For me, Sonic the Hedgehog was the game franchise I grew up with. We had all the Sega consoles in my house and I spent far too many hours with the rapid-moving little mammal that I would care to admit. But the thing that I found to be a bit disappointing was how well Sonic made the jump in to the 21st century and 3D gaming. For me personally, Sonic Adventure did it well on the Dreamcast (also on Xbox Live Arcade for anyone who didn’t know!!), but after that the games fell well below the sub-par level. Sonic Generations aims to bring back some of the old while trying to improve on the new and bring it together in a hybrid style game that aims to please both the old school fans as well as the newer ones.
The story in Sonic Generations revolves around the evil Dr. Robotnick (aka. Eggman) finding himself a monster that he is using to create holes in time, which results in a younger version of sonic ending up in the current day and the two of them then team up to help out Sonic’s friends, restore peace and order, and once again beat the bad guy and save the day. It basically goes without saying that you don’t really get into a Sonic game for the storyline, but there are a few little cute things in this one that I did pick up on that I wanted to share, like the fact that the younger version of Sonic doesn’t ever talk (because he never did in the old games), and the fact that when you hit the chemical plant zone near the start of the game Tails has a moment where he gets a really bad feeling about the purple water, but isn’t sure why (for anyone who doesn’t get the reference – Sonic 2 on the mega drive had the original level here, and Tails had a well known reputation for falling to his doom in the bottomless pits of the purple water, so I liked that they put little things like that in for the nostalgic touch with older fans).
To make this joining up of the Sonic’s work, the game is essentially split in to two different types of levels – each zone has two acts: Act One will always be for “retro” Sonic, and will be an entirely 2D based level and you will side scroll your way to the end in a blur of motion and colour that will take you back to the days of the old school sonic games in style. Act Two will always be for the “modern” sonic and levels will play much like the action stages from pretty much any game that came after the Dreamcast titles, so will have mixes of 2D and 3D, with most of the 3D parts involving running down long fast paths where you will need to focus on avoiding enemies and moving to the appropriate places to keeping moving without getting hurt. The thing that I really noticed when playing this game though is that there were very few parts of the 3D game that I wanted to hurl my controller at the TV due to the game doing dodgy things like letting me fall through a wall or off a rail for no reason (I more or less refused to by another 3D Sonic game after the first one on the 360 for this reason), which made them much more fun to play and it all felt fairly fluid while still having enough there to keep you challenged.
Visually the game is spot on for what you want in a Sonic game – first and foremost, I found the frame rate to be smooth the whole way, which given the pace of Sonic games is a necessity. I’ve read some reports of people saying they had trouble with it at times, but I didn’t see it. The levels are pretty nice to look at for the most part, and while still maintaining a level of authenticity with their originals they do a good job of bringing them up to scratch for the here and now. The hub level that you use to access the individual levels is also very nicely done and pretty to look at in between the action. Also worth noting when talking about the visuals of this one is that the game supports 3D TV’s. I took it for a bit of a spin on mine and the 3D work isn’t too bad at all, but the thing that got me was just the sheer speed that everything was moving, it just did my head in to try to play this one with the 3D on!! If you are so inclined and have a 3D TV at your place it is worth checking it out as well.
The game has some decent work from the audio perspective, but it’s not mind blowing at all. There is a bit of voice acting in there as you progress the main storyline which is pretty well done, but the background music didn’t really strike me as the best. The sound effects were as expected for a Sonic game though, with all the usual moves bringing back their familiar sounds as you jumped, spun and speed through each of the levels. Thankfully you also don’t have to listen to Tails too often as well, but there is a part where old Tails and new Tails have a conversation with each other that will just make you wonder why they cast such an annoying voice in that role in the first place!!
The main storyline of this game is very short (I’m pretty sure I did it under 10 hours) but there is a decent amount of replayability in this one if you are one of those people who loves to strive for the high score and all the unlockable items in a game. There are a number of different challenge types associated with each level, some of which you will need to do to progress the main story but all of which can be played again at your leisure. If you were to go back through all of these you could easily double or triple the time you spend with this one, and given that the levels are pretty fun to play I think its safe to say you can get some more millage out of it this way.
All in all I enjoyed this game a lot more than I thought I would. It starts out very strong and brings a few of my favourite levels back within the first couple of hours of play and it got me right in to it. After that though I did feel that the levels did taper off a bit, but were still fun to be able to play through. The boss fights were also a bit disappointing (I don’t think I’ll ever find one in a Sonic game that was as fun as Sonic Adventure’s final boss) but there were a couple of fun moments when taking them down as well. If you have ever enjoyed a Sonic game in your life then this game is probably going to appeal to you, and if this is your first look at Sonic you could certainly do far worse.