Sonic Generations review
A quick trip down memory lane
Developer: Sonic Team
Unlike most people, I'm very welcoming to differentiations of a game's formula, so long as it was well executed and isn't a drastic change from said formula. Sadly, anytime the Sonic series tried this, it came across either as crap or mediocre. Whether it's the mediocre mech sections in Sonic Adventure 2, the mediocre emphasis on guns in Shadow The Hedgehog, or the bland and boring werehog sections in Sonic Unleashed, yeah, I totally understand why the fanbase would be dismissive towards change - because IT NEVER *bleep*ING WORKS... with the exception of Colors, but that's on the Wii, so if you're like me and don't own a Wii, well, you'd be scouring for decent Sonic content made in this generation. Enter Sonic Generations, which delivers a Sonic game that doesn't dabble into other gameplay elements - just straight up platforming with momentum, like the good old days. Does it work? We'll see...
During Sonic's birthday, a mysterious being known as the Time Eater trashes the party and sends the guests through various time holes. Sonic tries to stop him, but gets his ass handed to him. After coming to, he finds himself in a purgatory-esque place known as White Space, where erased fragments of time lay dormant. From there, he meets up with classic Sonic, classic Tails and modern Tails, and from there, they basically travel through time and have to defeat the Time Eater. Like most Sonic games, it's not a great story, but for what it's worth, it works. Some of the humor is fine, eliciting a chuckle at best, while some of it is cringeworthy, dabbling into self awareness but not really going anywhere with it other than some lame jokes – god, the new Simpsons episodes have better jokes. There were so many opportunities to really take the piss out of his mistakes, or make good referencial jokes! But on a fundamental level, it works. Just don't expect much more than a cartoony mediocre story.
It plays out in two different styles. One is like what you'd expect from the Genesis games; on a sidescrolling view with the ability to spin dash, which allows you to curl up into a ball, rev up a bit and move at a good speed, which is useful when you don't have much momentum to go uphill. The other is more like Sonic Unleashed/Colors, in which you alternate between the sidescrolling and full 3D view, and in lieu of spin dashing, you can use the homing attack to take down enemies and use aerial enemies as a fragile platform, as well as boosting to move faster.
As far as the classic style goes, it's fantastic. Unlike Sonic 4, controlling Sonic here feels like controlling him in the Genesis games. You move with momentum, you jump with momentum, and jumping on enemies gives you a bit of leverage in the air before you have to come back down to the ground. Each of the levels tend to be very big, with a lot to explore, but very little time to do so (oh no, not in terms of a time limit; more in the sense that you're going at the speed of light and have to react accordingly). At times, it feels like you go through these out of luck, rather than intentionally going towards it. In saying that, it's still possible to use them, and in fact, you'll need to in order to collect big red rings.
The more modern style is pretty well executed. It's like Sonic Unleashed, in that you race through stages and kill anything that gets in your way. Unlike classic Sonic, modern Sonic can use the homing attack and dash to attack enemies easier, plus dashing can attract rings, which you'll need to use to fill up the speed guage used to dash. Much like the classic levels, there are many branching paths, but unlike Unleashed, you can actually, umm, get to them without needing split second timing.
Some seemingly “optional” challenges end up becoming a requirement, as in order to progress, you'll be required to complete a challenge in each level. Not to worry, as each challenge tends to consist of finishing within a certain amount of time or with a certain amount of rings. Hell, some involve you going through with just one ring! In saying that, there are about 90 challenges... which consist of repeating the same few challenges. Thankfully, only one per act (of which there are two per level) is all that's necessary, because I don't think anybody would be willing to go through all of that artificial lengthening shit to beat a game.
As you progress, you can unlock skills, which can make Sonic either go faster or spawn with a certain shield. They either require points, which you get at the end of each level (the amount depending on how well you did), or they require red rings. There are different abilities for the two Sonics, which makes sense since classic Sonic's gameplay isn't as similar to modern Sonic's as you'd want to think. I'll admit that it's a nice touch, but that's all it really is – a nice touch.
Sadly, they haven't learned their lesson about level design and control quirks when it comes to the modern stages, because they still feel sloppy in a way. You'll often run into a pit that you'll more than likely fall into because you were too busy going fast, ramming into and destroying enemies in the process. I know that they let you turn on warnings, which alert you of when you're coming to a pit, but I don't think that really helps when the controls don't respond the way that they should. What I mean is that sometimes, your homing attack won't lock on to what you're meant to lock onto, or you won't jump onto that rail you're meant to grind on even though theoretically, it should be an easy jump. Whether it's some quirk with the controls or just some sloppy level designs, who really knows – what is certain is that it's *bleep*ing annoying.
While we're talking about flaws, this game doesn't have as much in the way of content as I would like it to have. There's one level from each main Sonic game (except for Sonic The Hedgehog 3, although I assume the Sonic And Knuckles entry was meant to cover that), and while that sounds cool, it's not exactly. You're only given nine levels. I was expecting a few more levels, like... well, all the levels that are featured in the 3DS version! Goddamn, that'd be a sweet idea! It could've used a few more bosses, as well. You're only given about seven – six of which are from the older games and one of which is the Time Eater. Overall, you can expect it to end within 5-6 hours. That, my friends, is bullshit for a single player game, especially one that always felt like it could use more content.
Not only are there too few bosses, but they've been scaled down. What we once climactic struggles in their respective games are now mere obstacles in the way of progress. What do I mean? Well, these bosses are WAY TOO *bleep*ING EASY! Not that Sonic ever had hard bosses save for maybe the last ones of each game, but at least there was some semblance of challenge. Here? Well, maybe you'll screw up the homing attack and die? That's not a real challenge, that's just retarded, and when a few hits is all that's needed to administer the coup de grace, it's less of a tribute and more of an insult to the original bosses. Hell, even the final boss is really easy. It pays tribute to the ending of the 3D Sonic games, which is neat I suppose, but beyond that, it's not even close to being an epic finale. The only positive thing I can say is that they make good use of Sonic's abilities – in fact, they're not bad on a fundamental level; they're just too easy, that's all. Suffice it to say, the boss department is very, very disappointing.
The game looks fantastic. However, I've noticed that it gets a bit laggy, which is a terrible thing for a game that lets you run really fast. A Sonic game with lag is like a Cannibal Corpse album with a neo-classical guitar solo in it – it doesn't work. It's a shame, because when you go fast, there's a real sense of speed thanks to some fairly well used motion blurs. Not to mention that there's a fair amount of detail put into each of the levels. It may seem a bit lazy to a Sonic fanboy of any sort, but to somebody like myself who is a casual Sonic player, the amount of detail put into recreations of a level – both from the classic and modern perspectives – is just incredible to say the least. It's like I'm playing those games' levels all over again... in two different styles! Add on the fluid animation and some neat color usage for such colorful landscapes, and I'd say that the graphics are top notch. Would that explain why there's a lot of lag and why the PC version requires state of the art hardware? I'd say so.
The soundtrack mostly consists of remixes of older tracks, which goes well with the fanservice feeling of this game. I mean, one can't simply play through Green Hill Zone; they must EXPERIENCE it, complete with the level and the music. That's just how it works, and since this franchise has always been known to have consistently good to excellent soundtracks (erm, except Shadow The Hedgehog if you ask me), well, why not remix them? The remixes themselves sound fantastic, almost perfectly fusing the old song structure with newer sound making/compressing technologies. You still have some classic sound effects and some new ones, all of which are either recognizable or just there... like the voice acting, which is merely seviceable, as each person gives off a good enough performance to not hurt your ears. That's about it, though. At least classic Sonic doesn't talk, which'll make many people very happy – myself included.
But really, you see what happens when you drop the lame gimmicks and just let Sonic do the talking? You get a game that is consistently a blast to play! However, Sonic Generations suffers from not having enough content. It feels like it could use a few more stages. It feels like it needed some more bosses, and they could also use a lot more difficulty. It feels like it could just use... more – no, I don't mean useless underdeveloped gimmicks, I mean CONTENT! Not to mention, the game can get awfully laggy and trial-and-error heavy at times. But that's just a case of doing what it does right and doing what it doesn't have wrong, a common pitfall for games in this generation, and to Sonic Generations' credit, it does a lot very well, so really, what it doesn't have is nothing more than a few pimples on its face.
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