Sonic Generations (Xbox 360) review
"It's great the controls feel so homey, giving players the chance to soak in the well-executed familiarity of Generations. If you've been playing a ton of Sonic games for the past 20 years, you'll sense the love with this product; it's fanservice overload. It works so seamlessly, too, thanks to Sonic Team's respect of the source materials, avoiding bastardization."
So what makes Sonic Generations any different from Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, a game I lambasted for just being a remake of earlier titles? Simple, Sonic 4 was a horrible attempt at tugging fans' nostalgic hearts by offering a "new" sequel in the spirit of the originals. Instead of digesting new levels, players were treated to lame renditions of the Sega Genesis titles, featuring awkward controls, weak music, and a price tag that could've been spent downloading the actual games.
Sonic Generations, however, doesn't hide its intentions of offering level remakes from the franchise's main series, and does so on a wider scale. Sonic Team gives gamers the opportunity to experience these stages in two differing Acts: the classic 2D view with the mute, chubby hedgehog, and the recent, green-eyed talker in the modern 3D/2D combo plain that was first incorporated in Sonic Unleashed, and later refined in the impressive Sonic Colors. Now if you've played those two recent Sonics, you'll feel at home with Generations' Modern levels, since they're virtually the same with the physics, Boost meter, lock-on mechanics, rail grinding, and various alternate routes. You'll need a little practice with the Classic mode, though, since movement feels a bit different in this 3D engine. You'll be fine after a level or two, as it doesn't have the same clunky vibe as Sonic 4. A nice touch, too, is how you're restricted to pre-Adventure moves, like the Spin Dash, and later on, the inclusion of varied shields like Flame and Thunder.
It's great the controls feel so homey, giving players the chance to soak in the well-executed familiarity of Generations. If you've been playing a ton of Sonic games for the past 20 years, you'll sense the love with this product; it's fanservice overload. It works so seamlessly, too, thanks to Sonic Team's respect of the source materials, avoiding bastardization. Running through a 3D reworking of Green Hill is mesmerizing, complete with the original Badniks, checkered hills upon checkered hills, waterfalls, and giant swings, and I almost got chills when Sky Sanctuary started and witnessed the Death Egg ascend into orbit, while dispatching Eggrobo's to stop the blue hedgehog.
I should stress that these aren't simply the old stages in new, 3D coating, as Sonic Team actually went through the trouble of designing new layouts. It wasn't a half-assed effort either, like what Dimps did with Sonic 4, as I was pretty surprised and impressed with what the dev team achieved. I cursed, then laughed when I reached the goal post in Crisis City, only to watch it blow away thanks to a flaming twister, awed at the insides of large Sky Sanctuary temples, and was pleased to see the spike and rocket power-ups get extensive use in the Planet Wisp level. However, I got the biggest kick out of the Classic City Escape stage, which used the raging monster truck to stalk and terrorize Sonic throughout; there were segments featuring timed alternate paths, where you had to climb quickly up construction work areas before the truck comes charging in from the background, destroying the set.
Also included in this 20th anniversary celebration is the return of challenge levels, a total of 90, split into 2 sets of 45 per hedgehog. Generations only astonishingly demands the completion of nine challenge levels and three battles against hedgehog rivals to even reach the game's climax, but if you actually attempt to play the remaining challenges, you'll see they're pretty enjoyable. As typical for a video game, they start out easy as you finish tasks involving racing against a Sonic Doppelganger and collecting a set number of rings, but get increasingly tough as objectives and design layouts become complicated. Sure, you can probably juggle that goal post to the finish or jump from balloon to balloon leading to the top of a very large tower with a few rough mistakes, but it will take multiple tries to accomplish them with a S rank. What I also love about these stages is how the supporting cast serve minor roles in some challenges, like Amy knocking Sonic to previously unreachable platforms with her hammer or using Rouge's "charm" to make robots drop their shields, instead of cluttering the main game with lame play mechanics.
If there's one problem with Sonic Generations, and I know it's one a LOT of fans are going to have with this release, it's that only one level from each Sonic title is used as representatives. There's bound to be arguments about why Star Light Zone wasn't picked over Green Hill Zone, how a remake of Casino Night Zone could've stomped Chemical Plant Zone's reconstruction, or why a Sonic 2006 stage was included at all. Shoot, I'd kill to see a recreation of Sonic 3 & Knuckles' Sandopolis Zone myself. But it is what it is, and Sonic Team should be commended for doing a fine job with the chosen stages. The game probably would've been in development for ages if they attempted more than this, especially since it takes a long time to even create a Modern Sonic stage. I mean, a couple miles of level design is blurred through in a manner of mere seconds when that Boost ability is put to use...
As it is, Sonic Generations is fanservice done right, acknowledging the past, the good and bad, and presenting it in a respectable new way. The little tidbits spread around are also wonderful, like selecting a preferred tune in any stage, spotting wanted posters of rarely used characters like Fang, listening to a passing nod about the whole Robotnik/Eggman name debate, and then entering the collection room to hear delightful renditions of Door into Summer from Knuckles' Chaotix and the data select theme of Sonic 3. I still consider Sonic Colors to be the current champ of modern Sonic games, due to great new environments and solid level design, but Sonic Generations comes in a close second. If you haven't played a recent Sonic title within the past five years, I highly recommend this, as it's a good reintroduction to the main series and how far it's come since Sonic 06.
Community review by pickhut (November 06, 2011)
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