The lights are on
With our favorite hedgehog is coming to the Wii U later this year, there are many lessons that can be learned from his past adventures and I take a look at one of his most recent games of 2011's Sonic Generations. As a love letter to Sonic fans of old, Sonic Generations celebrates much of the series best even if it falls short of avoiding its worst. Bogged down by troublesome gameplay and perhaps all too repetitive formulas, Sonic nevertheless has enough perks to offer fans that warrants Generations a fair shot.
Dr. Eggman is at it again, and this time, he's unleashed the Time Eater entity on the universe, colliding the classic and modern dimensions of the Sonic series to mold into one another. From this basic plot, the two Sonics of old and new joining forces to collect the Chaos Emeralds across time and space while revisiting the platforming joy of their respective series entries.
For fans of either the classic or modern Sonic games, Sonic Generations does nothing but impress in its gorgeous visuals and design. Each of its stages are taken from a slice of the franchise's extensive library of games and their From retro entries Green Hill and Sky Sanctuary to more recent ones such as Planet Wisp and Spagonia, each of the game's levels are faithful to their original versions and their updated graphics and the inclusion of their timeless soundtracks are great to hear again. There's no real story to follow outside of the premise, but the characters produce some excellent voice-acting throughout the game's cutscenes and a few of their interactions will be amusing to fans.
Sonic Generations doesn't boast much in terms of in-game rewards, but for the collection fanatics out there, goodies are still present. Challenges and finding the main Acts' hidden Red Star Rings can unlock further skills, as well as concept artwork and music playable in any of the game's stages, challenges, or boss fights. Players will also have a place to spend their experience points in the game's Skill Shop on abilities, shields, and extra lives. Most of these items are unexciting yet practical and the nicest bonus players will pay heed to is the original Sega Genesis Sonic game.
In contrast to its nice looks, Sonic's gameplay leaves much to be desired. Much like Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations mixes up the gameplay between the 2D side-scrolling levels of the Dreamcast era and the 2D/3D stages of the Sonic's modern games, each with their pros and cons. Classic Sonic plays basically the same as you remember him, jumping, running, and rolling through enemies and barriers. Despite his slower speeds, classic Sonic's tight controls easily make him the best of the two to play and his segments prove to be the game's smoothest and most enjoyable. Modern Sonic, meanwhile, generally provides more frustrations than triumphs. Whereas classic Sonic's controls are too tight, modern Sonic's prove too loose. Barreling through levels with his blistering speed often feels more like sliding on gravy, sending you flying into walls and abysses more often than not. Boosting at 200 mph across a bottomless chasm or hitting the perfect homing attack on an enemy is more exhilarating when they work, those moments are all too rare and you're more likely to prefer his older counterpart.
The game's level design, on the other hand, is a much better package. While classic Sonic's levels are small and condensed, they're narrow alley-way designs are entertaining to navigate and explore. Modern Sonic's levels, by contrast, are big and expansive and are stunning to watch while breezing through their destruction at top speed. Each of the Sonics' zones consist of a main act for each Sonic, along with 10 challenges either having you beating an opponent to the goal or finishing a stage with limited rings. Modern Sonic's levels are visually thrilling to watch unfold onscreen, but like its hedgehog's controls, most of them are either identical to their incarnations or too empty.
The game also boasts a variety of bosses, many of which harken back to their respective series entries with just as mixed success. Racing Metal Sonic down Sonic CD's old boss stage or punishing Perfect Chaos in Sonic Adventure's Station Square are still fun, but far less than their predecessors with their familiarity. The game's final and only new boss of the Time Eater proves to be the most engaging if not the hardest. While some players will appreciate its challenge, its split-second timing will inevitably annoy others, but nevertheless, the trophy you get from it is the most rewarding of the game.
For competitive players, there are also the additional challenge modes of time trials and ranked modes. These won't net you any in-game rewards and outside of a shallow sense of bragging rights and a few achievements, players probably won't have any incentive to pay them much interest.
Despite many shortcomings, Sonic Generations is a passable experience for the series even if far from the groundbreaking work the series seemed to once capable of. While the game's wonderful eye to tradition is admirable, it unfortunately does so without a mind towards inventiveness. It's disappointing to see the franchise overly rely on rehashing old formulas while not inventing new ones and though things like gameplay prove functional enough, they're generally not interesting enough to draw you in. While the game may inevitably invoke some warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia from loyal fans, it may not be enough to encourage them to keep coming back for more.
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