Anyone who has lived for more than 20 years will already have learned right from wrong, good from bad and Up, Down, Left, Right ABC Start brings up the level select. That’s right Sonic The Hedgehog has turned 20, and what better way to say happy birthday than it’s loving mother – Sonic Team & SEGA as the caring father producing Sonic Generations. A game showcasing Sonic’s happiest memories from the last 20 years and unlike the 15th birthday game, Sonic Team and SEGA mean business.
From the get-go, there is no opening cutscene or introduction. As soon as the start button is pushed over the new game option, Sonic starts. Green Hill Zone Act 1. Stunning visuals and that classic Green Hill Zone theme hit right between the eyes, and after a few milliseconds recovery it is time to finally press right and start enjoying what is in effect Sonic’s greatest hits. Except it is unfair to call Sonic Generations just a greatest hits. It is so much more than that. It is an evolution of the hedgehog over 20 years and in future years to come.
Sonic has always been about speed, speed and more speed. It is something that SEGA have lost focus with until recently. Sonic Adventure was more about exploring, Sonic The Hedgehog (2006) was more of a loading screen and I will not even go into Sonic And The Dark Knight. Sonic 4 Episode 1 was a “return to form” of sorts, however top speed took an age to reach and was often interrupted. Sonic Generations does not suffer any of these drawbacks. Sonic speed is reached quickly and isn’t disturbed very often. While there are times when Sonic will be going at a snails pace, they are thankfully infrequent and more reserved for the challenge levels.
The levels are set out in the familiar two acts per zone format, Classic Sonic will handle Act 1 while Modern Sonic takes Act 2. It isn’t very accurate to say Act 1 is the 2D level and Act 2 is 3D because what SEGA have mixed them both together. Classic Sonic for instance will be running from left to right but occasionally will have to jump into the foreground or fall into the background to make progress.
SEGA’s biggest overhaul in the game has to be the modern twists. For one reason or another, Sonic has never really embraced the change from two dimensions. Next generation efforts have been clunky, slow and as buggy as a motel bed in New York. Falling through the levels and hitting invisible walls the most common complaints. Sonic Generations is again different. Playing through the City Escape level is finally a joyful experience, what it should have been when Sonic Adventure 2 was released on the Dreamcast all those years ago. Sonic does still get stuck occasionally but this minor gripe is nothing compared to the years of frustration endured by previous efforts.
Frustration is felt in other ways. As well as the standard levels with Sonic Generations, there are also challenge levels. These need to be played through in order for new levels and bosses to be opened up. They vary from racing against a ghost version of yourself to battling enemies who have been upgraded. As all the levels in the game are ranked, the word challenge isn’t to be taken lightly. Trying to get top marks in some of the later levels will result in blisters on thumbs.
One thing that will let players down is the lack of special stages. Instead, chaos emeralds are awarded by searching out a Sonic clone (Metal Sonic, Shadow or Silver) or defeating a monster boss. For those who can count, that does mean there are only four bosses in the game and not one after every act like in the good ol’ Mega Drive days. However this does not mean Sonic Generations is by far a small game, not by a long way.
Sonic has a lot to collect from art work to music tracks to skills which can be used for things such as stopping on a pin head to even buying the original Sonic The Hedgehog. There are 120 plus levels in Sonic Generations and each one has at least one item to be collected from it so there is a lot to keep going with. On top of that is the inclusion of online time trails in which users from all around the world compete on leader boards to complete levels in the fastest possible times.It is a limited service, no ghost data can be shared but it is a good way of seeing who is the fastest hedgehog in the world!
While exploring and trying to collect everything right down to a Mega Drive controller, we are treated to remixes of classic Sonic melodies and even the odd foot tapping ditty of a new tune. For the most part it sounds great, there is only two or three songs which don’t match the level they are applied to. Sonic also has his friends visiting which normally would send people running for the earplugs, but after a substitution of voice actors they are considerably less suicide inducing than before.
Sonic Generations proves that even after 20 years the blue mascot that once saved SEGA is still relevant and should not be subject to games that have been produced in the last few years. Sonic 4 Episode 1 and Sonic Colours have proved to fans that the Sonic team can make a good Sonic game. Generations is on an entirely different level. Fans of the Sonic series shouldn’t buy this because it’s a best of Sonic through the ages. Fans should buy this as it is a truly great Sonic game. There are a few set backs here and there but they are so few and far between.
There are a number of improvements to the game such as the voice acting actually being tolerable, however the greatest has to be the 3D mechanics of a “modern era” level. Sonic has come along way from Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. Sonic Generations is without a doubt the best outing Sonic has had in three dimensions. Possibly ever.