Sonic The Hedgehog is a mascot that has seen rise in popularity and fall to shame. After his first two acclaimed adventures in 3D and his sojourn chalk full of “Heroes” I should say, In the recent years, Sonic The Hedgehog has been in an abysmal reboot, a poorly designed on rails game, an unlovable “werehog” and even a terrible-handling swordsman. Last year however, things were looking up for the blue blur and no I’m not talking about the weak “Sonic Lite” being the robbery of a nostalgia blast, Sonic The Hedgehog 4, I am talking about Sonic Colors, the game that showed the Sonic Team still has it and can still make good games as it brought many hurt Sonic fans and gamers in general back into the ballpark. Sonic Generations however is a new game that may capitalize on this improvement by attempting a love letter for Sonic fans. With the anticipation looking bright and the nostalgic design of the younger Sonic being brought into the picture, will this installment of the Sonic The Hedgehog series give Sega’s mascot an even brighter future? Or will Sonic bite his own speed dust?
Sonic Generations takes place celebrating Sonic’s birthday (in symbolism to it being Sonic’s 20th anniversary with this installment), with all of his friends until a time rip pulls him into this time purgatory where he ends up meeting his former self. Each stage consists of stages from many of Sonic’s previous adventures which makes for diverse level design. Each stage consists of two acts. In Act 1 you play as classic Sonic where you play in a 2D (really 2.5D due to all of the beautiful camera angles and usage of foreground/background) and it’s in the control style of Sega Genesis Sonic, yes those of you who hated on Sonic 4, you can’t use homing attack on classic Sonic mode. The Sonic Team listened to you! In Act 2, you play as 3D Sonic that makes full use of the beautiful 3D Hedgehog Engine which gives it the similar vibes to the day stages of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors. In each stage there are 5 red star rings to collect in each act of stage which makes for some good replay value in some cases. There are three eras, the Genesis Era, the Dreamcast Era and the Modern Era. When all stages of an era are beaten, 10 challenges per stage are opened (5 challenges per act) and you need to complete at least 1 challenge per stage to get all 3 boss keys to fight the boss of that era who holds a chaos emerald. You will also be opened up to a mini-boss who also holds a chaos emerald. With all of these mentioned above, you are allowed to get a rank from D for a really bad performance in time to an A for completing any act, challenge or boss within a certain amount of time. If you fulfill the requirements for an A ranking without dying, you will get an S rank.
The second this game starts up, you will notice that it’s beautiful. The graphics are stunning and for a very speedy game, its frame rate drops are from little to none. The 2D Sonic gameplay is boundary breaking even when going really fast, though suprisingly, the 2D gameplay does show some genesis limitations, nostalgic, but not always grand, such as levels being a bit based on memorization, HOWEVER still retain mechanics to progress better through the level than normal, as this display of Classic Sonic gameplay makes Sonic 4 look like a total abortion, with the stunning graphics and environments even though limited to a 2D plane, it still holds a 2.5D effect with the camera taking great angles to show off the action and running so it doesn’t get boring just from looking at Sonic’s right side the entire time and the environments are breathtaking. If the Classic Sonic gameplay has breathtaking environments alone, just wait until you see the The 3D Sonic gameplay and the beautiful environments, which seems like something that the developers took seriously in terms of convenience and control. One of my favorite things to do is use a speed boost dash in mid-air to jump across a long gap and then time it right by using the new 3D Sonic staple in the stomp to land on thin footing with precision. That is one of the most fantastic mechanics in this game. It just seems this game’s mechanics are almost flawless and the formula can only be improved and get better in future installments.
Unfortunately, the singleplayer campaign can come up pretty short if you just rush through it and is beatable in approximately 5 hours. The story is enough to get you by and it shows the Sonic Team wants to focus a lot more on the gameplay and the voice acting is once again tolerable like in the previous installment Sonic Colors and these new voice actors pay off, majority of the sonic characters are back and make an appearance in this game. It is a shame, but if you want more out of this game, you can possibly get 10 or more hours out of this game, by being a completionist. Doing the 90 challenges in the game on top of the 18 levels (acts) and bosses and mini-bosses, giving you over 120 S-Ranks you can possibly earn and trust me the requirements for some of these are brutal and the difficulty will keep a completionist very challenged for all of the right reasons.
On top of all of this, there are unlockables such as concept art, character backstories and music clips from pretty much majority of past Sonic titles, which is all some great fan service here, especially with tons of remixes in stages on levels which may take your Genesis, Dreamcast, Saturn (if you really liked Sonic R all that much!) or even memories presently created and turn them into gold, of course this means that there is very little original music here, but that’s really not a problem when it just sounds so pleasant on the ears anyways! Everything previously mentioned is accessible from a 2.5D HUB, which functions great and there isn’t much wasted space in between choosing levels. Speaking of music, did I forget to mention that you can play ANY of them throughout any of the levels? That’s right, I can play Green Hill Zone music on Speed Highway from Sonic Adventure and I can play the Sonic 2 bonus stage theme during a boss battle! That’s huge props to the Sonic Team for allowing these flexible features. This game was truly meant to be the ultimate love-letter to a Sonic fan and it’s commendable.
Small problem I have to address with this game is a design flaw. Let’s say you are a completionist, you miss a Red Star Coin and you want to restart the level. Pausing the game and choosing the start over option means you restart the level at the cost of a life. Now, what is the point of this Sega? I mean if I started over at a checkpoint this would make sense, but you’re penalizing me ONE LIFE to restart the level and you can easily restart the level without losing a life, BUT you have to quit the stage, go through a loading screen, go back to the HUB (which is beautifully designed I may add), re-select the level, go through the loading screen again and FINALLY go back. You also cannot restart a level with zero lives. Okay yes, it’s meant to prevent cheating death, but um…Super Mario 64′s system anyone? That’s a waste of time Sonic Team! Just let re-do the level like you did in Sonic Colors! Forgivable flaw, you won’t notice this if you just like speeding through games but you will feel a little bit of time wasted doing this if you miss things in levels that you would like another chance at.
Unfortunately, that proposes another problem when it comes to the replayability and completitionism, it’s a minor gripe though. It’s the requirement of having to play a stage all over again to get red star rings and sure this is a sonic staple, but there are some more severe instances of this that will bug you such as multiple pathways that do not let you backtrack to get them all in one go, (I’m looking at YOU Classic Sky Sanctuary) because I personally would like to be able to do everything in a level in one try as much as possible but I suppose we can forgive the Sonic Team for this, easily with such a great Sonic game.
Sonic Generations is definitely a love-letter to Sonic fans and a good one at that. Even if you aren’t that big of a Sonic fan but like platformers, you would enjoy this game. Sure there’s still a few minor gripes but it’s all forgivable because this is a GREAT Sonic game for all ages. This game has some of the best remixes of the Sonic series which makes the soundtrack just beautiful along with some of the most fine-tuned platforming. This is one of the best Sonic games since Sonic The Hedgehog 2. Look out Mario, the blue blur is back full force!