November 6, 2011
While celebrating his birthday, present day Sonic sees his friends sucked into lots of different zones by an enemy called Time Eater. To make matters worse, he finds himself alone in a dimension called White Space, a place where the colour has literally been sucked out of everything.
We learn that due to Time Eater's actions, the past and future to are meld together, meaning various zones from Sonic's past are having the life sucked out of them. The only way to return these zones to normal is to team up with Classic Sonic and rescue Sonic's friends. It's kind of strange seeing these two rather different versions of Sonic running around, but it's also kind of sweet. Classic Sonic has a certain charm to him, while Modern Sonic is the one that many of us have got used to over the years.
Most people accept that story has never been a strong point in the Sonic franchise, but but Sega at least tried to put together a nice little narrative which explains why these two, rather different speedy hedgehogs end up in this rather bizarre fate. They also kept it simple, which is nice. There are certainly no outlandish plot elements and it helps the story to be one that will be remembered fondly, as opposed to in a way that leads to ridicule.
The gameplay is split into two very distinct sections: old and new. Each of the zones featured in the game can be played as either Classic or Modern Sonic, which is a nice touch.
It's worth noting that for the Classic Sonic segments are different from the recent re-imagination we saw in Sonic 4: Episode 1. The zones convey a nice 2.5D style and while the standard of the gameplay isn't quite up to the standard of the original games, it's a nice in-between - certainly better than Sonic 4.
There's a certain degree of charm to playing Green Hill and Chemical Plant and seeing the start of the level look oh so familiar, yet completely different at the same time. It's also crazy seeing things from the other perspective too - looking at how the developers have turned those very classic zones into new worlds for Modern Sonic and vice versa for some of the newer Sonic titles.
For the Modern gameplay, things are a bit better than they have been in the past. It's much better than Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) that's for sure. Some of the typical frustrations are still present, as it feels as though there's a huge focus on speed, so when the momentum slows right down, the gameplay feels rather awkward. There also seems to be a bit of a reliance on knowing exactly where you're going, or what enemies you need to attack and when. You might be on the end of some untimely deaths otherwise.
It's pleasing to see that Sega has been listening to feedback here though, as the Modern Sonic segments are sometimes enjoyable to play through - especially in the zones that were designed for that style of play in the first place. The zones where it doesn't work as well are from the in-between phase in the Sonic Adventure games. It might just be nostalgia talking, but City Escape felt worse for all the new additions that have been brought into the gameplay since it debuted in 2001.
In terms of the transitions between 2D and 3D, some of them work really well, some of them don't. On the whole, it feels as though the Modern versions of the Classic levels come off best. Some of the levels are odd choices from the games, but it's easy to understand why they were picked. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference as everyone has their favourite levels from all of the games that are featured.
Graphically, Sonic Generations is a rather sweet package. The visuals in the Classic Sonic levels are a massive plus and they outshine the Modern Sonic levels. It's also fantastic to hear some of the arrangements that exist within the game for classic themes from the older games and the way the level select works is genius - as is the arrangement of the music as you run around.
Once you've completed the story in Sonic Generations, which is a little bit on the short side, there is still a decent amount of stuff to do. Once you get through each of the segments, challenges will unlock and they're fun to go through. They play out like typical levels, but there are some very cool twists in some of them - like having to use the skateboard as Classic Sonic or duelling against some special characters from the franchise.
You will also have the chance to go back and try to improve on your rank for each of the levels. Rank is scored mainly on time, but there's also a bonus for getting rings and completing levels without dying - sometimes a lot harder than it sounds.
Sonic Generations is a definite step in the right direction for the franchise, from the Classic and Modern perspective. It's great to go back and revisit some of the levels that made this little hedgehog into such an icon and it's pretty cool to see how they've transitioned them to work with other gameplay styles. However, the gameplay still has some problems - it's not as smooth as it could be and there are still some awkward moments. Still, it's nice that Sonic got such a fitting ode and if you've been charmed by this speedy blue wonder at some point over the last 20 years, this game will resonate in the right way with you.
Sonic Generations was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.