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"[Game] Sonic Generations"

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Mon 07/11/11 at 00:55
Regular
"Ghosts Can't Die!"
Posts: 774
Twenty years on and the hedgehog is still running around at breakneck speed on your screen. Itís hard to believe itís been that long and quite an accomplishment. So much so that SEGA are trying to celebrate with a game that recalls all the previous Sonic titles, blending them to create one epic nostalgic adventure.

But with the so-so results of later games in the series can SEGA step up the plate and deliver the ultimate fan love letter?

Critics worldwide are likely to open with a line similar to the above, emphasising the lack of quality in recent Sonic titles placing expectations low and the odds and unfairly against this latest iteration. Let me just say something now. While I will agree Sonicís latest adventures lack the polish and magic of his earlier years I donít think they are outright awful. I have been with the series since day one, through the ups and downs. The classic four titles on the Mega Drive and Sonic CD were among some of the best games Iíve played to this day while the handheld titles were great 2D platformers as well(with the exception of the Rivals series). Both Sonic Adventure titles were a great introduction into the third dimension and Heroes too had its moments offering a unique three person team idea. Yes Sonic 2006 and Black Knight were absolutely terrible but Secret Rings offered a new style not seen in the series that was fast and fun. Unleashed would have been brilliant too had it taken out the Werehog idea and last year saw not one but two fun-filled games, Sonic 4 and the fantastic Sonic Colours. Itís easy to look back and sigh at where the hog has ended up but comparing the two eras is unfair. Sonic moved on and while it hasnít been a perfect journey his games have more often than not been very entertaining distractions.

Which brings us onto Sonic Generations. A collaboration of old and new. Taking old ideas and bringing them up to date with next gen visuals and new gameplay designs. Taking new ideas and giving them a classic edge. Here youíll take control of not one but two Sonics. Classic Sonic plays much like he did on the Mega Drive with jumping and spin dash being all the moves he needs. Of course this is all played from a 2D perspective. As for modern Sonic he plays similarly to Unleashed or Colours seamlessly integrating 2D segments with sections that see you controlling him from behind moving him left and right. Throw in the ability to boost, slide and home in on enemies and you have the modern take of the hedgehog in a nutshell. Both play and handle differently providing very unique takes on the stages you traverse. Itís truly an awesome feeling as you speed through Chemical Plant Zone with the extra dimension helping to make these older levels feel fresh and new while tackling a 3D stage like Seaside Hill from a left to right perspective is just as fun. Rather than one being better than the other youíll find yourself enjoying the two styles a lot in each zone.

Sonic has never been one to take its story seriously... well accept for the horrendously Ďwhat on Earth were they thinking?í tale in Sonic 2006. Iíll never forgive SEGA for the girl on hedgehog kiss. *Shudders.... Anyway with Generations an evil spirit has torn a hole in the space time continuum rudely interrupting Sonicís 20th birthday and capturing all his friends in the process. Shortly after, Sonic finds himself in an unusual land devoid of any colour or life. With the help of his classic counterpart the pair must race their way through the familiar zones from the past in order to restore things as they should including their friends. The story is very light with a few cutscenes here and there giving a very kids cartoon feel and while it does have a good time poking fun at previous Sonic game some points can feel fairly cringing. On the bright side though we are re-introduced to what may be my favourite character in a game this year. Classic Sonic relies solely on his expressions and actions easily making him the most adorable and funny one in the game. While I donít hate his modern version itís hard not to fall for the little guys charm and in the end prefer him a lot more.

As soon as I heard that previous levels were being remixed using a modern day engine, my mind started going crazy. Lava Reef, Ice Cap, Marble Garden, Metal Harbour, Sky Deck...there were so many options. So how does the selection fare? Sadly it feels more hit and miss. For every classic stage like Green Hill, Chemical Plant and City Escape you also have weird choices like Sky Sanctuary, Crisis City or Rooftop Run. The lack of any stages from Sonic 3 or Sonic CD (there is a boss battle with an old foe but thatís it) is also truly baffling. Sure it seems like SEGA wanted three zones from the Mega Drive games, three from the Dreamcast/Heroes and three from the more recent titles for the sake of consistency but surely it wouldnít have hurt to have a couple of extra stages from the past. After all these are the games that fans hold closest to their heart. Also fairly disappointing is the lack of variety in environments. Starting off pretty great in the Mega Drive era the game starts to rely heavily on industrial style stages later on delivering four city zones with Planet Wisp and Chemical Plant also adding to their mechanical theme. No ice. No sand. No outer space. All in all itís fairly heart breaking to have such a huge selection of amazing Sonic stages to pick from and have just these to show for it.

Saying that though even these weird and disappointing choices donít hide what ultimately are fantastic levels full of great ideas and awesome level design. Every stage constantly delivers amazing set pieces that will leave you breathless. Rooftop Run sees you running literally up a huge clock tower, City Escape features a giant truck with saw blades and Planet Wisp even includes the rocket and spike power-up from Sonic Colours.

Even though certain stages didnít make the final product, the nods to previous games donít end with the level selection. Every stage has snippets from other zones thrown in too. Seaside Hill has a section taking inspiration from Hydrocity Zone for example while Sky Sanctuary features the floating platforms similar to those seen in Marble Garden. Fans will adore these moments and thankfully the game is littered with them.

The way the game is structured is very simple. Three zones from three games played from both a modern and classic perspective followed by a boss battle. Rinse and repeat three more times and there you have it. Well not entirely. To help pad the game out you have ninety challenges to complete which throw a variety of objectives your way. Elemental shields, doppelgangers to race, giant enemies to avoid, friends to help you out, thereís plenty to get your teeth into. You may groan but oddly enough very few are boring and most take you on entirely different routes of the main zones helping keep them feeling new. For every lame digging challenge theres five or six exhilarating ones. For those of you who donít wish to complete these you donít have to. For those that do, you can unlock artwork, music and abilities (better recovery, shields, more boost) for the hedgehog so thereís nice incentive to try them out. In a smart move every zone, challenge and option is accessible via a simple to navigate 2D hub that not only looks great but also offers some light platforming. A much better alternative to the 3D hub of Sonic 2006 proving streamlined is better.

Visually this is the best Sonic yet. Colours are bright and vivid with design following the original blueprints perfectly whilst also injecting some new life into it as well. Characters animate fluidly with Classic Sonicís actions inspiring the biggest grins and everything from the backgrounds to even just the rings look awesome. The only downside is the game runs at thirty frames per second meaning there are a few odd moments of slowdown. Not gamebreaking but does get you thinking how brilliant Sonic would run at a full sixty. As for the soundtrack... well that deserves its own paragraph...

If thereís one thing that SEGA could not have done any better (well unless they remixed every piece of Sonic music to date but thatís being unreasonable) itís the soundtrack. Each zone is given three variations on its original music piece. The modern version features a more rock-like adaptation that tries to keep up with the pace of the blue hedgehog. Boosting even provides a nice distortion to the background tune. The classic version on the other hand either polishes off the original piece (why would you want to mess with the brilliant Chemical Plant zone beat after all?) or remixes newer ones to feel more in line with something seen in a Mega Drive game. The final remix is what you hear in the hub area and features strings and flutes among other instruments. While on their own theyíre just short introductions to the zone ahead, what really is a work of brilliance is the bleed from one song to the next as you move Sonic between zones. The amount of time Iíve spent just running around the hub to hear each piece blend into one another has been more than I like to admit. Also added are even more remixed and re-mastered classics that can be unlocked and selected to play in any zone. A nice touch.

Itís hard to narrow down which songs are the best but hearing the vocals of both versions of City Escape had me singing along in seconds while playing Seaside Hill and hearing a remix of Ocean Palace kick in halfway through had me leaping off my chair with joy. Even hearing a once forgotten melody, Balloon Park in a new light had couldnít stop me smiling from cheek to cheek. Yes I know Iím truly showing my Sonic geekyness by being this specific, but with a game like this any fan will likely have the same reaction.

So Iíve been singing the gameís praises continuously, but what is wrong with it? It is a Sonic title after all and no Sonic game is ever perfect. As mentioned before the level selection is both baffling and upsetting but what also doesnít help is the small amount of stages on offer. Yes there are missions to complete after having completed them, but these canít cover up the sorely lacking original content available. This is a celebration of the hedgehog so why not offer two zones from each game. Eighteen is a much nicer pill to swallow whereas nine just leaves you feeling down knowing completing each zone brings you one step closer to an abrupt end. This also goes for the boss battles too, of which there arenít nearly enough. Remember the good old days where every stage would have one (and later two) boss battles per zone? Itís a shame because the bosses here are great fun and provide a decent challenge. Like the stages itís not like SEGA were stuck for choices. Also where are the bonus stages?! Chaos Emeralds have always been a big part of the Sonic games and here they are relegated to rewards for beating bosses. No psychedelic brightly coloured pinball-esque dream sequences. Another odd exclusion.

I could complain about Modern Sonicís controls, but a small niggle here and there isnít going to ruin an otherwise great controlling game. You could also complain that there is no two player mode as a call back to Sonic 2 or Sonic Adventure 2 but the online leaderboards do help. Trying to scrape seconds off your time has always been a blast and Generations is no different. The thirty second trial is also a brilliant idea but poorly executed. With thirty seconds you simply must get as far through the level as possible. Great to compete online right? Not according to SEGA as no option is given for a leaderboard in what could have been a very competitive mode.

Being the big fan that I am of the series believe me when I say I could go on and on about this game (The review is already long enough as it is!)

Sonic has had a tough run but after the last couple of years he looks to be set for bigger and better things. Obviously fans are going to get the most out of this trip down memory lane but that isnít to say newcomers wonít enjoy the ride too. As an enthusiast there are some things that feel off like the zone choices and major missing elements but these are lessened by the true fan service to players who have stuck around with Sonic all these years. The tremendous care and attention to detail found in this product is the SEGA we all know and love and after a game like this itís safe to say that Sonic is well and truly back.

8.8/10
Thu 10/11/11 at 12:42
Regular
"Ghosts Can't Die!"
Posts: 774
phuzzy wrote:
What is it like compared to Sonic 4 Ep 1? Quite keen on picking this up after years of Sonic-fueled torment :D

Its hard to compare the two really as Generations has an equal focus on the modern 3D gameplay as well as the classic.

However I feel SEGA nailed the 2D feel a lot better here than Sonic 4 especially since he has no homing attack like the good old days. If you enjoyed Sonic 4 then I see no reason why you wouldn't love this as its clearly the better game which is odd considering 4 was supposed to be the return to the classic days :S
Wed 09/11/11 at 23:08
Regular
"previously phuzzy."
Posts: 3,487
What is it like compared to Sonic 4 Ep 1? Quite keen on picking this up after years of Sonic-fueled torment :D
Wed 09/11/11 at 10:16
Regular
"Ghosts Can't Die!"
Posts: 774
Thanks pb. Actually had another go on the 2 player in colours last night with my little brother and forgot how much fun it is. Even more fun when you getting in each others way on purpose haha
Tue 08/11/11 at 22:08
Moderator
"possibly impossible"
Posts: 24,985
I really enjoyed Sonic Colours and I'm still excited about playing this when I finally get hold of it.

Nice review.
Mon 07/11/11 at 00:55
Regular
"Ghosts Can't Die!"
Posts: 774
Twenty years on and the hedgehog is still running around at breakneck speed on your screen. Itís hard to believe itís been that long and quite an accomplishment. So much so that SEGA are trying to celebrate with a game that recalls all the previous Sonic titles, blending them to create one epic nostalgic adventure.

But with the so-so results of later games in the series can SEGA step up the plate and deliver the ultimate fan love letter?

Critics worldwide are likely to open with a line similar to the above, emphasising the lack of quality in recent Sonic titles placing expectations low and the odds and unfairly against this latest iteration. Let me just say something now. While I will agree Sonicís latest adventures lack the polish and magic of his earlier years I donít think they are outright awful. I have been with the series since day one, through the ups and downs. The classic four titles on the Mega Drive and Sonic CD were among some of the best games Iíve played to this day while the handheld titles were great 2D platformers as well(with the exception of the Rivals series). Both Sonic Adventure titles were a great introduction into the third dimension and Heroes too had its moments offering a unique three person team idea. Yes Sonic 2006 and Black Knight were absolutely terrible but Secret Rings offered a new style not seen in the series that was fast and fun. Unleashed would have been brilliant too had it taken out the Werehog idea and last year saw not one but two fun-filled games, Sonic 4 and the fantastic Sonic Colours. Itís easy to look back and sigh at where the hog has ended up but comparing the two eras is unfair. Sonic moved on and while it hasnít been a perfect journey his games have more often than not been very entertaining distractions.

Which brings us onto Sonic Generations. A collaboration of old and new. Taking old ideas and bringing them up to date with next gen visuals and new gameplay designs. Taking new ideas and giving them a classic edge. Here youíll take control of not one but two Sonics. Classic Sonic plays much like he did on the Mega Drive with jumping and spin dash being all the moves he needs. Of course this is all played from a 2D perspective. As for modern Sonic he plays similarly to Unleashed or Colours seamlessly integrating 2D segments with sections that see you controlling him from behind moving him left and right. Throw in the ability to boost, slide and home in on enemies and you have the modern take of the hedgehog in a nutshell. Both play and handle differently providing very unique takes on the stages you traverse. Itís truly an awesome feeling as you speed through Chemical Plant Zone with the extra dimension helping to make these older levels feel fresh and new while tackling a 3D stage like Seaside Hill from a left to right perspective is just as fun. Rather than one being better than the other youíll find yourself enjoying the two styles a lot in each zone.

Sonic has never been one to take its story seriously... well accept for the horrendously Ďwhat on Earth were they thinking?í tale in Sonic 2006. Iíll never forgive SEGA for the girl on hedgehog kiss. *Shudders.... Anyway with Generations an evil spirit has torn a hole in the space time continuum rudely interrupting Sonicís 20th birthday and capturing all his friends in the process. Shortly after, Sonic finds himself in an unusual land devoid of any colour or life. With the help of his classic counterpart the pair must race their way through the familiar zones from the past in order to restore things as they should including their friends. The story is very light with a few cutscenes here and there giving a very kids cartoon feel and while it does have a good time poking fun at previous Sonic game some points can feel fairly cringing. On the bright side though we are re-introduced to what may be my favourite character in a game this year. Classic Sonic relies solely on his expressions and actions easily making him the most adorable and funny one in the game. While I donít hate his modern version itís hard not to fall for the little guys charm and in the end prefer him a lot more.

As soon as I heard that previous levels were being remixed using a modern day engine, my mind started going crazy. Lava Reef, Ice Cap, Marble Garden, Metal Harbour, Sky Deck...there were so many options. So how does the selection fare? Sadly it feels more hit and miss. For every classic stage like Green Hill, Chemical Plant and City Escape you also have weird choices like Sky Sanctuary, Crisis City or Rooftop Run. The lack of any stages from Sonic 3 or Sonic CD (there is a boss battle with an old foe but thatís it) is also truly baffling. Sure it seems like SEGA wanted three zones from the Mega Drive games, three from the Dreamcast/Heroes and three from the more recent titles for the sake of consistency but surely it wouldnít have hurt to have a couple of extra stages from the past. After all these are the games that fans hold closest to their heart. Also fairly disappointing is the lack of variety in environments. Starting off pretty great in the Mega Drive era the game starts to rely heavily on industrial style stages later on delivering four city zones with Planet Wisp and Chemical Plant also adding to their mechanical theme. No ice. No sand. No outer space. All in all itís fairly heart breaking to have such a huge selection of amazing Sonic stages to pick from and have just these to show for it.

Saying that though even these weird and disappointing choices donít hide what ultimately are fantastic levels full of great ideas and awesome level design. Every stage constantly delivers amazing set pieces that will leave you breathless. Rooftop Run sees you running literally up a huge clock tower, City Escape features a giant truck with saw blades and Planet Wisp even includes the rocket and spike power-up from Sonic Colours.

Even though certain stages didnít make the final product, the nods to previous games donít end with the level selection. Every stage has snippets from other zones thrown in too. Seaside Hill has a section taking inspiration from Hydrocity Zone for example while Sky Sanctuary features the floating platforms similar to those seen in Marble Garden. Fans will adore these moments and thankfully the game is littered with them.

The way the game is structured is very simple. Three zones from three games played from both a modern and classic perspective followed by a boss battle. Rinse and repeat three more times and there you have it. Well not entirely. To help pad the game out you have ninety challenges to complete which throw a variety of objectives your way. Elemental shields, doppelgangers to race, giant enemies to avoid, friends to help you out, thereís plenty to get your teeth into. You may groan but oddly enough very few are boring and most take you on entirely different routes of the main zones helping keep them feeling new. For every lame digging challenge theres five or six exhilarating ones. For those of you who donít wish to complete these you donít have to. For those that do, you can unlock artwork, music and abilities (better recovery, shields, more boost) for the hedgehog so thereís nice incentive to try them out. In a smart move every zone, challenge and option is accessible via a simple to navigate 2D hub that not only looks great but also offers some light platforming. A much better alternative to the 3D hub of Sonic 2006 proving streamlined is better.

Visually this is the best Sonic yet. Colours are bright and vivid with design following the original blueprints perfectly whilst also injecting some new life into it as well. Characters animate fluidly with Classic Sonicís actions inspiring the biggest grins and everything from the backgrounds to even just the rings look awesome. The only downside is the game runs at thirty frames per second meaning there are a few odd moments of slowdown. Not gamebreaking but does get you thinking how brilliant Sonic would run at a full sixty. As for the soundtrack... well that deserves its own paragraph...

If thereís one thing that SEGA could not have done any better (well unless they remixed every piece of Sonic music to date but thatís being unreasonable) itís the soundtrack. Each zone is given three variations on its original music piece. The modern version features a more rock-like adaptation that tries to keep up with the pace of the blue hedgehog. Boosting even provides a nice distortion to the background tune. The classic version on the other hand either polishes off the original piece (why would you want to mess with the brilliant Chemical Plant zone beat after all?) or remixes newer ones to feel more in line with something seen in a Mega Drive game. The final remix is what you hear in the hub area and features strings and flutes among other instruments. While on their own theyíre just short introductions to the zone ahead, what really is a work of brilliance is the bleed from one song to the next as you move Sonic between zones. The amount of time Iíve spent just running around the hub to hear each piece blend into one another has been more than I like to admit. Also added are even more remixed and re-mastered classics that can be unlocked and selected to play in any zone. A nice touch.

Itís hard to narrow down which songs are the best but hearing the vocals of both versions of City Escape had me singing along in seconds while playing Seaside Hill and hearing a remix of Ocean Palace kick in halfway through had me leaping off my chair with joy. Even hearing a once forgotten melody, Balloon Park in a new light had couldnít stop me smiling from cheek to cheek. Yes I know Iím truly showing my Sonic geekyness by being this specific, but with a game like this any fan will likely have the same reaction.

So Iíve been singing the gameís praises continuously, but what is wrong with it? It is a Sonic title after all and no Sonic game is ever perfect. As mentioned before the level selection is both baffling and upsetting but what also doesnít help is the small amount of stages on offer. Yes there are missions to complete after having completed them, but these canít cover up the sorely lacking original content available. This is a celebration of the hedgehog so why not offer two zones from each game. Eighteen is a much nicer pill to swallow whereas nine just leaves you feeling down knowing completing each zone brings you one step closer to an abrupt end. This also goes for the boss battles too, of which there arenít nearly enough. Remember the good old days where every stage would have one (and later two) boss battles per zone? Itís a shame because the bosses here are great fun and provide a decent challenge. Like the stages itís not like SEGA were stuck for choices. Also where are the bonus stages?! Chaos Emeralds have always been a big part of the Sonic games and here they are relegated to rewards for beating bosses. No psychedelic brightly coloured pinball-esque dream sequences. Another odd exclusion.

I could complain about Modern Sonicís controls, but a small niggle here and there isnít going to ruin an otherwise great controlling game. You could also complain that there is no two player mode as a call back to Sonic 2 or Sonic Adventure 2 but the online leaderboards do help. Trying to scrape seconds off your time has always been a blast and Generations is no different. The thirty second trial is also a brilliant idea but poorly executed. With thirty seconds you simply must get as far through the level as possible. Great to compete online right? Not according to SEGA as no option is given for a leaderboard in what could have been a very competitive mode.

Being the big fan that I am of the series believe me when I say I could go on and on about this game (The review is already long enough as it is!)

Sonic has had a tough run but after the last couple of years he looks to be set for bigger and better things. Obviously fans are going to get the most out of this trip down memory lane but that isnít to say newcomers wonít enjoy the ride too. As an enthusiast there are some things that feel off like the zone choices and major missing elements but these are lessened by the true fan service to players who have stuck around with Sonic all these years. The tremendous care and attention to detail found in this product is the SEGA we all know and love and after a game like this itís safe to say that Sonic is well and truly back.

8.8/10

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