Date: November 9, 2011
Author(s): Rob Williams
It’s been far too long since the world has seen the release of a top-rate Sonic game – so is it going to be Sonic Generations that finally delivers the classic Sonic gameplay and charm that fans are looking for? With its vibrant world, fast-paced gameplay, many secrets to find and a collection of throw-backs to past Sonic games – it just might be.
This past summer, fans of Sonic the Hedgehog had good reason to celebrate. As hard as it may be to believe, Sonic turned the big 2-0. His first game, the self-titled Sonic the Hedgehog, hit the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) on June 23, 1991. How far we’ve come since then.
At the time of that game’s release, many considered Sonic to be “Sega’s Mario”, and I’m sure many would agree that nothing’s changed. But while the red-suited Italian plumber has enjoyed a big helping of quality games over the years (albeit alongside some horrible ones), Sonic hasn’t been so lucky.
Through the entire last decade, there has been a severe shortage of good Sonic games, with arguably the last classic being Sonic Adventure released for the Dreamcast in 1999. But even there, not everyone enjoyed the adjustment to 3D. And with the 2006 release of Sonic the Hedgehog, which was rife with many gameplay issues, fans began to wonder if they’d ever see another quality game starring the iconic blue hedgehog.
Sonic is skeptical about this being a great game.
Thankfully, things have improved since that 2006 release, with both Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors released last year having received a great reception overall. But is Sonic Generations the game to finally reboot the series and give fans the Sonic game they’ve been craving for years? We’re here to find that out.
Sonic Generations is an interesting game for a couple of reasons. First, it was developed to help celebrate Sonic’s 20th anniversary, and that fact is even woven into the storyline. Second, it’s the first Sonic game ever to be released on the PC at the same time as the consoles. Best part? It’s $29.99, versus the console’s $49.99.
(Change to 720p/1080p, then go full-screen for best viewing.)
With the launch of the Nintendo 64, there were few complaints coming out of Mario fans for the character’s move to 3D, but for some reason, Sonic’s transition wasn’t quite so smooth. While I consider Sonic Adventures to likely be my favorite Sonic game, many don’t even have it in the running – thanks in good part to its 3D gameplay.
That’s one of the reasons Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 4, to help appease those Sonic fans who felt alienated by Sega’s 3D focus. At this point, there’s absolutely no way Sega could release a Sonic game that’s kosher with everyone, but with Generations, the company tried to meet fans half-way.
But first – the story. Sonic and friends are enjoying a feast to celebrate his 20th, when in the sky appears some dark time-warping beast that sucks everyone in – except Sonic. These friends are strewn through different times and locations – all related to areas seen in previous Sonic games. Of course, it’s Mr. Spiky Blue’s job to go get them back.
Thanks entirely to the warping of time, modern Sonic meets his old self, “classic” Sonic. Together, their job is to clear through each area one at a time, ultimately freeing the friend frozen in time there. Each level consists of an Act 1 and Act 2; the former being a 2D version of the level, and vice versa for the latter.
This is where the best of both worlds come in. While all acts have to be completed to progress, the game at least offers gameplay that should satisfy most anyone.
Each of the game’s levels represents a one from the past, and they’re all presented to you in the order of
appearance. Things kick off with Green Hill, Chemical Plant and Sky Sanctuary from the first three games, and move into Speed Highway and City Escape from Sonic’s Adventures 1 & 2, Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes, Crisis City from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Rooftop Run from Sonic Unleashed and finally, Planet Wisp from Sonic Colors.
To date, Sega has been quiet on prospective DLC for the game, but rumor has it that some is in the works. With GameStop pre-orders for the console versions, a pinball DLC was included inspired by the casino level in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, so I’m hoping to see that become available to the PC at some point.
If you’ve played the original game that a level was pulled from, you’re bound to recognize a lot throughout. That said, these levels are certainly not clones of their original, offering original layouts and a countless number of secrets and number of ways to reach the finish.
While much of the art is reminiscent of a Sonic game, so is the audio. Each level spins an updated version of the original level theme song – and if there’s one thing I can state with certainty, it’s all catchy. As I write this I can’t get the City Escape music out of my head (really).
We’ll talk more about the gameplay elements on the next page, along with other things that might just make this one of the best Sonic games ever released.
Like so many other games today, Sonic Generations isn’t an especially lengthy game – about six hours overall start to finish. That six hours could easily turn into 20 or more, however, due to its design that begs you to replay levels over and over.
First, there’s the simple time attack. Sonic games have always catered to those who like to find the quickest way through a level, and Generations is no different. Even after ten runs through a given level, you’re bound to spot paths you managed to overlook – not especially difficult given Sonic’s super speed.
With online scoreboards for run-throughs, this game stands to be a competitive one for some time. Not into speed runs? Then you might be more interested in searching through each level for red rings that unlock artwork, audio tracks and other in-game collector items. Both classic and modern Sonic have 5 of these to find in their respective levels, and coupled with super speed and the many different path choices, finding all of them will not be easy.
In addition to the levels themselves, there are also a few boss battles to tackle. None of these are particularly difficult, or complicated to figure out, but they’re fun nonetheless. The game is split into three sections, and after the three levels in one segment are cleared, many different level challenges will appear around the area that you can clear through – three in total are required in order to gain a key to unlock the boss.
Most of the challenges consist of reaching the end of the level within the time limit, with many different factors either helping or impeding your progress. Some challenges may see you bringing in the help of a friend, while others will simply require you to avoid anything that is going to slow you down. Some of these are much more challenging than the others, and while completing all of them isn’t required, each completed one will unlock a special collectable.
For those not familiar with Sonic, but are intrigued by the game, getting used to Sonic’s speed could be a challenge. Even for
veterans it can be, because as you are trying to avoid any obstacles in your way, you’re bound to miss many secrets or cool parts in the environment. Interestingly enough, it was only when I watched our gameplay video (found on the first page) that I truly had a chance to appreciate the art in some of the levels.
On a similar note, the graphics in Generations is just what we’d expect from a Sonic game. It’s vibrant, rich with more colors than you knew existed and is overall a visual treat. It doesn’t have the fidelity of, say, a Battlefield 3, but it’s not supposed to, and it shouldn’t. The levels are fun, colorful and very interesting. My non-Sonic fan brother even felt compelled enough to sit down to watch me play for an hour as he was hooked on seeing more of the wonderful-looking world.
“See! I told you it was a good game!”
I have been a fan of Sonic games for as long as I can remember. Sonic was the reason I saved up with the help of a paper route to get the Genesis – and let me tell you, Sonic 1, 2, 3 and of course Sonic & Knuckles were certainly worth the cost of admission. My love for Sonic only grew stronger with Sonic Adventure in 1999. But after Sega pulled the plug on the Dreamcast, things began to go downhill. Rapidly.
I’m happy to say that Sonic Generations totally lives up to the hype I built up within myself for the game, and it finally feels like Sega “gets it”. We need more Sonic games like this one, because they’re a ton of fun, and pretty much define what a platformer game should be.
Whether you’re a fan of Sonic or just want to play a quality platformer, this is it. It’s only $29.99 for the PC, and that’s going to be $29.99 well spent.
The following page has additional screenshots from the game for those interested, and we highly recommend checking out our gameplay video on the front page of this review as it can show you the game far better than still images can.
Sonic Generations (PC)
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