There was a time when Sonic was king of the world. …okay, he was sort of the prince while Mario was king. But nevertheless, we’re talking about a timeless hero, one who has delivered countless hours of entertainment over the past twenty years. During the latter 3D period, the fleet-footed mascot fell on rough times, and fans have been begging – in fact, demanding – for a return to form. Well, maybe the best idea is to relive the good ol’ days while refining the modern-day approach.
Sonic Generations features a blend of high-definition old-school overhauls and current full 3D palette. Both styles look pretty damn good, and I have to say that the design in the up-to-date Sonic levels is fantastic. Basically every area is a reimagining of sectors found in past installments, but this series has never looked so good. You’ll love the colorful, vibrant atmosphere infused with a surprising amount of detail and attractive special effects. There’s also a ton of variety in both the landscape and enemies, and you never conquer the same background twice. This production is just crammed with pretty goodness.
The sound is vintage Sonic, with all the familiar audio you know and love. From snagging those golden rings to launching yourself off multiple springboards, the sound never falters. The soundtrack can get a tad repetitive but then again, we’re dealing with a few older albeit revamped adventures. It’s all about bolstering the gameplay and from that perspective, the audio does its job. Rushing at top speed through yet another impressively designed level always benefits from top-notch arcade-y sound accompaniment.
The game doesn’t have the same Sonic flying through both classic and modern levels; in fact, there are two versions of our hero that somehow inhabit the same universe simultaneously. Something dark and evil sucks up all of Sonic’s pals and in the ensuing chaos, the current Sonic meets his 16-bit ancestor and the two team up in an effort to find their lost friends. The idea is that you have to beat every level twice: first you tackle the classic iteration and then you must conquer the fresh 3D version of that same level. Don’t worry; they aren’t similar at all .
The “old” Sonic will do what he always did— zip along a side-scrolling 2D world (with a few 3D brush-ups), collecting coins, avoiding numerous perils, and armed with only the spin dash. Then, “new” Sonic takes over when the level becomes a 3D recreation, and both the viewpoint and mechanics change. You also have access to a few new skills; the homing attack lets you target enemies in midair and a speed boost is a spinoff (get it?) of the original spin dash. Most of it works exceedingly well.
As usual, though, there are a few minor control drawbacks concerning the 3D levels. They’re the most imaginative in terms of design and diversity, but they also feel a little less stable and focused. The camera isn’t as big of an issue as it has been in other Sonic games (primarily because these are linear levels and it's not an open world of any kind), but the perspective sometimes leaves something to be desired. Also, because it can be so difficult to follow the amped-up speed, you often lose track of where you are or what you’re doing.
I’m also not sure Sonic always had those same momentum physics in the 2D levels. He may have; I might not be remembering it correctly. At any rate, I really liked how both revamps of the same level would often switch back and forth between 2D and 3D, and you always want to complete the current stage and check out the next one. There’s also a lot of extra content, with a bunch of mini-games to unlock, some of which are actually essential to your advancement. Not all the mini-games are great but they really flesh out the experience.
There are all sorts of things to collect and unlock and once you dive in, you’ll probably want to keep playing. The speed is intense, the color and detail is really great, the level designs throughout are impressive, and the control is about as good as we’ve seen from Sonic. I’m not sure there’s enough here to lure younger gamers but for the hardcore fans, this is a rock solid blend of new and old. And thankfully, although a few problems still remain (maybe they always will), the new parts are actually fun to play.
‘bout time they got that right.
The Good: Very attractive visual package. Fantastic level design. Plenty to unlock. Variety of locales is appreciated. The mix of 2D and 3D works very well.
The Bad: Small lack of stability and focus in the 3D levels. Speed can be utterly overwhelming.
The Ugly: “Sorry new Sonic, old Sonic still has the edge.”