both in the past and the present, forcing both time zones to work together to realign the worlds. This is done via the duo visiting a world from each part of the time-line to repair the damage caused throughout. The characters’ voice acting is pretty well done with the script also being far less annoying and easy to listen to than previous games. The story is presented with a few cutscenes to keep the story rolling along, but Sonic Generations tends to keep the story on the back-burner in favour of using the characters and setting to roll out the game mechanics; something the series has needed for a long while. Each character has their own roles to play from giving advice and locations of secrets to being present in character specific challenges.
Sonic Generations has a real sense of speed and the art style really complements it. In motion the game looks absolutely gorgeous with a real sense of scale amongst the environments. The graphics tend to look less promising during slow segments but still capture the feel of the zone it’s recreating. Each Zone has its own distinctive art style and flavour which is very reminiscent and easily recognisable. The characters are rendered in better detail than ever with the Sonics taking most of the limelight in design. Classic Sonic has been redesigned from the ground up to bring the most amount of nostalgia he can with his signature “chubby” appearance and lack of any kind of speech. It’s interesting to see the Sonic of the past and the Sonic of the present interact and see how they deal with scenarios that affect them both. The characters often make off-comments that old players will recognise immediately (Tails being “nervous” about the water of chemical plant, for example). It’s a shame that the game has its fair share of frame rate drops during busy parts, it wouldn’t normally be a problem but the occasional death has occurred as a result of the game slowing down at high speeds, which can be irritating. The game uses the same engine as the engine used for Sonic Colours which does the game its favours in the stages that emphasise light, being one of the engines greatest graphical triumphs.
The shining gem of Sonic Generations doesn’t lie with the graphics thankfully, it lies with the gameplay. Sonic Generations doesn’t disappoint in this regard with both Sonics playing dramatically differently but still keeping the pace and fun for both acts. Each stage is split up into two acts, act one belonging to the Sonic of the past and act two being a new crafted level built for the high octane boost of modern Sonic. The classic Sonic acts play very much like the original genesis games keeping a very strict side scrolling viewpoint complete with old Sonics’ signature platforming segments, spin-dashing and other reminiscent mechanics. The spin-dash of classic Sonic is a bit more powerful than we’re used to but really brings a sense of excitement once you learn where best to use them. You could argue that whilst modern Sonic is speedier to start with, classic Sonic really shines with experience, a real pleasure for those that were looking for a classic feel with a brand new challenge based on skill over muscle memory. Classic Sonics’ stages also tend to add very reminiscent parts of the levels so you can experience them again for that little extra fix of nostalgia (running up the crumbling towers in Sky Sanctuary, for one of the many). The sound effects of classic Sonic is also reminiscent of earlier times with the jump sound effect being taken right out of Sonic CD and other sound effects being sprinkled from the 90s. Classic Sonic still has his fair share of problems though including the physics being quite a bit off in regards to loops and initial run up speed being akin to starting off at a snail’s pace then moving into super speed near the end. Sonic has also become rusty in his jumping with most jumps requiring the highest starting point to make it, a little annoying with speed-runs. Act two doesn’t fare much better either.
Modern Sonic plays exactly as you would expect him to play, with most of the level being an uncontrollable roller-coaster with most skill being with the eyes and muscle memory over timed jumps and dodges. Much like Sonic Colours, this aspect of the game puts more emphasis on the boost button than anything else with levels being carefully crafted to be visually pleasing and fast over skilful and precise. This leads to the obvious pitfalls including sudden stops whilst boosting, homing on to an enemy using the lock system but losing it at the last minute and flying off the edge amongst others. It’s a nice contrast to act 1’s carefully planned style but watching the level over playing it can get tiresome. Modern Sonic has been refined since colours though, in that areas that aren’t speed-fests being very nicely done with great mechanics and feelings of speed and skill. It feels a lot like Sonic Team were aiming for making modern Sonic the new classic in fans eyes but not quite hitting the mark, but getting ever closer. Each stage has its own spin on the original soundtrack with a different sounding song for each act. It’s pleasantly surprising to listen to how the original Sonics from yesteryear can be remade to still sound exhilarating. That’s not the end of the homage to the past games either with all boss battles being recreations from past games including metal Sonic, shadow and perfect chaos. Regrettably the boss battles have several pitfalls; firstly, they guard chaos emeralds that you collect throughout the game, but the easiness of the boss battles make the collection of them seem more like wasted time for more challenging content with a free emerald attached rather than a legitimate presentation of a past threat. Secondly, they’re so easy because they have very specific tells with the game telling you outright what to do during the battle “Watch out, Shadow’s going to <x>” doesn’t make a good boss battle, it makes it tedious and more like a chore than a display of skilful decision making.
Outside of the main story and gameplay mechanics there’re several incentives to keep playing. There are 90 challenges to do amongst the 9 stages with 45 challenges for each “Sonic”. These challenges range from the fun and exhilarating (race a doppelgänger to the end of the stage) to the outright frustrating (jump on flying musical notes at an ever increasing speed fighting against the camera). Overall though the selection is pretty good with most sub-characters making appearances to bring a new game mechanic to the table. The red-star rings from Sonic Colours also make their return hidden around the stages in both acts, totalling 90 throughout. There’s a “skill shop” where you can buy several additions to Sonic to reach different sections and play the game slightly differently (including the famous “element shields” from Sonic 3 and their respective benefits). The game also supports online leader boards in two modes: A classic speed-run with no skills on both acts for all stages and a “30 second post” run where you measure the distance from the starting point in 30 seconds. This is mostly effective at keeping you occupied if you have a few good competitive friends to battle it out with for faster times, encouraging faster routes and techniques. All the collectibles gained from these initiatives are nostalgic and include classic music (that can be used on any stage of any act) and classic pieces of artwork from recently as well as from the past.
The game has 9 stages from various different points in Sonics’ life but they’re all pretty easy to S-rank if you’ve played a Sonic game before, the characters are less annoying this time around and the cutscenes are pretty comical and fun to watch. The story is pretty sub-par but that’s not surprising for Sonic.
The graphics and art style really shine in motion but seem to lack the same detail when standing still. The art style of each zone is a great testament to what it represents though which is fantastic for a game centred around nostalgia. If this is the last we see of several of these zones, then it’s a good way to leave them.
Each song of the soundtrack and each sound effect in the game is tailored to be a testament to the last 20 years. They match together seamlessly and are honestly the best part of the game outside of the gameplay, the remixes are exciting, new and interesting and really make the redesigned levels shine.
The two types of gameplay available are contrasting and each brings a new feel to the table. It could be argued that because of the fragmentation of the gameplay that each doesn’t feel totally “complete” with both having their annoyances and bugs but overall it’s a great mix of young and old. The game is very easy though with boss battles being a particular mention.
Sonic Generations is a very short game. If you’ve finished a Sonic game in the past then expect to beat all the acts with an S ranking in around 6 hours but significantly more if you’re new to the series. Outside of that though there are leader boards to keep your attention hooked for new routes and a huge amount of unlockables to obtain.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.