I have avoided Sonic games for a good long time now. The last one I laid my hands on was Sonic Heroes, which was an overall broken experience. Since then I neglected to care about the blue hedgehog with attitude; the series had gone off the rails into being unimaginative and frustratingly flawed. I didn’t want my childhood memories to take any more hits, as I was one of the kids who held Sonic in high esteem and adopted the Genesis over the Super Nintendo. I still believe the four Sonics on the Genesis are some of the strongest platformers of that early generation. The years have not been kind to him however, and the third dimension has nearly destroyed the credibility of Sega’s mascot. The continued redevelopment of the franchise has only succeeded in hurting the franchise, and the new additions only proved to be a departure from what made it so damn fun in the first place. The Sonic franchise isn’t about riding around on skates and using guns, it isn’t about running around with a sword, it isn’t about turning into a werewolf, and it for damn sure isn’t about Sonic experiencing a blossoming social life with other random animals with attitude.
There was once a time when this mascot went head to head with Nintendo’s plumber and during its height was even considered better by quite a large group. As time went on though, Mario continued to get better and better and Sonic continued to become an embarrassment to itself with each release being reminiscent of all those 80’s hair bands trying to stay relevant by dropping a new shitty album well after their prime. It didn’t work for Mötley Crüe, it didn’t work for Guns N’ Roses, and it for damn sure didn’t work for Sonic. Unlike these bands though, Sonic has seen a couple of releases recently that were strong and further proof that it was possible to make a good Sonic game.
For Sonic’s 20th birthday we see the release of Sonic Generations, and I have no shame in saying that it is yet another good game in the series and a return to form for the blue guy. Sonic Team has finally gone back to what made the series so much fun, fast gameplay mixed with twitch based platforming. There is a story here and while it is mostly dumb, it is exactly what it needs to be; an excuse to make this a Sonic only game. Thank god for that by the way. The game opens with Sonic throwing a birthday party with all of his friends, then suddenly a monster appears and tears away the fabric of time and space, kidnaps his friends, and throws Sonic into a sort of limbo. In this Limbo, new Sonic is introduced to his child self, and they both learn that by running at high speeds through areas of their life, they can return time to normal. Not exactly scientifically sound, but it is an excuse to run really fast and play as both a 3D sonic from the likes of Sonic Colors, and an improved 2D Sonic from the likes of Episode 4.
Each level in the game is a re-imagining of a stage from every game in the series, from the good games to the bad. Thankfully, the bad game’s stages have been re-imagined into being awesome and often times a tad bit challenging. It is really fun going back through levels from Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 (the only good 3D Sonics) in 2D, and overall the new sonic stages are more exciting with the way they move from 3D to 2D seamlessly. At times however, they are frustratingly bogged down by a wonky camera and the occasional action not performing the way it should. The homing missile move that sonic has adapted over the years adds to the fast jumps that rely heavily on quick reflexes that many of us have honed over the years, yet sometimes, it just doesn’t work out of nowhere resulting in a quick, unfair death. The camera will also tend to get stuck on a corner or refuse to function correctly, and these moments lead to a complete halt to the action as the player struggles to get things back on track.
2D Sonic, on the other hand, is solid in every single level, and some of the later stages are challenging and well designed. Making this all feel like a refreshing return to the status quo. The main game can go by just as fast as the action itself and if done doing the bare minimum, can easily be completed in less than 5 hours. What makes the experience last is the introduction of challenge stages that open up before boss battles after 3 levels have been completed by both Sonics. There are multiple challenge stages for each level and each of them can be played by both Sonics. The challenges range from more enemies in a redesigned version of the stage, to only 1 ring to get through an entire section, to racing against a doppleganger, to a ton more options. Most of these are a lot of fun and add a challenge to the game that otherwise is non-existent. There are some on the other hand that are incredibly dumb and ruin the fun, more often than not these bad stages are the ones that call on Sonics buddies to help out.
Seriously, screw all of Sonic’s friends, all they serve to do is hold him back from being great. Most of them commit the one cardinal sin of this franchise; slow the game down. These challenge stages are frustrating not because they are difficult, but because of how utterly bad they are. Luckily, these challenges don’t have to be completed to move on, but if you are a completionist, prepare to want to curse the day Sonic ever decided to have a social life.
Bosses do make a return to the franchise, with seven battles in total; they are all mostly well-built and sort of fun. I would have much rather had a boss to end each stage like they used to however, I didn’t much like the way things were laid out here. Each section of 3 levels is capped by a final boss in a random level designed only for that fight, which can only be unlocked by completing one challenge stage for each level. There is also the mid-boss type that is a fight with one of Sonic’s rivals, again in their own stage. Most of them are fun in their own way, but are definitely not a high-point in the game. The final boss is extra guilty for just plain being badly designed and the furthest thing away from fun.
Final Call: Sonic has returned to being a good game, and added with the apparently awesome Sonic Colors, Sega may have finally figured out what made these games good in the first place. I don’t think he will be at the level of greatness that Mario is at ever again, because while Mario continues to evolve with each release, Sonic has had to de-evolve in order to remember what made him awesome in the first place. Hopefully with time Sonic Generations can be looked back on as a step towards the greatness that one of my favorite mascots has always deserved. The game is very short and even with the additional challenge stages, it is only about a 10 hour experience. Sonic Generations as a whole is a good game. Not a great one, but a really good one worth a rental.
- Fast and exciting gameplay
- Imaginative level design that is continuously exhilarating
- Most Challenge levels add a fair amount of difficulty to the game
- Beautiful graphics that add a layer of depth to each stage
- Remixed soundtrack is mostly great
- Occasional camera bugs can lead to misjudging a jump or halting the action
- Fickle control scheme can sometimes break, leading to unfair deaths
- Challenge levels with Sonic’s friends are mostly atrocious
- Boss battles are either okay or bad