Poor Sonic. For ten years of his career, he's become a Pariah of sorts in the video game industry. When entering the new age of 3D platforming, Nintendo's Mario (ironically) outran the Fastest Thing Alive, and Sonic just couldn't catch up. SEGA sadly declined along with it. Ever since then, SEGA and Sonic Team seemed to be playing a never-ending game of catch-up with Nintendo's towering reputation. That is, until recently...
2010 was SEGA's attempt to revitalise the franchise. Whilst the touted "sixteen-year-wait" of Sonic 4 was a mixed succsess in many people's eyes (including my own), Sonic Colours seemed like the fabled return to form for the series; and it was. Despite taking evident cues of Mario's space-soaring games on the Wii, Colours finally got the balance right: of introducing a new mechanic, by maintaining the much-loved Sonic gameplay of sprinting as fast as the eye could see. However, Sonic Generations looks back at the glory days of the past... and some not so good days. Regradless though, Sonic Generations is perhaps the most conceptually ambitous Sonic game in quite some time; as it combines classic 2D Sonic gameplay with modern 3D Sonic gameplay. No Werehogs or princesses to be found here. Just Sonic blazing in levels like a totally re-created 3D version of Green Hill Zone. For now, at least, it seems as though Sonic's days of sword-slashing and hoverboard-racing are firmly behind him.
The story in Sonic Generations starts off with Sonic having a birthday to celebrate his twenty years of enduring popularity with his furry friends. Then, a purple monster sucks up Sonic's pals, and dumps Sonic into a limbo. Then, Sonic meets up with his classic self; fat belly, black eyes n' all, and it's up to him to restore the order of time. It's not that the core plotline of Sonic Generations is particuarly engaging; are Sonic stories meant to be?, it's rather, the newfound sense of humour Sonic Generations has. Most Sonic storylines have become so bad, they're almost funny. Generations gleefully takes pleasure of mocking this trend, slyly spoofing how ridiclous the Sonic series has truly become. Lines like; "no stranger than saving genies, magic books, and saving aliens in an interstellar amusement park", and "Dr Robotnik! Nobody calls me THAT anymore!" only makes the game more appealing. The mute expressions of Classic Sonic are also funny and adorable, and the two Sonics have a great dynamic with each other in each cutscene.
At it's core, Sonic Generations is essentially a 'Greatest Hits' compilation, but that is by no means, a criticism at all. In fact, it's what makes Generations so cool. Each stage has a total of two acts, allowing you to play in a 3D perspective as Modern Sonic, and in a 2D perspective as Classic Sonic. 2D Sonic is exactly as you remember it from the Genesis days; complete with spin dashes, impaitent foot-tapping and all, and Modern Sonic sucsessfully evokes the daytime stages seen in Sonic Unleashed. The Classic Sonic stages truly steal the show; this is exactly what Sonic is all about. The physics are spot-on, with Classic Sonic handling exactly like he did in the Genesis days. The classic stages themselves are pleasently nastolgic; harkening back to the bygone era of when Sonic was all about green hills and wacky chemical plants. For somebody who grew up on the 16-bit hedgehog days, it's enough to shed a tear to your eye.
The Modern Sonic stages are fast, action-packed, and shifts nicely from a 3D to a 2D perspective at certain stages. Modern Sonic still has a homing attack, and can now pull off even more tricks than he could before. The mechanics of more recent Sonic titles are still present, such as the abilty to drift and slide under obstacles. Both Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic offer up an exciting variety of gameplay moments, such as Classic Sonic speeding down a chemical plant runway, and Modern Sonic being chased by the GUN truck again, this time at a much faster speed.
Whilst most of Generations has many moments of blue blur bliss, there are still a few problems which hold Generations back from being the masterpeice it could've been. Stages such as Modern Sonic Crisis City are still badly designed, and are a bit messy. Whilst the Classic version is great, the Modern version still has awkwardly placed platforms, cheap deaths and pitfalls in which you can still easily die. Whilst the addition of Challenges and side missions is a nice touch, some of them still remain trivial. Missions such as collecting a certain number of rings in an enclosed area are still fustrating, but ones such as racing a Doppelganger Sonic are genuinely lots of fun. It's still a shame that levels that Modern Crisis City still suffer from handicapped level design, because in contrast, there are so many great examples of 3D Sonic done right here.
Some Sonic purists might also have a problem with the emphesis of Sonic levels from the early 2000's to the present. And to be honest, I see their point. Why not include a 3D version and 2D version of Ice Cap from Sonic The Hedgehog 3, or even a few stages from Sonic CD? The inclusion of levels from Sonic games that have suffered a lot of fan backlash over the years is still questionable too. However, most of the levels picked here have been thoughtfully re-designed, and, since SEGA have promised DLC to come in the future, there's no reason why your favourite level won't be in them.
However, all of those complaints I have just said, are thankfully outweighed by the many great qualities of Sonic Generations. To say that about a Sonic game for the first time in years is a great thing. The skill system in Sonic Generations is nicely executed, adding an RPG-lite mechanic to the fray. It's fun also equpping Sonic with optional abilties that you can use when your playing a level. The remixes in Sonic Generations are mostly excellent; with only two mildly forgettable ones. The little touches in these remixes such as the frantic, desperate violins playing in Modern Crisis City, or the inclusion of Endless Mine in the City Escape Classic mix are little things that'll make fans smile.
Perhaps, the best thing about Sonic Generations is that it is one of those rare times when Sonic Team have constructed a Sonic game lovingly, with confidence, care and attention to detail. Everything in Generations is done with a level of respect and reverance for Sonic's history in general. Whilst the Genesis era of Sonic will always be remembered as when Sonic prospered the most, Generations still stands tall as one of the most accomplished games in the series' history. It seems fitting then, that Modern Sonic shouts out to Classic Sonic: "enjoy your future! It's gonna be great!" Well, y'know what Sonic, I might just believe that now.