Three eras, two hedgehogs, one epic adventure! That was the slogan for what would become possibly the best Sonic game since Sonic Adventure 2 for the Sega Dreamcast. This is the WhitWire review for Sonic Generations for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 (also given a handheld version on the Nintendo 3DS).
Since the blue blur’s introduction to 3D-styled gameplay, opinions on the quality of his games have been mixed between the two halves of his fan-base. Modern Sonic games have been criticized over and over again for having too many scripted scenes, implementing bad cameras, causing motion sickness, and shoving unnecessary gimmicks down our throats.
With the debut of Sonic Generations, the fans’ attention was immediately drawn to one fact: now you could play as either “classic” Sonic or “modern” Sonic as you progress. Sonic Generations was Sega’s attempt to celebrate 20 years of their beloved mascot—but does it live up to expectations?
It isn’t until you finish the very first level of the game as Classic Sonic when you’re introduced to some story elements. The basic plot of Sonic Generations is that a mysterious time-travelling creature has captured the Sonics and their friends and sucked the “color and life” out of the surrounding world—all with the aim to stop time itself.
Through the game’s progress, you will save Sonic’s friends—who have been eaten by this creature and set into alternate dimensions. Playing as Modern Sonic, you’ll save your fox-friend Tails. Tails—who is just as perplexed about this strange world as Sonic is. After this, the hubworld given to you expands, you can decide whether to play as Modern Sonic or Classic Sonic, and you’ll now have to zip your way through four more levels before Classic and Modern Sonic finally meet up.
Upon discovering that there are two Sonics, the game’s storyline goes through a very simple formula: save your friends and stop the evil that threatens to tear the world apart.
As Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, it’s up to you to run through this world—which comes in the form of various levels—to bring them back to life. All these levels are based on past levels from the all the Sonic games created in the past 20 years. Each of these levels are set up into groups of three—referred to as “eras”.
There are three eras: Classic, Dreamcast, and Modern. The Classic era consists of Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, and Sky Sanctuary. The Dreamcast era’s levels are Speed Highway, City Escape, and Seaside Hill. Finally there’s the Modern era—which is made up of Crisis City, Rooftop Run, and Planet Wisp.
Both Classic and Modern Sonic will have to run through the levels in these eras. Every time the Sonics run through these levels, they travel through time and space. As a result, they restore color and life to the universe.
It isn’t until the end where a “certain someone” and his “friend” show up and admit to having caused all the havoc in the Sonics’ world. Who are these people I speak of? I don’t know, guys; I probably shouldn’t spoil it for you!
All this being said, the story of this game—especially for an anniversary title—is incredibly simple but manages to tie in well with the actual gameplay.
If there’s one thing I think many of today’s Sonic games lack in, it’s variety. In the past, however, games like Sonic Adventure were criticized for having too many characters to play as—half of which were completely boring in the eyes of many fans. Despite everything I’ve just said, Sonic Generations gives an equal balance of diversity among levels.
People who played Sonic’s titles on the Sega Genesis will feel immediately at home with Classic Sonic. He’s everything you’d think he would be; he has the old, stout, beady-eyed look, old side-scrolling gameplay, and same means of reaching the end of levels.
Classic Sonic plays identically to how he played in the Genesis days—with a few exceptions. The first difference you’ll notice about Classic Sonic is the power in his spindash. In the old days, if you really wanted to make a powerful spindash, you’d have to press down on the D-pad and constantly mash the jump button. In Generations, however, you get all the power by only pressing the spindash button—and and nothing else but the spindash button—once. Once you decide Sonic is done revving up in place, you can let go of the spindash button and cause him to skyrocket across the screen—bouncing on enemies all the while.
One of the major downsides to Classic Sonic—a feature that will become immediately apparent to anybody who has played the Genesis titles—is his inability to gain momentum while going down slopes. Rather than going down slopes, you’ll be expected to mash the spindash button often.
Modern Sonic plays exactly like he did in Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors. This being said, Modern Sonic comes equipped with the Sonic boost and the homing attack—all in a 3D environment.
The Sonic boost serves as a means of speeding Sonic up. While using the boost, all enemies in your path will be killed simply by you running into them. The homing attack will serve as a means to launch Sonic at enemies and other obstacles while he’s in midair. I highly recommend you use this attack if you find bouncing on your enemies in a 3D world to be tedious.
A big downside to modern Sonic is his controls—which are incredibly stiff without the drifting and side-stepping introduced from Sonic Unleashed. Such stiffness makes me yearn for the controls given to him in the Sonic Adventure games.
Apart from the two Sonics, Sonic Generations gives us a very close attention to detail—so close that the game is sure to make it very hard to catch all the detail all at once on your first run-through. I must admit that even I know I haven’t seen all the details and alternate paths to take. The largeness of these worlds makes these possibly the largest Sonic levels since Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s acts.
Sonic Generations adds many minigames—all of which are based on the actual game levels—to help add to the largeness of the game. The actual replay value of these minigames can range from, “Sure; let’s give it a go,” to, “No! No; not this part again! Anything but that!” In my opinion, the best levels are the ones where you race to the finish line against another Sonic. If you manage to beat all the levels in a particular area, all the color will be restored to that area based on the level it surrounds.
Although Sonic is mainly known for his mind-blowing speed, there are plenty of platforming sections you’ll have to go through in order to progress. I honestly think it’s safe to say that this game has a perfect balance between speed and platforming.
Added to this, you’ll also be encouraged to search for red medallions—medals that earn you art and music. While I don’t care much for the artwork, you can actually play the music pieces during actual gameplay. All these music tracks are, of course, tracks from almost every Sonic game ever made.
If there’s one thing in this game many die-hard Sonic fans will complain about, it’s the Skill Shop. It is here where a small, blue robot named Omochao will sell you “skills” to use in the game. Some skills include the elemental (electric, bubble, and fire) shields for Classic Sonic and the Direct Jump for Modern Sonic. If you want to “equip” these skills, you have to put them into a “skill set”.
There are only 5 “skill sets” and you can only hold one at a time. Added to this, the amount of skills you put in your sets is limited depending on how effective the skills are to your performance. Why might people like this system, you may ask?
Notorious games such as Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and (notorious for some people) Sonic Unleashed used skill shops. Many people will argue that all of Sonic’s non-game-breaking abilities should be available from the get-go—and I agree.
If ever in the game you’re having serious (and I mean SERIOUS) problems trying to figure out how to play the game, you have the option to activate the Omochao: who will tell you exactly how to play the game.
Once activated, you can run into the Omochao anytime during the game. Omochao is slightly hard to avoid, and no matter how fast you run, Omochao will still be able to catch up and tell you every little detail concerning gameplay. For people who have never played a Sonic game before, I recommend you keep this feature on. For those who are already familiar with the series’ mechanics, turning on the Omochao is sure to annoy you.
Sonic Generations may have problems, but thankfully they are very few and small. Like I said before, the story of this game is incredibly simple and—I must add—slightly underwhelming. Although the story and the Skill Shop may catch people off-guard, Sonic Generations manages to bring the perfect balance between speed and platforming we’ve all come to know and love.