I don’t consider myself a Sonic fan and I really don’t have any nostalgia for the series as a whole. Most of my good memories come from Sonic Adventure 2, so it has been a long time since I played a Sonic game for any real length of time. Yet even with my jaded sensibilities, I discovered a nostalgia and love for Sonic through this game that I didn’t know existed. Sonic Generations regardless of how you feel about the franchise is a really good game. Its gameplay is simple but effective and its graphics and art charming. No matter your level of respect or disdain for that little blue rodent this is a game worth exploring.
The gameplay for Generations is an interesting combination of the classic 2D Sonic and the more modern Sonic Colors combination of 2D and 3D action. You play as both classic and modern Sonic both with their own unique moves and properties. Classic Sonic can only perform a spin dash and spin jump while modern Sonic can use an instant boost managed by a meter and homing attacks. The controls are tight and you never feel as though the game is fighting you or is unresponsive. Occasionally the homing attack doesn’t work quite right or locks on to a location that sends you to your death, but these instances are rare enough that it does not seriously impede your enjoyment. As is traditional in the Sonic series, the rings you collect are your health and if you run out of them you will die. However, you no longer lose all of your rings when hit and will usually retain some if you have around 20 or more. This will probably make the game too easy for those who are accomplished at Sonic, but I was still found the game fairly challenging.
The 2D portions of the levels are traditional platforming with more of an emphasis on timing jumps. The 3D sections are focused primarily on providing a sense of speed and involve racing around and defeating enemies. Both types of gameplay are excellent, but the final three stages of the game have the weakest level design and the final boss battle is just awful. I really can’t emphasize just how terrible that final boss battle is and I’m hard pressed to think of a worse one off the top of my head. The game is structured so that you move through 9 different levels from the classic, last generation, and current generation Sonic games. Each level must be completed by both Sonics.
Fortunately each Sonic handles differently enough and the changes in the level are substantial that it is interesting to go back and see how the level was changed. After completing each of the 3 levels in the set, the player then needs to complete challenge missions to unlock the boss. These range from time trials, to rival fights, to collecting enough rings. These trials are hit and miss with some, such as the time trials and rival fights, being well put together challenges that test your skills. Others are just frustrating and feel like filler to flesh out what is a very short main game. I finished the main story in four hours, so if you don’t want to explore these challenges, of which there are 90, and unlock the concept art and soundtrack bonuses these provide you will probably not want to buy this game at full price.
Graphically the game is no slouch ether. None of the textures or effects are amazing, but they are well implemented and sometimes combine to create some very cool images. There are some technical issues lurking in this game though. I played this on a high end PC, and for whatever reasons the game hitched up and had framerate drops on the higher of the two graphical settings. Turning down the shadows, reflections, and antialiasing pretty much solves the problem, but it’s disappointing to see that the game was not better optimized.
Sonic Generations is a very fun game, at least as long as you don’t stop to listen to voice acting or pay attention to the story. Despite a few good jokes, and some unintentional gaffs, the overall voice acting is poor to downright annoying. The plot is pretty simple, stop and the bad monster thing, and really has no bearing on whether or not you should buy this game. The first 6 levels are excellently designed and the 2D and 3D are excellently implemented. Enough good things cannot be said about the soundtrack, everything from City Escape (best song ever) to the original Green Hill Zone theme sound excellent and are very enjoyable.
This is a great game that not only explores the history of Sonic, but takes the best of the series and puts it into a single game. It’s really disappointing then that the final third of the game is extraordinarily frustrating and poorly designed, especially when compared with how excellent the rest of the game really is.