Note: I re-reviewed this game in 2019. Please disregard this original review.
Okay, it’s been just shy of a month since I dived into Sonic Colors and came out with very negative thoughts. Yet, to finally open my last sealed from 2011, just think about how bad it’ll be when I get a prim and proper PC in a few days, time to review Sonic Generations.
Sonic Generations Review
Release Date: 01/11/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC, 3DS
Developer: Sonic Team
The core premise and goal of Sonic Generations is, in all fairness, very poorly constructed, but it doesn’t need to be any more than a framing device. In short, Sonic’s pals, or at least nine of the most recognizable, including such staples as Blaze the Cat and Charmy the Bee, throw him a party but a big bad unforeseen threat takes them away into a place between places. Or to be more specific, time, which pairs the modern still janky and likely thrown away version of Sonic with his past self from the Genesis days. From there, both the modern and classic Sonic need to go through nine selected stages of nine of the most mainstream titles in the series.
Actually, the plot it is barely worth even noting, with the side characters being alarmingly token with their voices that changed for the third or so time, only giving off a few lines of dialog before being a background fixture for the rest of the game. Instead, in what I recall being a very frantic push to get the game out, getting the gameplay right seemed to be the goal here. With the total number of stages being cut down to 9 for two modes of gameplay.
Now, you might think that sounds absurdly minuscule, even for a budget title like this once was, but the ninety challenges and eight bosses make up for it. Well, they do in theory. Now, as a kid I had two big classic Sonic collections I seldom played, yet just from watching gameplay bits, the speed has been dramatically changed along with the scope for the classic Sonic. With a still more controlled gameplay style that emphasizes timing and utilizing jumping skills and the ability to roll into a ball and zoom until you hit a wall. Yet, things are not so fast that it feels like you’re doing anything wrong by standing on a platform for a bit, or flipping some switches. Just that there is likely a better path to find by replaying the stage.
Yet when it comes to modern Sonic, I’ll say it is fairly applaud worthy for a year between releases. The game is still very speed heavy, and with the even more plentiful boost gauge that became the mainstay for only about three games if Sonic Lost World is any indicator. It can be tempting to use the ability to burst into a sprint whenever anything is not going smoothly, which the game most often punishes with the loss of a life. However, I actually did get a far more firm grasp on the way modern Sonic controlled, learn the strategic ins and outs of the boost due to the smaller and more replayable set of levels. It can be abused a lot, much like the spin dash if you want to get a good score in the level, but that is made far easier.
Getting higher ranks is not as emphasized in Sonic Generations as it was in the prior title that I naturally compare it to. Heck, going back to the the Red Rings I disliked before, they are still present in all eighteen stages, but the emphasis on replaying them, generally improved level designed, and hints given by the prop-like side characters make them actually a bit of a novelty. Instead of focusing on points or using power ups to get the highest score, you go through the level, use the shortcuts to help you along your way and see more of the environment, collect a few rings for a minor boost, and assuming you didn’t lose a life, you get an S rank.
Yet, the life system still bugs the crap out of me, as it does in any modern video game. I understand why they were originally created and the tension that is brought up with having one life, but when I have a steady stream of 40 lives, what is really the point? Instead, you take one away whenever I restart a normal stage or boss encounter, yet let me keep them when I quit the level? I get dying being a consequence for the rank, I actually think that is a clever idea, but I couldn’t help but grow aggravated as I exited the stage countless times, and needed to sit through the excessive loading.
It is a minor detail, yet at the end of the day, my biggest complaints are a bucket full of nits with the overall core of the game being a nostalgia filled festival of fun. There are instances where the game is glitchy and I was able to pass through the level designed by abusing the boost and spin dash option, even if it only worked a fourth of the time. The 90 challenge stages often lack in quality control, with gimmicks being thrown in solely for the challenge stages. And while time is the only major obstacle, hitting a sign through a stage, grabbing rings from a robot who laces its stream with bombs, or using the abilities of friend characters can almost get comically bad with how poorly scripted the ideas are.
Many of them are simple, go through a level quickly, survive with one ring, jump through another type or ring, this one being red or rainbow in color, and so forth. Yet every friend has two challenges unique to them, and either one of both are inevitably awful. Stopping and collecting coins while as modern Sonic is slow and as much of a shift as possible given how the traversal of 3D environments is handled. Swinging from a rope with funky momentum that is as carefully scripted as a dog walking in on a film set and peeing on an actor sobbing for his character’s mother as she is being shot in the face. There are few more annoying things than listening to a song entitled “race to win” while dealing with modern Sonic’s sometimes unreliable homing attack system in a stage where you played ping pong using a music note with Vector the Crocodile.
Even a few of the limited stages rubbed me the wrong way, with the Crisis City level from the abysmal 2006 title, Sonic The Hedgehog, showing how uncreative and poorly directed its respective game was with the general theme of a destroyed city willed with fire everywhere being nothing short of obnoxious to play at times. Alongside the Planet Wisp stage reminding me of why I didn’t think that Sonic Colors was well designed as the power-ups were thrown on in and a confusing level path that is not that fun to navigate through. A I must wonder who thought that doing nine titles would suffice for what is more or less a compilation game.
Now, I am aware of a DLC level, and the effort that went into crafting the stage’s assets. Yet aside from music from various titles, the mentions of anything beyond, or even including the titles paid tribute to is a bit odd. Yes, the writing still rubs me the wrong way, but you probably shouldn’t reference Sonic 2006 without making a coy remark. It’s just that a game about time travel celebrating the series’ anniversary should be a bit more creative with making use of its gimmicks, or god forbid, try to clarify the continuity.
Instead, I think the extra effort went into making the stages look as pretty as they do. While the palate of the nine worlds seems a bit lacking a certain something due to the choices being the most “iconic” stage. However, the HD visuals and vibrant colors make most stages look lovely as all of the assets in the core two levels seem to have received copious amounts of care into every detail. Sure, assets are reused to the point where the only difference is that it is now the afternoon during challenges, but the actual design seldom had me get confused as to what I was intended to be looking at.
While the soundtrack is what kept me both sane and drove me nuts by the end of the game. With a plethora of remixed tracks from the days of old and several repackaged ones, a lot of the possible frustration by some of the challenges is mellowed by how I can listen to that Sonic Rush Adventure theme or Sonic Boom. Although, I must wonder why the music does not loop upon restarting the level, because there are only so many times I can listen to the first thirty seconds of a song without adopting a state of feralness. Which I more or less entered during some of the more annoying missions.
Sonic Generations can be sloppy in many areas, the game overall seems more fair than the prior title I touched upon, and I felt enough drive to go for 100% completion. The design can be sloppy, and it feels a bit light for a big anniversary title, but despite becoming a feral man at some instances. It is likely the most improved follow-up I have ever seen to pop up after a single year.
A solid title that may be lacking in an infinite amount of different ways, or just a few big and difficult to ignore issues. Varies based on the title, but still worth giving it a go overall!