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Sonic Generations

System – Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
Genre – 2D/3D platformer
Players – 1
Publisher – Sega/Sonic Team
Price – £39.99 RRP

It has become something of a standardised format in Sonic game reviews to begin by saying how this game is “entering shaky ground” and asking the question of whether it can “bring back” Sonic properly in a high quality way. Sonic Generations however has attracted a whole boatload of conflicting opinions when it comes to quality or lack thereof. As such, Sonic the Comic Online has decided to conduct this review in a differing manner, by asking multiple Humes for their thoughts. For a game that spans generations, a review team that have different points of view only seems fair.

To give a general synopsis, Sonic Generations is the latest “main series” title from Sega, released across Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. There is also a 3DS release, but given the difference in game style it will likely be discussed at a future point in a separate review.

Sonic Generations is not heavy on plot, focussing on the gameplay as a celebration of three distinct eras of Sonic games. (Megadrive, Dreamcast and Modern) while hot swapping between two distinctly different Sonics from past and present. Classic Sonic accounts more to 2D gaming with a lack of homing attack while modern Sonic accounts for the 3D speed perspective (with 2D sections placed within) and lots of agile action. Between levels certain bosses or rivals may be encountered such as Shadow and Silver. Overall, there are nine main levels in the game from Green Hill to Planet Wisp and most games receive an iconic makeover.

The plot, as mentioned, is sparse to simply get the gameplay going. The Time Eater has 'broken' time that can only be repaired by the two Sonic's travelling through their past or future to piece everything back together with the Chaos Emeralds. This is told primarily through cut scenes between levels.

Reviewer – Stuart Gipp

Sonic Generations Screenshot Sonic Colours threatened to break the Sonic series out of its consistently myopic and disappointing slurry, and Generations has pushed it a little further along the road to acknowledged quality. It's a wonderful, sensory - at times, euphoric - experience while it lasts, which is absolutely not long enough by any sane person's standards. The 18 main stages, while certainly impressive in design, can be easily polished off in less than two hours. While this does leave a large number of (surprisingly diverse) challenge stages, you'll be plugging away through them to access the great selection of unlockable music, rather than because they're enjoyable in their own right. The majority of these challenges are very slight experiences, primarily existing to provide an "oh look!" burst of nostalgia by including long-forgotten gimmicks from the original games like Tails carrying Sonic, or the elemental shields. You'll S-rank them with little difficulty, and you'll never play them again.

The main zones, however, invite frequent replays. While the hidden Red Rings from Colours make a welcome return, the main level design can be so eloquent and attentive to detail that you'll run through the levels again just to see them, and marvel at their sights. This is a Sonic fan's paradise - fully expanded iterations of beloved series levels (and Crisis City) and a welcome parade of eye-pleasing fan favourites (and Crisis City). Surprisingly though, the weak link is Planet Wisp, a deeply repetitive and point-missing experience, absolutely lacking the diverse gameplay that its inspiration managed to bring to the table.

The boss battles with the likes of the Death Egg robot and Metal Sonic (set to the Japanese Stardust Speedway theme, no less) are another example of the sheer level of fanservice that's been funnelled into this title, and one can't help but notice with prolonged play that this kind of relentless plunge into the depths of Sonic obscurity and ephemera may be the developer's equivalent of a push-up bra; copious fanservice distracting from the truth – Sonic Generations is a little bit saggy.

Sonic Generations Screenshot First time through Generations, you'll be convinced it's the best Sonic game ever made, or at least the equal of its Mega Drive progenitors. Sadly, repeat plays will eventually allow you to see through its shiny veneer of fond memories and begin to convince you otherwise – the choice of stages, while it would never please everyone, is clearly a little too urban-focused, with a staggering three city levels taking up a third of the game. The rival battles are generally poor, with the confusing and idiotic Shadow battle being the lowlight of the entire game.

Overall though, it's a good crack, and it's definitely another step forward for a series that was absolutely mired in ridiculous gimmickery and baffling decisions. The 3D “modern” level design is the best it's ever been, with Rooftop Run being the undoubted high point of a strong batch. It's perhaps ironic that it's the “classic” levels with their rudimentary mechanics and challenges that let the experience down. Still, hearty “Raves” all around, and highly recommended for fans. You need to experience this once.

Reviewer – Iain Stewart

Sonic Generations Screenshot Coming into this game I had high hopes that were quickly marred with cautious wariness. Pre-release demos I played at Eurogamer, Summer of Sonic and Gamefest conventions had not filled me with a large degree of confidence due to levels that were literally “hold right to win.” City Escape at Gamefest in particular horrified a Sega rep as I stood holding one button and somehow still completed the level. With an A-rank.

So fast forward to the release and, unfortunately, not many of my fears have been addressed. Make no mistake however, Sonic Generations (unlike past games sans Colours) is a step up, despite my rather downer introduction. The game functions well and the graphics are passable even at their worst points (although a complete lack of any anti-aliasing on console versions points to the long out-dated Hedgehog Engine in desperate need of an overhaul) so Sega are making progress. Coupled with some nostalgia, Generations is an easy sell that most fans would do well to experience.

But there are some inherent problems. The first is the almost criminal lack of game length. I went from “Press Start” to end credits in just over two hours. For a £40 retail game, this is absolutely unacceptable to the highest degree. The second problem only makes the first worse, in that the game is mostly just “hold right to win” just as I had feared. Perhaps half of that two hour playtime was simply watching Sonic fly through pre-scripted manoeuvres waiting for gameplay to resume. Even when it did return, the gameplay was almost insultingly easy with very little exploration (scripted route changes are not and never will be, exploration) or platforming to be found. (Other than Crisis City Act 1, but it's so bug and glitch ridden you could be forgiven for not seeing it.)

Bosses represent another significantly weak chink. With classics such as Metal Sonic reduced to what is effectively a QTE and Shadow making a potential claim for “most boring boss ever” the final boss doesn't even need to be atrocious (and it is) to have some noticeably wobbly boss quality going on. Add in that Robotnik himself rarely appears as a boss and the overall number of boss fights is very low...and the shallow re-playability of the game begins to rear its head once again.

Sonic Generations Screenshot The real test for Sonic Generations, however, is in whether what it does have is enjoyable, regardless of difficulty, after all, one could simply rent the game. The main crux of most praise for it is that it holds “nostalgic value.” For the first three levels this is true. But therein lies one thing sure to irk many fans, being the awful level selection. In their effort to remain “chronological” the game throws away any pacing at all while even managing to outright ignore some of the more iconic moments in Sonic history. Sonic 3 and Sonic CD are no-where to be found, despite being two of the biggest Sonic titles ever released. While Sonic 2006 is celebrated with much gusto, despite being one of the largest failures in the entire franchise. After the third level, the “retro” portion disappears entirely all too quickly, especially given they are chronologically forced to be incredibly easy and very short “intro” missions rather than fleshed out challenges. The feeling of Sonic's glory days being so forgotten and neglected in a game meant to support them is disappointing to say the least.

Really, the biggest problem is that if you strip away the nostalgia you're left with a game that's way too short, has little content or reason to replay, decent graphics and is far too easy to complete with little user input requires for success. The challenges are shameless padding to force replays to advance and the controls sometimes have a slight few hitches to them. Despite this, Sega are starting to prove they have the ability to make a functioning game again. A steller soundtrack (one I will be tracking down!) and the occasional fun level (the aforementioned Crisis City Act 1, glitches non-with-standing) help it...but unfortunately there's just not enough good content in there.

Sonic says it best in the game itself, really. Allow me to directly quote him.

“An adventure's no fun if it's too easy!”

Reviewer – Stuart 'Nam' Clack

Sonic Generations Screenshot Generations is a good game, but there are a few flaws with it. The key one, that I’m sure other people will mention, is it’s just too short. The story weighs in at about four/five hours on first play through, and missions simply aren’t long enough by themselves to add much. Yes, you will be spending some time clearing them all, getting all the red rings, but it’s still very short.

It has a few other problems too, some of the missions are frustrating, in particular the Vector music one, but several others suffer from blandness, and the doppelganger races are incredibly hard to win at even if your opponent does make mistakes.

Furthermore, while in theory a good idea, the red rings actually discourage the player from exploring properly. The classic series had exploration, but it wasn’t essential, and it was just to find little bonuses. The red rings are an enforced goal, which while not required for story completion, are essential for 100%, and thus mean the player has to go a certain way. While it may encourage the player to look at new routes, many players will probably just look up guides and videos online.

The bosses are actually good, yet at the same time, could’ve been a lot better. There’s story reasons why the only boss from the Classic era is Death Egg Robot, but it’s still disappointing to not have a classic fight even just as a mission in the end of some classic levels. There is some great potential in the levels for a classic fight, but it never happens.

On a similar note, Sky Sanctuary, why not even a reference to Mecha Sonic? Sonic Team did everything else right with that level, with even the collapsing tower at the end, but missed out on one of the key points of that level originally; the boss battles.

Sonic Generations Screenshot I do love the choice of music, and the ability to play other songs in levels to avoid repetition (even if you just end up playing the same four songs in each level), but again, the bosses are skimped over. The game encourages you to re-fight bosses in hard mode for Xbox Avatar clothes, yet there’s no boss music (yes, I know that Open Your Heart and several others are technically boss music themes, but why not have some non-lyrical ones?)

Also, while I’m on about bosses, the last boss is simply awful the controls are rubbish, you catch up to it too slowly, and every time it swaps perspective, you lose any distance you gained. Furthermore, rings are too erratic, and winning seems to be simply a case of dumb luck regarding his attacks and ring placement over actual skill.

Generally, as everyone else has said, the game is great fun, and full of nostalgia. Sonic Team have finally figured out how to make a decent Sonic platformer, now they just need to re-learn how to make a platformer boss battle that’s challenging and entertaining.

Reviewer – Seumidh MacDonald

Sonic Generations Screenshot The story is bare-bones and simplistic, and that’s just the way it should be. But although the minimal amount of exposition is more than welcome (the story simply being that a mysterious monster has broken time and dispersed Sonic’s friends throughout it), the lack of characterisation or any significant developments leave me cold. There are tons of missed opportunities for fun time travel hi-jinks involving both past and present Sonic – what’s there is great, but there’s simply not enough of it.

Presentation-wise, there’s not much to fault. The animations and textures, while not pixel-perfect if you stand still and stare at them, do a brilliant job of lending to the sense of speed and the thrill of hurling a spiky insectivore through scenarios he has no business hurling through, and the aesthetics, despite the abundance of urban levels, do a great job of keeping things fresh. The music has had a similar lavish job performed on it, and most of the remixes are both nostalgic and fresh, barring one or two stinkers. However, on the PC version at least, while the loading times are practically non-existent, there is some horrendous slowdown in certain sections, which really kill the feel.

Gameplay is a much more mixed bag. Nine levels from Sonic’s past have been reworked, with a stunning graphical overhaul and enough twists and tricks to keep even a veteran Sonic player on their toes. However, the levels are designed more like race-courses with jumps, as opposed to platformers. While this lends itself to a first playthrough (and what a first playthrough it is, you are hurtled from level to level with hardly a moment to catch your breath), it means that the replayability is limited to speed-running, rather than exploration.

Sonic Generations Screenshot In addition, both Sonics have a noticeable delay to their actions – especially when performed in quick succession, which the levels frequently require you to do. Classic Sonic cannot jump nearly as high or as far as he feels like he should, and neither does he gain momentum whilst in a ball, which, for anyone who is used to the feel of the Mega Drive games, can sometimes lead to some extreme misjudgements. These control issues don’t crop up most of the time, but they happen more often than they should, and usually with dire consequences.

After about 2-3 hours, the game crunches to a halt. Planet Wisp is a six-minute monstrosity that is a chore to play through, and somehow the game only gets worse from there. The final boss is dreadful, certainly the worst climax in the entire series.

Sonic Generations, while a must-buy for a Sonic fan, cannot justify a £40, or even a £30 price-tag for the amount of gameplay available. I completed it 100% in just four hours, and in the aftermath of the jam-packed holiday season, that £40 could go a lot further.