This has to be the best Sonic game ever since Sonic Adventure. Not to say anything between was bad, since I happened to like most of the games, but Generations is definitely a game that implies its name. You will experience Sonic from the beginning to where he is now. With Generations, Sega reinvents various stages from each Sonic game throughout 3 eras: Genesis, Dreamcast, and Modern. Hence the statement “3 eras, 2 Sonics.” Let’s cut to the chase and dive right into the game.
As soon as you press New Game, you are immediately taken to Green Hill Zone Act 1, playing as the classic Sonic (we’ll call him Classic for this review). Upon completion of the stage, a cutscene plays and lays the grounds for the story’s premise. A huge entity called Time Eater appears and…eats time. The story moves on to the present Sonic (we’ll call him Modern). What started as a semi-successful surprise birthday ends with Sonic’s friends being tossed throughout time and Sonic seemingly powerless to do anything. Sonic must travel through history, restore the various areas that have been wiped away, and rescue his friends. Sounds rather tame and tacked, but it’s simple, doesn’t include a questionable furry relationship (I’m looking at you, Sonic 2006), and isn’t dragged on. At the end of it all, you are shown what is probably one of the best examples of series evolution with a character. I won’t spoil the scene, but it was rather cute and drives the point home as to how Sonic was in the beginning and how he is now.
If you played the Sonic Advanced series for the GameBoy Advance, you’ll be familiar with the hub of Generations. It’s an open area that is like a stage of its own. You can take many paths to locate various challenge stages, while you move left and right along the main path to access the main stages, the skill store, boss stages, and collector’s room. As you complete each stage with Classic and Modern, you open up the next stage. After completing three stages, you open up the challenge stages associated with each stage and you must gather enough boss keys to challenge the boss and open up the next set of stages. It’s a good way of making you do a little of everything without forcing you to complete everything in order to beat the game.
You may be wondering what’s up with two Sonics and how this affects the game play. Classic Sonic stages play much like the 2D platforming Genesis titles while Modern stages play more like…actually more like Sonic Unleashed’s stages. The game uses the Hedgehog Engine, which was first introduced in Sonic Unleashed. Classic Sonic’s stages are more traditional, you simply make your way to the goal, the paths are more linear, and the pacing is more steady and scenic. Modern Sonic’s stages are all about speed. Gotta go faster, faster, fas-okay, I’m totally not singing the Sonic X song. Case in point, you get rings, you hold that button to boost, and don’t even think about taking time to enjoy the beautiful and colorful levels. Modern stages are a lot more dynamic than the Classic variations, and I definitely enjoyed them a lot more. However, there were a few Classic stages that felt more interactive than the Modern stages, one example is City Escape. While Modern’s stage is more based on Sonic Adventure 2′s version, the Classic version is dramatically unique. Instead of a board, Classic gets a skateboard and also the GUN truck is a lot more active throughout the stage as it often chases you and will sometimes ram into platforms which will alter the paths you can take to get to the end.
Let’s talk abilities. Modern Sonic definitely trumps Classic in terms of what he can do initially. He can Wall-Jump, Lightspeed Dash, Homing Attack, Boost, Stomp, and Slide. Classic…can Spin-Dash and hop on enemies. You may be thinking “Wow, Classic Sonic sucks…” That’s where the skill cards come in. As you complete stages, you are given a score. Ten percent of that score is given to you as point currency. You can then go to the skill shop and spend these points on skills, extra lives, and a special item that will allow you to play the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis. The skill cards change how you use both versions of Sonic. For Classic, you can buy his Ele-Shields from Sonic 3 and activate them one time per run through the stages (if you die on a stage, you can reactivate them). Fans of the Lightning/Fire/Bubble Shields will be pleased at their return, and they work even better than they did in the original games. Most of the skills you get for Classic will allow usage of various abilities like the shields, his Power Sneakers, and Invincibility.
For Modern, most of the skills you buy will alter his Boost gauge and his speed parameter, plain and simple. He is meant to be doing nothing but running, so majority of the skills he’ll have available are relative to that. There are skills for both hedgehogs, though. These skills do various things such as reducing speed loss going uphill and while in water, stopping you instantly no matter how fast you were going, and allowing you to land on your feet after getting hit. Skills cost skill points, and you have 100 to spend. If you don’t want to constantly change your skill loadout, you have access to more than one loadout, and they can even be named (chosen from a set choice of words). Some of the more powerful skills cost a lot and you will likely only be using maybe one or two additional skills with them. These skill cards help level out both hedgehogs and, in the end, both of them become equally fun…and overpowered.
This game can be beaten in less than 5 hours. However, do not take this as you beat the game and forget about it. Sonic games are straight to the point, there should be no reason the main game in any Sonic game should take more than 10-12 hours to complete unless it involved multiple characters, running around an open world, and had a dragged on story. The question is now, “What is there left to do after beating the game?” First off, there are the remaining challenge stages. Beating a challenge stage will award you with either a piece of music or artwork. Oh, did I mention the game has in-game custom soundtracks? With the music you unlock, you can change the stage music that plays before playing the stage. While most would prefer to play their own music, I found this feature to be quite interesting as I spent some time experimenting with how well, or not so well, some tracks went with stages.
You may notice these red star rings that appear throughout the stages. These rings also unlock artwork and music when obtained. Each stage has a total of 10, 5 for Classic and 5 for Modern. However, get all 5 for each version and you get an additional skill card so that makes 2 more skill cards per stage to obtain. Most of these rings are well hidden, so you may need to talk to each of Sonic’s friends in order to find out where some of them are. Even if you fly through the main game, there is plenty of stuff left to do so don’t be so quick to put the game down just yet.
Sonic Generations is not without its flaws. The main issues deal with the controls. At times, the time between the button press and the actual response seem rather lagging. There were times I pressed a button to jump and Sonic didn’t jump right at that moment but maybe a second later. This resulted in me dying a few times. The next issue deals with a particular reaction that I can’t seem to ping. There are times when I would grab hold of something, hit jump to immediately jump, and end up jumping straight up even though I’m holding a direction. There was also a few instances where I’d be running so fast with Classic that if I turned around and tried to jump, Sonic would jump looking at the screen and jump straight up, not moving even if I’m holding a direction. It’s minor and rarely happened, but it still caused me a bit of concern.
My second, and only other issue with the game, is the level design of a few stages. For the most part, I adore the level design in Sonic Generations and give plenty of credit to Sega for recreating classic stages in HD. However, some stages were designed so off that they seemed a lot harder to get through than they should. The biggest example I can give is the Modern Crisis City. I love that stage’s music track to death, but I totally dislike playing it. Sega must love those bottomless pits. I also find issues with the design of this stage because it practically kills Modern Sonic’s purpose to blaze through a stage at high speeds. The Classic version of Crisis City is definitely the better designed rendition of the stage.
I could go on forever with stuff on Sonic Generations. As a fan of Sonic since the beginning, I really feel Sega did it right with Generations. It is definitely a solid reinvention of the old and the new. Fans of Sonic will want to pick this up, but I would recommend this even to the casual gamers who aren’t as into Sonic. For $50.00, the game offers plenty of content and replay value. Those who pre-ordered the game (-raises hand-) are given some themes, avatar pieces, but the one thing I want to specifically mention is the Casino Night mini-game. Play some pinball with a smooth remix of Casino Night’s music track and relax a while. Hopefully that mini-game ends up as DLC, because I had lots of fun with it. I didn’t really cover the online bits because, simply put, you’re just playing the stages all over again and posting on the leaderboards. In light of the control issues and level design gripes, this game is amazing. Sonic Generations gets Xelnia’s Stamp of Approval and Recommendation.
This review of Sonic Generations is based upon completion of the main story. The PS3 version was played. All Trophies were obtained. Collected everything that could be collected. Posted times of all stages on leaderboards and tried out 30-Second Trial once. The Xbox 360 and PC versions are identical in graphics and game play.
Note: The 3DS version of Sonic Generations releases on November 22nd. It features content not in the console version such as stages and bosses.