I’m going to put aside any sort of “oh man Sonic is finally good again” type opening paragraph because I realized right before sitting down to write that I’m pretty sure I enjoyed every single Sonic title that was released last year. Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing was one of the better kart racing titles I’ve ever played, outside of Mario Kart of course. Sonic 4 caught a lot of shit that I didn’t think it deserved, and I highly enjoyed Sonic Colors on both the Wii and DS. So as far as I’m concerned, going into Sonic Generations, Sonic was already pretty good.
The best part is that now he is even better. I can easily provide Sonic Generations with the title of being the best Sonic game since…..jesus…..Sonic & Knuckles maybe? In a really long time, let’s put it that way.
Of course the big hook is that both new, badass gangly Sonic and the pudgy adorable Sonic from the past team-up. If it sounds like fan service, then you are absolutely correct. This game is absolutely dripping with fan service, but it never comes off as a giant marketing ploy. It really does feel like a tribute to Sonic and it works as a huge celebration of the character, which is fitting since this year marks his 20th anniversary. If you have even the slightest bit of affinity for Sonic, even if it has been a while since you have been genuinely interested in him, then you are going to find a lot to enjoy here.
Each of the stages is divided into two acts, with Classic Sonic taking on Act 1, and Act 2 focusing on Gangles Sonic. Both feature a different style of game play. Classic Sonic takes on the levels in their 2D form (perhaps 2.5D would be more accurate actually) while Gangles switches between side scrolling and a behind the back view. If you played last year’s Sonic Colors then you will know exactly what to expect. Both work well and it’s always interesting to see how elements from Act 1 are translated to work in Act 2. I honestly don’t even have a preference between the two types of play – both work great and are unique enough that at no point do the stages feel repetitive.
The stages themselves are all updated versions of ones from previous Sonic titles. Most games are represented here, although each game only receives one stage so chances are damn good that you will feel an important one was missed. I personally can’t believe they didn’t update the Casino stage from Sonic 2, but DLC could very easily be on the way. The stage design here is great, with each level capturing the spirit and feel of the original level, while at the same time giving it a complete overhaul. Levels now all feature multiple paths that will definitely make you want to try a stage again to see where a different route may take you. Every time I would miss a jump that would take me somewhere completely different then where I ended up, I immediately made a mental note to come back and try that again. I found the stages in Sonic Generations consistently struck a great balance between actual platforming, and just running really fast in a straight line. Some of the later stages do tend to feel a little more frustrating (I’m thinking of Planet Wisp in particular) but there was never any moment where I was completely stuck.
One of the primary issues I read regarding Sonic 4 (also where in the hell is Episode 2 of that anyway) is that the controls didn’t feel right and that everything felt floaty and just overall off. At the time I didn’t really see it but having played a little Sonic 4 after playing Sonic Generations, I now see what people are talking about. Rest assured this one feels a lot better. Running, jumping and pulling off special moves feels completely natural and very true to the original Sonic games. I realize that opinions on this will vary from person to person but I have to say, I feel they nailed it this time around.
I mentioned that the stages themselves are all updated from courses that you’ve seen in previous titles however don’t for a second think this is where the intense nostalgia trip stops. It’s everywhere here. The music will be instantly familiar as each track is paired with an updated recording of its original music piece. I almost forgot just how much great music this series has had since I tend to remember the songs with lyrics, and not for any positive reasons. But once you get past the JPop songs with motivational lyrics, there is a rich history of classic music to choose from and just about all of it is present here. It’s a great soundtrack all around and I won’t lie, I replayed a few stages purely to hear the music again.
On top of all this, the story itself contains numerous in jokes and references, most of which actually work. The story is by no means ever the strong point in a Sonic game, but here the cut scenes are actually worthwhile and enjoyable. There are lots of cute references to the games and characters (my particular favourite is Tails admitting that Green Hill Zone doesn’t look familiar), many of which come near the end so I won’t spoil them here. I will say that Sonic Generations does take a few self-deprecating jab at the Sonic universe, something I’m sure many will appreciate.
The game itself is pretty short and you can likely see the credits within four or five hours. There is thankfully plenty to do however once you have played through each stage. There are five red coins to collect in each Act of each world, as well as ‘S’ rankings to earn in each level. There are skills you can buy and equip, and likely the biggest time sink are the challenges. I can’t say exactly how many of these there are in total but rest assured there are a lot. The tasks for each one vary. Some have you trying to beat a rival to the finish line, others will throw a ton of enemies at you, and one has you trying to keep the signpost from the end of the stage from hitting the ground while you navigate the level with it. There’s a bunch more but I won’t list them all. In addition to simply completing the challenges, each one gives you a ranking as well. If you are a completionist, or hell even if you just enjoy the game as much as I did, you are guaranteed to sink a good chunk of hours into Sonic Generations.
I have to imagine that Sonic Generations is every Sonic fan’s dream. A nod to all of the classic titles (ok I use the word ‘classic’ but I should point out that 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog is indeed featured so take the use of that word with a slight grain of salt) that is at the same time a great game on its own, this is one that both the loyal fans, as well as the ones who had perhaps lost their faith, should absolutely play. This is going to be a tough one for Sonic Team to top so especially enjoy it because this could be as good as it ever gets!