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Sonic Generations Review

Review; Nov. 8, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Ryan Goodman
Is our little hedgehog back up to speed yet?

For almost a decade now, one of video games’ biggest icons has seen a steep decline. Sonic the Hedgehog was arguably the most popular video game character in the 1990s, with classic after classic played by millions who owned a SEGA Genesis. But after games went 3-D, and graphics got more sophisticated, Sonic started to lose steam. Now, SEGA is trying to go back to Sonic’s roots -- while propelling him into the future -- with Sonic Generations. But is the new-and-improved Sonic up to speed yet?

Sonic Generations

In the new iteration, a dark creature is tearing through the threads of time, right through different periods in the Sonic storyline. All of Sonic’s friends are “frozen," and it is up to both the Sonic of today and the classic hedgehog of the 16-bit era to collect all seven Chaos Emeralds and save the world and time itself. As you go along, your rescued friends will help you. While the storyline is semi-original for the Sonic series, it doesn’t feel like it could be the basis of a complete re-launch of the franchise. If anything, it feels like SEGA’s way of honoring the franchise’s 20-year history from its beginning all the way to its most recent titles.

The game begins with a sight familiar to just about every Sonic fan: the hedgehog standing ready to speed through the Green Hill Zone, with that familiar tune playing in the background. The first level of the game is basically what old-school Sonic fans have been wanting for years: a 2½-D classic Sonic experience that plays just like the Genesis masterpieces. This is followed by a modern rendition of this classic level, which plays like several of the more recent Sonic games. This version of the level is a blast, but it has its share of hiccups, particularly when you’re running at full speed, only to be stopped dead in your tracks by an enemy you have no time to see. The rest of the game follows this pattern, with each stage comprising two acts (one classic take and a modern one). In theory, this was the right course of action for this type of game, but the journey ahead has its fair share of problems.

Sonic Generations Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

Each level is a re-imagining of a stage from several of Sonic’s previous adventures, all the way to Planet Wisp from 2010’s Sonic Colors. The game's main parts are broken into three sections (Genesis era, Dreamcast era, and Modern era), with a big boss fight in between each one. After you clear both acts of the three stages in each section, some challenge acts are unlocked for each stage. These range from time-attack races to defeating a certain amount of enemies before you reach the goal. While SEGA did a great job spreading out the Sonic storyline from beginning to end, the memories most Sonic fans have are from the classic Genesis era. Why they did not include more levels from those games, especially Sonic 3 and Sonic CD, is baffling. The emphasis feels like it’s more on Sonic’s modern adventures, which is also baffling, considering those games are considered the worst in the series. Imagine how awesome it would be to play through a modern version of the Ice Cap Zone from Sonic 3, complete with a full segment on a snowboard. SEGA really dropped the ball here.

The gameplay in Sonic Generations has its ups and downs. Classic Sonic plays just like the Genesis era, but occasionally you’ll deal with something unusual that will cost you a life, such as falling through the edge of a platform. These “cheap deaths” seem to happen more often in classic renditions of the modern stages. Besides those small abnormalities, it plays just like it used to. Modern Sonic plays similarly to the Sonic Adventure games, and they have their share of problems. Besides the sudden full-stop problem mentioned earlier, there’s also clipping problems and other glitches, such as when Sonic runs on water, only to suddenly sink and drown, resulting in a lost life. These annoyances can be tedious, but they don’t subtract from the overall experience as much as previous titles' issues have.

The best thing about this game is the nostalgia you’ll experience. Along with the classic gameplay and levels, there’s also a ton of unlockables and other references that will make long-time Sonic fans grin. There is a ton of original artwork and music to unlock and enjoy. A nice touch: In each section, there is a rival boss fight, such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Metal Sonic. Another bonus is the ability to unlock and play the original Sonic the Hedgehog from Genesis. Some of the cutscenes are funny, especially the ones that poke fun at some of Sonic’s missteps and when Modern Sonic has a sense of deja vu. These references to the older iterations in the series add to the replay value of the game.

Overall, this is the best Sonic game released in the last decade or so, but that isn’t saying too much. While the classic Sonic gameplay is present, the emphasis is still on the more recent titles. Sonic fans should go check it out immediately, but while it is a good starting point for gamers new to the series, they may be better off playing the 16-bit classics first. Sonic Generations is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough to launch the franchise full speed ahead.


Review Score


Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

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