Sonic Generations – Double the Sonic, double the speed!

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I have played Sonic Generations multiple times since its original release in 2011, and am thus very familiar with how the game works and the background behind it. In fact, speedrunning is something I practiced quite a lot when this game was brand new. This knowledge will of course be used in the review, but my recent 100% playthrough was only a few days before this review went live, and is therefore based on how I felt about the game during that playthrough. Furthermore, I have also played pretty much every Sonic game at this point including the ones that are referenced in this anniversary title. While this is a completely stand-alone title, I may make references to these older games in the review–obviously without spoilers.

Important to note is that this review is based on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC version of Sonic Generations. While I would have loved to cover the 3DS version of the game as well (which is a completely different game), I unfortunately didn’t have the ability to play it right now due to time constraints. I’m definitely hoping to cover that version as well in the near future but until then, please wait for a bit longer. I promise I’ll get to it.

I remember the year 2011 as clearly as ever. While I was nowhere near as big a Sonic the Hedgehog fan as I am today, I was still following the franchise pretty closely. Therefore, I was also very quickly aware of a new game being in production for the 20th anniversary. Nothing much was known about it back then as it was just Sonic running through a whitened Green Hill zone, but I was excited regardless. Especially when they announced that the game would be available on all modern platforms at the time–except for the Nintendo Wii, which didn’t bother me as I never cared for that system and was unhappy for the longest of times that I was unable to play the Storybook games and Sonic Colours. While I forgot about the initial trailer for a while, more information would be dropped over time. The 20th-anniversary trailer that functioned as a throwback to all the games that would be referenced in Sonic Generations was one that I watched over and over until the game finally released. Though Sonic and the Secret Rings was also in the trailer and that surely didn’t make it into the game.

Fun fact: Sonic Generations might actually be one of the first collector’s editions I have ever purchased with my own money. It had a figurine (that unfortunately died, rest in peace figurine) and so many goodies; I just had to buy it. Fortunately for me even, the package came three days earlier than the official release date! This resulted in me finishing the entire game before it was even supposed to come out… oops. Anyhow, enough rambling for now and let’s get on with the review before I get sad about my dead figurine again. I miss that thing so badly…

The development of Sonic Generations started as early as 2009, right after the completion of Sonic Unleashed. The concept was thought of by Takazhi Iizuka, the producer of Sonic Team who wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our blue hedgehog. The idea was to have an anniversary title incorporate elements from titles past, which eventually led to having the gameplay be split into two separate playstyles. Developed on the Hedgehog Engine specifically designed for Sonic Unleashed onwards, it was easy to port the game to all modern systems at the time–except for the Nintendo Wii, which was abandoned due to hardware constraints. The Nintendo 3DS got its own version to celebrate the handheld legacy–which is a lie since it doesn’t, but that’s a story for when I eventually get to the review of the 3DS version. While the game was officially revealed in April of 2011, the game was leaked back as early as August of 2009 under the working title Sonic Anniversary. Sonic Generations ended up releasing in late 2011 as well to a generally favourable reception. This resulted in sales going strong even to this day, making the game one of the most successful in recent memory. For your interesting trivia of the day: Did you know that Classic Sonic’s levels are actually designed to be in 3D? The camera is merely shifted to a 2D plane.

Given that this is both a celebration of the present (or at least, the 10-years-ago present) and the past, this game starts just like how it did in 1991: Classic Sonic is in Green Hill Zone with no cutscenes; just him making his way to the finish. Except that this start of the game is a lie since I sure as hell don’t remember Sonic having a spin dash in Sonic the Hedgehog. Unless this is an attempt at rewriting history and making Sonic Genesis on the Game Boy Advance the true first game instead. This isn’t the history I want to live in though.

Let’s actually talk about Classic Sonic for a bit. This is the first time we’ve seen the old classic 2D Platforming this version is inspired by since 1994, as there is no homing attack- and dash found in the later 2D games. While the basic old-school- and Generations gameplay are definitely the same, there are some differences that not everyone may enjoy. Rolling down slopes for the speed increase is virtually impossible, and the spin dash is overpowered. Like, really, really overpowered. Charge this up for a bit and press the jump button afterward and you’ll literally fly across the stage, even skipping most platforming challenges. Regardless, the level design complements his gameplay style that is overall fun to mess around with. To be honest with you, I love this spin dash solely because it makes speedrunning a hell of a lot of fun to do.

While the basic old-school- and Generations gameplay are definitely the same, there are some differences that not everyone may enjoy.

After the level is done, the first real cutscene happens with an ominous figure spying on Classic Sonic like some kind of creep. Sonic shrugs it off and moves on with his day… which is oddly enough the only time we see a display of his 90s attitude. This isn’t really a complaint by the way, but it’s odd that for a game that specifically brings in the Sonic from the very beginning, that he doesn’t show what he is most known for aside from his speed: style. He’s instead more of an adorable goofball here who has lost the ability to speak. Slightly missed potential I will say but oh well, you win some you lose some. Could be that his attitude wasn’t as prevalent in Japan as it was over here.

After stalking Sonic’s younger self for a bit, this mysterious being travels to the future while Modern Sonic is being led to a surprise party. The void shows up, says ”Surprise!” and sucks everyone to different eras of Sonic’s history. A surprise at a surprise party, is this the definition of surprise-ception? Sonic is unable to do something about this dilemma and remains alone in a white space. Sonic being who he is, the only solution to this problem is to run. And fortunately for our blue hedgehog here, he doesn’t have to worry about living in darkness due to being faster than light in this space.

This white space is the main visual aspect of the game as well. Not necessarily the most appealing but oh well, it does the job at bringing the theme across. And unsurprisingly, running is indeed the solution to Sonic’s problems as the HUB world slowly gets more alive for every stage- and challenge completed. The white background will unfortunately never go away but just like Classic Sonic’s personality, my enjoyment of the game is not going to hinger on the design of a HUB world. What would influence my enjoyment would be how it’s structured, but it’s very easy to get from level to level here so that’s a non-issue as well.

Just like Classic Sonic, Modern Sonic also finds his way to an all too familiar level: Green Hill Zone. A level that we beg Sega to forget nowadays, but a very logical choice for the starting level of an anniversary title. And it’s not just Green Hill that returns, but also a single stage from nine prominent Sonic titles such as Sonic 3 And Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, and of course, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. Fun fact: the stages were actually chosen by SEGA employees all across the world and the fans through polls and to be honest, they did a good job on the selection. Sky Sanctuary, Spagonia, and to an extend Crisis City are definitely amongst my favourite levels in their respective games. And it made my jaw drop to see Classic Sonic go through the modern levels in 2D, while Modern Sonic goes into the classic stages in 3D. This concept alone already enticed me.

Delving a bit further into the level design: I also really love how gimmicks from stages are present in both Classic- and Modern Sonic’s variant of the level. City Escape is actually a pretty good example of this, as we all know that level for snowboarding down not-San Francisco and being chased by a massive GUN truck. Both of these are kept intact in Modern Sonic’s variant to a satisfying degree, but also Classic Sonic has his go with a skateboard and the truck chasing him. The clock tower from Spagonia that is climbed in the original Sonic Unleashed? Both Sonic’s deal with this clock tower in their own way. Not only did they take the original designs and carry them over, but also what made the levels special.

The truck really wants Sonic dead this time though.

Modern Sonic controls mostly the same as how he has in Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colours, but just a bit more refined. For me personally, I was already satisfied with how he controlled in the first-mentioned game, and now the homing attack is actually mapped to the jump button which is an improvement. But yeah, Sonic has kept his boost to blast through stages, and a homing attack to target any nearby enemies. With this gameplay more so than anything else, quick reflexes will be your key to success as there are many shortcuts to take and lanes to shift. You know what this calls for? Sonic the Car.

Aaaanyhow, just like with Classic Sonic, this gameplay is very much geared towards speedrunning, and I appreciate that. Actually, what makes both characters even more fun to control is the inclusion of a skill shop. Your rank at the end of a level decides the number of skill points given to you, which you can spend at a shop to unlock even more abilities. Classic Sonic can equip the elemental shields for example, which are no longer found in stages. Kind of weird that they aren’t since you still lose them after one hit, but I’m glad they are remembered regardless. But aside from the shields, there are abilities to make the Sonics breath underwater longer, climb inclines faster, and much more. My favourites are definitely making the spin dash even more overpowered, and the ”Blast Off” skill which gives the boost a massive power… boost at the start of a level. Speedrunning was already fun to do, and they just made it even more fun.

What makes both characters even more fun to control is the inclusion of a skill shop.

But what’s also very important for a game where you constantly go fast, is the level design. I already mentioned how much I enjoy the controls of both Sonics, but the level design needs to complement that for there to be a balance. And for what it’s worth, I don’t really have much to complain about here either. Classic Sonic’s levels have more platforming challenges, while Modern Sonic adds a bit more reflex-based gameplay to the mix. What’s especially good about the levels for both Sonics is that there are so. many. alternate routes to take, and I love it. One of the earlier stages, Chemical Plant, actually portrays this very well right from the start. Those infamous wavey pipes that you travel across in the original game? You can use each one of them, especially in 3D. There is actually a pretty massive- but risky shortcut to take near the start of Modern Sonic’s variant of Chemical Plant, encouraging exploration to get to the goal as fast as possible. You may also find a Red Ring there as a collectable, who knows?

There is only one negative with the Modern stages which I initially brushed off as a non-issue, but I begin to better understand why so many people have an issue with it. We have Classic Sonic for the 2D viewpoint, but Modern Sonic also occasionally goes 2D. This isn’t an issue when there are actual platforming challenges, but it’s also used sometimes when you are most likely running at full speed. In these situations, you should be unable to predict what is coming up ahead unless you have superhuman reflexes. While I complimented the multiple routes earlier, several of these are found in the 2D sections, so it’s going to require memorization. Since we have Classic Sonic present, I feel that Modern Sonic should just remain 3D completely, or have 2D for just platforming challenges.

Beat every level of an era and that’s when a boss unlocks. I always have a tendency to forget about these because the 3D games usually don’t have that many good- or memorable boss battles. Hence why I was pleasantly surprised by the bosses on display here as there isn’t a single bad one. Well, except for one infamous boss that is the absolute worst, but I won’t delve into that garbage here for the people who are still unfamiliar with Sonic Generations. My favourite was definitely the boss from the Dreamcast era (I’m being cryptic on the boss’ identity, bear with me), but the one from the Modern era was also very good because they both feel more like actual stages with a boss attached. This is also applied to three rival battles which are, yet again, very fun boss battles. Fun fact: All three rival battles are a reference to Sonic Rivals due to the ones chosen being playable there as well, with the exception of Knuckles.

Before you can access the bosses though, there’s also one of ten challenges for each zone to take part in. This is the part of the game where you’ll be spending the most time if completion matters to you. Given that I am a completionist, that is obviously the case. These are actually a genuinely good addition to extend game length that doesn’t get old quickly, because they grab the original stages or parts of them and give them a make-over with the goal to still make it to the end. Some are very nice throwbacks to the original games like an entire flying section where Classic Tails holds Classic Sonic, while others are just a genuine amount of fun like snowboarding up the clock tower in Spagonia. Does that make sense? No, not really, but was it fun? Hell yeah it is!

I won’t go too much into the challenges themselves here as I may or may not be doing that soon. Keep in touch, I demand you to come back soon. Regardless, they are also of consistent quality and I’ve enjoyed the large majority of them. Truly, there are only a few stinkers in there, like the race against Amy on Sky Sanctuary’s slow orb thingies. This one in particular is slow, and you have to be on an annoying spinning top at all times that controls very awkwardly. But yeah, I had fun with most of them–and the best part is that you unlock concept art and, most importantly: music! And not just music that you can play in a sound test somewhere, but actual music that you can put over level themes. This is definitely an underappreciated feature that I love a lot, because hearing the same track over and over again, no matter how good they are, will eventually get old. Besides, Endless Possibilities goes with literally everything.

I hope you will enjoy the challenges because unfortunately, the game isn’t very long otherwise. And it’s not necessarily a complaint that the game is short, but just how much more potential there is. This game would have been an excellent choice to receive DLC, because we actually got one but that was a casino pinball minigame. Heck, go all out and get more games presented because, even though almost every game has a reference in some form be it music or elsewhere, there are still a lot of games that have excellent stages that could have been used. I know Sega wants to forget about the Storybook games from the Wii because they were a financial disaster, but they did actually have stages that I would have liked to see. It would also extend the length of the game, and give a bit more variety to level themes because as much as I love pretty much every level in this game, it’s still undeniable that there are literally four city levels. Sure, one is a hellscape where the chance of living is nihil, but it’s still a city.

I hope you will enjoy the challenges because unfortunately, the game isn’t very long otherwise.

Of course, I got more playtime out of this game than most people because of the speedrun modes themselves. There are the normal speedrunning challenges of course, but my favourite is probably the 30-second challenge where, as the name implies, you have to get as far as you can in 30 seconds. I was actually highly ranked in pretty much every level when I was playing on the Xbox 360 years ago. Unfortunately, I am unable to do replicate this on PC because the time trials on there are actually bugged due to having friends or something. But friends are more important than a silly speedrun challenge so I decided against this, but joking aside, this is important to keep in mind because this bug applies to everyone. Then again, the PC version has a serious amount of mods made by the community, so it’s the worst version but also simultaneously the best.

Sonic Generations definitely is a game that would be enjoyed most by actual fans of the franchise, but I’m of the opinion that newcomers can also have a great time. This is because more than anything, both Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic are very fun to control which is accompanied by great level design encouraging alternate pathways. The former doesn’t exactly control as he did in the Genesis era due to a difference in physics, but I had a lot of fun playing as him still. The skill shop also definitely had an influence over how much fun I had controlling these characters, sometimes making a major difference. Fans of the franchise will have an even better time due to the amount of references made to past games, with the levels all being from games all across the Sonic timeline, and challenges taking place in said levels but usually referencing other games in one way or another. Doing these challenges also unlock music that can replace any level music, which is an underappreciated feature I highly enjoy. Sonic Generations is unfortunately on the shorter side though, which is a shame because I really wanted to see more. Fortunately for me and many others, replayability is high due to how fun speedrunning is and how active the modding community is on PC. The latter isn’t necessarily a compliment to the game itself but hey, at least Sega acknowledges mods and fangames being a thing.

9.0

Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
9.0
Fun Score
9.0
Positives
  • Full of nostalgia, making long-time fans feel right at home.
  • Both Sonics are very fun to control, complemented by great level design.
  • The bosses are fun.
  • A lot of replayability, especially for gamers who enjoy speedrunning
Negatives
  • I really would have liked to see this game being longer, either through more levels or DLC.

And that’s a wrap for the first review of #MonthOfSonic… on the 19th day of the month. Yeah, I’m not doing a very good job at this, aren’t I. Oh well, I hope you had a great time reading this regardless! It ended up being a surprisingly long review, which was also mostly me gushing. Normally when a review is long, it’s because the game is also long or there are a lot of nitpicks that I have to go more into detail with, but that wasn’t really the case here–I just really couldn’t stop talking about Sonic Generations.

I mentioned it in the review, but Sonic Generations is an absolutely fantastic game when it comes to the modding scene. Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues getting some of these to run in the current day, so do be wary that you need a good and extensive guide on how everything works. But if you are able to, I definitely recommend some character mods like Shadow or Tails, with the latter actually changing gameplay quite significantly. After beating the game, there are some fantastic level mods out there, like the Unleashed Project which brings over all of the Sonic Unleashed daytime levels. Sega refuses to port the game to modern consoles, so the fans do it instead.

The next topic was already spoiled in the review, though I’m not exactly sure if that’s also going to be the next article. Sonic’s birthday is on the 23rd and I’m trying to write a special piece for that date, but the extremely hot weather is limiting me quite hard at the moment. We’ll see!

If you could have been the director of DLC for Sonic Generations, what kind of pack would you make?

The choice for me would be easy: an Advance pack. I was very disappointed that the Sonic Advance trilogy was not present in any version of Sonic Generations (aside from music of course), so I would like to see the following three levels, rival and boss:

Sonic Advance: Ice Mountain
Sonic Advance 2: Music Plant
Sonic Advance 3: Chaos Angel

Rival from the Sonic Advance games: Gemerl (Or Emerl with a level based on Sonic Battle)
Boss from the Sonic Advance games: Hyper Eggrobo (Sonic Advance 3)


Does this genre interest you? If so, I have multiple other Platformer reviews ready for you!

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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[…] you think back on Sonic Generations, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Generations, of course, stupid question. The two […]