Remember Sonic and the Black Knight? How about when Sonic transformed into a werehog in a very “leashed” game? The past several years were a Dark Age of sorts for everyone’s favorite hedgehog. It seemed like developers were struggling to keep Sonic relevant, but forgetting all the great things that made Sonic great. Sonic Generations is a return to everything that was great about the Sonic franchise. The gameplay mixes 2D and forward, moving 3D gameplay to satisfy Sonic gamers young and old. The action is fast-paced and its mixed with just enough humor in cut scenes to remind you of the Sonic’s past animated series. While boss battles run thin, the level design is sure to draw you into this excellent new installment of the Sonic franchise. This is the Sonic game most gamers have been waiting for since the fond but forgotten days of Sega Dreamcast.
Sonic Generations starts off by immediately taking players back in time to Sonic’s 2D roots. A shorter, lighter and pudgier Sonic races through a re-imagined Green Hill Zone. We then find the taller, marine blue Sonic walking into a surprise birthday party thrown by all of his friends. Just when Sonic is about to enjoy his birthday presents, a purple-black cloud kidnaps all of Sonic’s friends. Now, it’s time to take on the Green Hill Zone in the more contemporary 3D forward racing design. Although you’re theoretically racing through the same board, the level design in the 3D world is so in-depth that it feels like a totally different board. Yet, you are always reminded of the 2D environment you just sped through with Classic Sonic.
Soon, you meet up with Tails, Classic Sonic and Classic Tails. Sonic and his past counterpart must team up to restore balance to the world. Gamers navigate through a white map that shows off three zones and a boss area. Each zone has two acts. The first act is the classic Genesis 2D Sonic action. You gather speed, rev up as a ball or do jumping spin attacks to make your way through the 2D platforming adventure. These boards are usually shorter than the 3D boards, but are fun nonetheless. The 3D boards (denoted Act 2) are a smart mix of forward moving Sonic action and 2D areas. Although you can play Act 1 and Act 2 in any order, it is better to play through Act 1 first. Going from Act 2 to Act 1 feels like a bit of a let down since Act 1 is so much shorter and less difficult.
Most zones are re-imagined worlds from Sonic’s Genesis and Dreamcast days. The characters quirkily make references to this fact during the cut scenes, where classic Sonic, who can’t talk, emotes his responses. As you complete zones, each white zone will be filled in with color. You can actually jump around and explore the map to get to each of these challenge zones, which is a nice touch reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy. After you complete three zones, you will unlock several challenge boards. These boards add a lot of variety to the gameplay. Generations forces you to play through a few of them so that you see what you are missing out on by not playing through all of them. Challenge zones may require you to get assistance from one of Sonic’s friends, race against them or take on more challenging enemies.
The boss battles are the one downfall of Generations. There are not that many of them. I can’t say that Sonic boss battles have ever truly been memorable. For me, it’s always been about the levels, which Generations delivers on in abundance. It’s great racing on skateboards, zipping through the sky on rockets, shifting back-and-forth between rails or just avoiding giant runaway trucks. The only problem comes when shifting back-and-forth between Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic. Several times, I would play the Classic sidescrolling Sonic board hoping to use Modern Sonic’s targeting ability. No such luck. Classic Sonic is just that—Classic Sonic.
Sonic Generations is a delightful addition to the Sonic Library. It’s a reminder of the “awesomeness” that is Sonic and should cleanse your memory of several lackluster games released over the last several years. Hopefully, the Sonic Team can release more excellent games like this, with meaty 3D/2D levels and at least four or five more boss battles. The design team did such a great job with some of the 2D to 3D battles that it makes you wonder why they didn’t just add in more.