Please Rate This Review: "Sonic Generations"
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High: Speeding along to some fantastic remixes of classic Sonic tunes. Talk about a nostalgia blast!
Low: A vastly underwhelming final boss.
WTF: I can't tell if Sonic Team are being coyly self-referential in their cut-scenes, or if it's just bad writing.
Seeing the iconic green grass and bronze dirt of Green Hill zone blurring into one wash of colour as I boosted through a horde of enemies was what I wanted from Sonic Generations since its announcement. I wanted the tight level design and speedy thrill of the Megadrive games converted into the third dimension in a way that most one of the past 3D games have quite been able to capture. Sonic Generations almost delivers on this promise, giving players a nostalgic, adrenaline-pumped rollercoaster ride through some of Sonicís best moments, as well as some more of the more questionable ones. Itís clear that Sonic Team have almost nailed the formula, but not quite. Yet despite some lingering design and control issues it finally feels like the blue blur is getting back to strength and Generations acts as both a celebration of Sonicís past and a promise of a brighter future.
There are nine stages on offer, each one representing a period from Sonicís chequered past, from Sonic 1ís Green Hill Zone to Sonic Colours Planet Wisp. Each of the nine zones has two versions, one classic and one modern. Classic zones are side scrolling with an emphasis on platforming and are a nice counterpoint to the faster, more speed orientated affairs of the modern stages. Gone are the sluggish physics that blighted Sonic Teamís previous side scroller, Sonic 4. Sonic is lighter and more nimble, allowing you to flick him from platform to platform with ease. While classic Sonic offers some of the best platforming in Sonicís recent history, itís the modern versions of the zones that I personally found most enticing. Seeing old favourites like Chemical Plant Zone or Sky Sanctuary in full 3D, with fantastic remixes of their classic soundtracks to boot, was thrilling thanks to more than just nostalgia.
The modern stages mix a large dose of speed into the platform orientated play of the classic levels, and the result is something very thrilling. A combination of boost, side-step and homing attack allows you to keep the frenetic speed at a constant and most of the levels allow you to breeze through at a speedy pace, making split second decisions to choose between divergent paths that can save you time or reveal a hidden treasure. Modern Sonic really is at its best when it mixes in speedy spectacle with light platforming and Iím pleased to say that most the levels achieve this. The first two-thirds of the game are the strongest, where the level design is kept cleaner. After that the difficulty ramps up and with it the problems being to emerge.
Sonic still has some underlying design and gameplay niggles that keep it from shining quite as brightly as it could, and the later levels, with more aggressive enemies, perilous platforms and numerous traps, serve to underline these issues. The homing attack can be a fickle thing, and using it when prompted occasionally caused me to get stuck on an intervening bit of scenery and drop to my death. There seems to be a very precise way in which to play these levels and when players step out of line with this death usually occurs. That said both the retro and modern levels from beginning to end typically deliver on the high-octane platforming that the series has been beloved for. Itís not quite a full return to Sonicís halcyon days of glory, but it feels close and many of the modern levels successfully transfer the feeling of the classic games into the third dimension.
There is a smattering of boss fights, though less than Iíd have liked and they lack for variety. A mid-game showdown with Shadow is played along to some remixed Crush 40 tracks from Sonic Adventure 2, and as wonderful as the atmosphere is the battle bottles down to a meagre race. Many of the bosses follow this tract, which is disappointed considering how intricate many of Sonicís boss encounters have been. The absolute zenith of the game is the final boss, which is baffling, frustrating, visually confusing and badly designed in equal measures.
There are nine levels in total, meaning Sonic Generations errs on the short side. There are reasons to revisit it though. Various challenge levels are unlocked, offering revised segments of the levels to complete under different circumstances, some of which are more entertaining than others, and there are the obligatory ranks and collectibles to be gotten in each stage. Completing the challenge levels unlocks an impressive library of level music themes and you can then apply these to whatever level you want for a degree of customisation. I can see myself revisiting the game, however, not for these auxiliary features, but for the sheer, heady thrill that most of Generations manages to deliver, as well as some impeccable visuals and music. Sonic Team have certainly done a commendable job in bringing classic Sonic zones into bright, bold HD.
Bottom Line: Sonic Generations moves the franchise closer to a semblance of its past glory. Classic Sonic is as simple and as slick as itís ever been while modern Sonic finally feels like itís beginning to work. The satisfying side scrolling platforming mixed with sections of visceral speed lust and colourful spectacle feels like a long-overdue three dimensional realisation of Sonicís glory days, albeit with a little more refinement due. The game is short, and more than anything it feels like a promise on Sonic Teamís part to keep improving on a franchise that many had written off as dead. Generations has its fair share of annoyances and exasperating design but it comes off as an earnest and successful attempt by Sonic Team to shift their mascot back onto the right track.
Final Score: 7.5 / 10
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail and reviewed on the Xbox 360 Approximately 10 hours were spent on the single player mode. There is no multiplayer.
Parental Guidance: The game is rated E for everyone by the ERSB. The game is truly accessible and appropriate for all ages. There is no untoward content of any description in the game.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Subtitles for cut-scenes and in-game hints are available. The only audio-exclusive cue is to warn players that Sonic will soon drown, though a count-down will appear for the final five seconds. This will hardly pose a problem as the five-second countdown is generally enough to get to an air bubble or the surface.
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