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The story in Sonic Generations is very light in tone and much appreciated over some of the more complex and convoluted stories in some of the other 3D Sonic games. This game doesn’t feature any talking swords, creepy romances between Sonic and a teenage girl, or dealing with Shadow’s amnesia for the hundredth time; it is a fun tale about a time distortion that causes Sonic to travel back in time and meet his younger self. The game is very self referential, and chock full of references both obvious and obscure that will really tickle that nostalgic nerve for longtime Sonic fans. One of my favorite lines is when the younger version of Tails says “Hey, it’s Dr. Robotnik” and Robotnik replies with “Nobody calls me that anymore!”, poking fun at the change in name to Dr. Eggman for western audiences to match the original Japanese name. The game does feature some of the much maligned “friends” featured in many Sonic games of the past decade, but their roles are minimal and don’t do much to bring down the experience. The story of Sonic generations was designed for Sonic fans, by Sonic fans, and is exactly what any Sonic fan could hope for in a game all about celebrating 20 years of Sonic games.
Sonic Generations consists of 9 zones with 2 acts each spread out across 3 eras. The three eras are Genesis, Dreamcast, and Modern, with each having three iconic zones and a boss fight taken from the games of that era. Act 1 of each zone is played by Classic Sonic, and Act 2 is played by Modern Sonic. The classic Sonic levels play exactly like you would expect a level from any of the Genesis Sonic games to play. The levels are designed with platforming as the main focus, with speed being earned for solid play as opposed to being a main element of the design. This balance feels perfect, and really sets it apart from the recent 2D Sonic games on handhelds, where those games had way too much speed, with the game simply requiring the player to hold right on the d-pad. Classic Sonic has only the moves he did in the 16 bit days, those being jumping and the spindash. These levels are all about platforming skill and controlled speed where appropriate
The modern Sonic levels are a refinement of the style originally established in Sonic Unleashed and improved upon in Sonic Colors. In Sonic Generations, this style has been nearly perfected. These levels consists of both behind-the-back 3D segments, and sidescrolling platforming. The game switches seamlessly between these two elements, and the modern Sonic levels have a very speed oriented level design. These levels are all about quick reflexes and keeping your speed going. There are parts that require some platforming skill, but for the most part these levels are about speed and reflexes. Overall, each of the 18 acts in the game are all incredibly fun to play, and the boss fights are fun and challenging. Even the levels based off of stages from some of the poorer Sonic games are re-imagined to fit the two styles of this game, and are just as fun to play as some of the more iconic levels. My one complaint about the overall design of the game is that it is too short. It only takes 5 or so hours to complete doing only the bare minimum amount of content, with the optional challenge stages adding another couple of hours.
The biggest improvements in Sonic Generations over Sonic Colors and any other Sonic game of the past 15 years are the controls and the overall feeling of polish. My biggest complaint about Sonic Colors was the way the game controlled, specifically during the sidescrolling platforming segments. That game had a weird floaty feeling double jump that seemingly defied logic in the way in handled, and on the whole the controls suffered from significant input lag. These problems are nonexistent in Sonic Generations. The modern levels control perfectly, with no input lag, no more double jump, and just solid, responsive controls that always do what you want them to. It was almost surreal, playing a 3D Sonic game with such great controls and overall polish that hasn’t ever been present in a 3D Sonic game ever before. I would recommend to anyone playing the PC version to use a controller, as the game was designed for analog control and the button layout of a gamepad. The classic Sonic levels control great as well, with the overall handling and physics feeling as close to the 16 bit originals as a game running on a 3D engine could. Playing through the classic Sonic levels only made me question the development of Sonic 4 even more. I could only think to myself, “This is what Sonic 4 should have been!”. The game on a whole is just extremely polished. The weird handling of past 3D games is gone, and this game is the first Sonic game where I have felt like the quality is worthy of being mentioned among the original Genesis classics.
Graphically, Sonic Generations is a treat to the eyes. It’s worth noting that I played the PC version, so I can’t speak to the visuals or performance of the consoles versions of the game, but on the PC, it looks fantastic. I played the game on a PC with a fairly modern video card and a slightly outdated CPU, and for the most part the game ran great in 720p at 60FPS. All the classic levels are rendered in beautiful High Definition and the character models look great. Planet Wisp from Sonic Colors deserves a special mention, for as great as it looked on Wii, it looks even better in HD and is absolutely stunning. Audio is also an extremely high point, with each level having two versions of the original music, and tons of unlockable music all throughout the game. They dig deep for the music, and true Sonic fans will be having nostalgia seizures recognizing all the obscure music from past games thrown into this game. All the audio cues are also from classic games, such classic Sonic’s jump sound, and the sound it makes when you fall onto spikes. The voice acting is also quite good. The Sonic Colors voice cast returns for their second main Sonic game, and overall the voice cast is a major step up from what was featured in prior Sonic games with voice acting. Performance wise, Sonic Generations is a revelation for the series. Past 3D Sonic games were full glitches, sloppiness, and just an overall lack of polish; Sonic Generations is the most polished 3D game in series history. I didn’t encounter any major glitches, and overall the game just feels right.
Sonic Generations is the ultimate Sonic fan’s game. If you’ve never played a Sonic game before, you could still have fun with Generations, but really, this game is for the fans. It’s a love letter to 20 years of Sonic history, and is hopefully setting up the series for a bright future after such a long run of disappointment. I’ve been with the series from the beginning; I’ve gleefully looped through Green Hill, but also stared at my TV in dumbstruck awe as Sonic frolicked through a field with a 15 year old girl; and I can honestly say that Sonic Generations is one of the best games in the series. It pays tribute to some of the best moments in the series, and also pokes fun at itself for some of the worst moments. Any fans of Sonic; this is a must have.
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- Fantastic Level Design
- Beautiful Graphics
- Excellent Controls
- Fun Lighthearted Story
- Outstanding Music
- Too Short