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Sonic Generations

 

Sonic Generations

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games, Platformer, PlayStation Store, Xbox LIVE Marketplace
 
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8.5
 
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Hell's bells, nostalgia never felt so good. I remember our spiky blue friend back when he was good. Life was simple, all he did was fulfill his ring addiction while jumping on cute animals that had been turned into robots. Then it got all gimmicky for a while, and I turned away. However, when I was at Eurogamer Expo, I got a look at the very game I'm reviewing now. I said it then, and I'll say it now: Sonic Generations could very well save the Sonic franchise. Because it strips most of the gimmicks, while keeping the fun. For the most part.

Visuals

Sonic Generations looks gorgeous. There is no other way to put it. All the stages are 3D rendered, even the 2D ones, but the original feel of the levels that are being redesigned has been kept in, and improved. Chemical Plant, for example, has huge gushing falls of pink water, the blobby chemical spews now look more like blue glue than a bunch of balls, and the boss redesigns, such as the Death Egg Eggman Robot, keep the classic feel while being beautiful enough for the HD generation. You're going to hear this a lot.

Menu and UI wise, most of the menus are represented in-game, but have the cartoony feel that you'd expect from a classic Sonic game. So extra points for a consistent feel.

Sound

In-game sounds, in general, are everything you'd expect: rings tinkle, enemies go “POP!”, chemicals go “BLUBLUBLUP!”, so nothing much is changed there. In-game music, however, is damn good. Imagine the best remixes of classic Sonic tunes, mixed with some drum'n'bass and hard rock songs for certain levels, and you've got the idea. Combined with the visuals and gameplay, this had me squealing with nostalgia. No problems with the sound. Not a one.

Gameplay

Gameplay, while relatively simple to play, is actually a bit complex to explain. So let's kick off with the plot, such as it is, to give this a bit of context.

In two different time periods, modern, and Sonic I era, a big black demony thing kidnaps every main character, and plonks them (all turned to stone with the exception of Sonic and Sonic) into a limbo comprised of bleached white models of the levels. Even this somehow manages to look beautiful.

Each stage has 2 acts, one of which can be played as classic sonic, with very few new mechanics to worry about, and one as modern sonic, with all the trappings thereof (Air Dash, Boost, Light Dash, 3d environments, etc, etc). They're the same stage, but, at the same time, completely different experiences. Let's take Chemical Plant as an example.

In classic sonic, it's basically a HD rejigged Sonic 2 stage, with added paths. You pretty much run, jump, head right as much as possible, and enjoy the scenery while trying not to die. In modern sonic, it's a hectic race along rails, tracks, slides, and such, boosting through enemies, doing tricks in midair when possible (just spam direction keys when it tells you), and occasionally sprinting through side-scrolling sections. Yes, that's right, the modern Sonic acts involve both 2D and 3D.

Once you've completed both stages, you rescue the character standing in front of the stage, and can do challenges. Challenges are generally races against either the clock or another character, and have their own gimmicks, giving you some concept art or music and a new ability to buy as a result.

Oh, yeah, buying abilities... Some fans may not like this, but you do not start the game with every single shield and ability unlocked. You have to buy them by beating stages to get some sort of skill points, getting the unlocks, and then putting a limited number of abilities into a skillset. You have 5 skillsets to play with, and different abilities cost a different percentage of the skillset's available slots. For example, being able to stop on a dime is relatively cheap, taking 10 or 20 percent, but the Safety Net ability (keep 10 rings if you got hit and have more than 10 rings) costs a whopping 40 percent of your skillset slots. Shields and spare lives count as abilities, btw, so it's quite challenging to find the perfect skillset for a certain kind of level.

While you don't have to complete all the challenges, you do have to complete at least one per stage to unlock the boss fight, which allows you to progress. At the time of writing, I only unlocked one (Death Egg Robot), and fought another which was randomly hanging around (Metal Sonic), but found both to be enjoyable remakes, each with their own gimmick. Metal Sonic's, for example, reminds me of Sonic Advance's boss fights, where you had to run like a running thing, dodging attacks, and spinballing your opponent when they show weakness, while the Death Egg Robot is a two-stage boss that begins looking like the original, but with a twist, and then drops into pseudo-3d for the counter-attack bonanza section. They're fun, the gimmick is usually pretty easy to work out, and the difficulty curve is generally okay.

So, so far you've heard the good, let's talk about the bad. Of which there is not actually much for anyone except PC players. See, PS3 and Xbox players have easily available controllers, whereas PC players will either have to buy a decent controller (preferably Xbox), or contend with a combination of slightly lazy portage (Press X to Spin-Jump... what, you mean D?) and the fact that Xbox controls do not translate well to a keyboard (Yeah, 8 keys that your fingers can easily slip between, in a game that requires lightning reflexes... Thank you so very much, SEGA, my fingers will never feel the same).

Then, of course, there is the slightly clumsy implementation of concept art and music unlocks. Remember those Red Star Rings from Sonic Ep 4? They make a comeback, and they're just as annoying to find while speedrunning as they ever were. Except that, if you have a major theme music and concept art hardon, you're going to have to. Being a completionist, you can imagine how much this annoyed me.

But hey, there's a heckuva lot of replay value in this, as you can go back to any stage (including boss fights), and either hunt for red-star rings in the main levels, or do any level again, but better and faster, which, in a way, is the goal of every Sonic player in existence. Finally, I should mention that, according to my stats page, there are 122 acts in the game.


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