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Perhaps this may be slightly incriminating to say, but Sonic the Hedgehog was my idol when I was younger. I’m extremely hazy on when I first encountered the series, whether it was from one of the original Genesis games, the cartoon show, or even as late as Sonic Adventure. Whatever my introduction to it, the fact of the matter is that I was hooked. This has actually come back as of late, but to a very lesser extent.
Incidentally, the game that re-hooked me was none other than the nostalgic romp known as Sonic Generations. Seeing the once two-dimensional levels reimagined in 3D was mind-blowing, and vice versa for the formally 3D centric levels being 2D. Plenty of wonderful memories flooded back to me; I was experiencing the pure definition of fun.
That is… until I hit Seaside Hill. Suddenly, there was an influx of terrible, terrible memories.
For those of you who don’t know, Sonic Generations is a collection and reimagining of levels from Sonic games’ past. The level choices range from the very first Sonic the Hedgehog all the way to the latest original game in the series, Sonic Colors. Seaside Hill is the level taken from Sonic Heroes, which is when the series started getting notably terrible.
Of course, Sonic wasn’t a perfect series until that point; quite the contrary actually. There were numerous spin-offs for systems such as the Sega Saturn and Game Gear that were quickly forgotten by the public, and for the better. In the core series, you had Sonic Adventure, which is marred by control issue, glitches, and so-on. But, for the time, Sonic Adventure’s flaws were overlooked by many because it was Sonic’s first legitimate step into 3D. It also looked pretty.
With Sonic Heroes, the series went from critically acclaimed to critically mixed. Apparently, critics were bored with the same old tricks being reused from the Adventure games, and the addition of teams wasn’t exactly a plus. The series only declined from there.
Yes, the next game in the series was the dreaded Shadow the Hedgehog. Have you ever wanted to hear Sonic and his friends swear? How about see them use guns? Do you want generic aliens in your Sonic story? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re what’s wrong with the world today.
According to Sega, people wanted all of that and more, so they gave us Shadow the Hedgehog. Admittedly, Shadow was a cool character to me in Sonic Adventure 2 (and only Sonic Adventure 2). However, he was cool because he was mysterious and dark but not extremely forced, unlike the games following it. I think a comment on YouTube put it best: “In Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow was bad*** with emo tendencies. In every game following, he was emo with bad*** tendencies.”
Fans thought it couldn’t get any worse than Shadow. Sega accepted that challenge.
There’s hardly a point in me telling you about SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, or Sonic '06 as some call it. You’ve all heard of it. It’s infamous for its terrible gameplay, its seemingly infinite amount of glitches, and its ludicrous story. Yes, a princess kisses a dead hedgehog. To quote the Angry Video Game Nerd...
(Warning: The following video has an f-bomb. )
I think SONIC THE HEDGEHOG was the point where most fans drew the line. They were done with this series. If this was how Sonic was debuting on current-gen consoles, people wanted no part in it, and you really can’t blame them. However, some fans couldn’t stay away, as just two years later…
Sonic… gameplay that actually looks… somewhat decent?! …Well, until the stupid beat-em-up stuff, but who cares! Sonic actually looks fun again! I wasn’t big into the internet when this trailer was released; I had just seen it on my Xbox 360 one day and decided to download it. I had no idea what others thought of it, but I loved it. I was pumped for Sonic Unleashed.
Then I just sort of… lost interest. I guess I was more burned by SONIC THE HEDGEHOG then I thought. I didn’t really think about Sonic Unleashed until it was released, and then I only rented it (on the Wii… for some reason.) I thought it was just okay, and that was that. I was just… uninterested at that point.
Two years later and here comes Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors. Sonic 4 was trying to bring back the Genesis idea of nothing but speed and side-scrolling, and Colors had yet another gimmick, albeit not as tedious looking as Unleashed’s. IGN’s reviews are what sold me on those two games, because I otherwise didn’t care. They just looked like more Sonic to me, and I was afraid of getting burned again. Thankfully, I had fun with both games, and was glad that Sonic was finally coming back, slowly but surely. Both games had their flaws, obviously, but Sonic Team had finally figured out a good formula for modern Sonic games, and Sonic 4 was just a neat little bonus for fans.
One year later, and we’re back at Sonic Generations. In all honesty, this is the first recent Sonic game I’d recommend to people without an ounce of hesitation. There’s something here for all kinds of Sonic fans, new and old. Unless you excessively hate a certain style of Sonic gameplay, you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy at least parts of Generations.
The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise certainly suffered a lot, but it’s finally getting back on track. With SEGA’s promise to only release quality titles, perhaps we’ll never have to deal with another Shadow the Hedgehog or SONIC THE HEDGEHOG. But, only time will tell.
However, just because I think Sonic Generations is good does not mean it’s perfect; quite the contrary actually. In my opinion, the Unleashed style of gameplay, while great for Sonic, is very flawed, mostly for one reason. The controls. Ironically enough, it’s not like Sonic Adventure where the controls are so loose that you run into walls constantly, but it’s the lack of control that’s annoying.
In the 3D segments, it just feels like you’re holding forward or square when you’re running. It takes forever to turn, and there’s really no point. In the 2D segments, the jumps are floaty, but you can’t actually go very far with them. These controls drastically need tweaking. I assume that getting the speed and control down to where they can co-exist with each other with little error is a heavy task, but I believe that the current Sonic Team can pull it off with a little time.
It takes a blind man to not see that SEGA was playing it incredibly safe with Generations. They already have the acclaimed 3D formula from Unleashed and Colors that they only tweaked just a bit. They already had the level ideas, they just had to rework and rebuild them. Heck, the fact that they brought back classic Sonic just shows that they were only playing to the fans. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s certainly a genius idea from a business standpoint, it’s time for SEGA to show us what they can do. It’s obvious that they’re trying to take good care of the franchise now, so why don’t they show it? Don’t take that the wrong way, Generations had a ton of effort and care put into it, but why can’t we see that in a completely original game?
As I said earlier, only time will tell if Sonic comes back as a powerhouse name, or if he continues to be the butt of the joke. Who knows, maybe one of these days he’ll finally have a game that’s better than Mario’s.
I'd like to thank Stranger for proofreading and helping me out with this blog.