I got Sonic Generations from my grandparents for Christmas this year. And yes, I did make it known that I was interested in this game; it wasn’t a mistake. After getting the fantastically under-appreciated Sonic Colors earlier this summer, and now that I finally have a current-generation console that doesn’t require you use a remote as a controller, I figured I’d give Generations a spin (no pun intended) especially after playing the excellent Green Hill demo.
I just got done completing the game. And I mean COMPLETING it. It’s not just marked as a Complete on my Backloggery account, I beat every stage, every Challenge Act, and I got the goddamn Platinum Trophy. (Don’t believe me? My PSN ID is Aforextreme. Look me up. Besides, it wasn’t even that hard.) So how does Sonic Generations hold up? Does the press love it solely out of nostalgia, or is it an actually competent Sonic game in the vein of Colors, and is it a sign that the Blue Blur is finally having a return to form?
I guess for the sake of not ending things on a negative note, I’ll start with the bad and move on to the good.
1. Classic Sonic isn’t truly classic
Let’s get the technical bitching out of the way right now: while Classic Sonic (based on his Sega Genesis days… basically everything before Sonic Adventure) is billed as playing exactly like he did on the Sega Genesis… he just plain doesn’t. I should know; I made it a priority to go through the various Genesis games on Sonic Mega Collection Plus just so I could have some context for levels in this game that I’d never actually played (in this case, pretty much just Sky Sanctuary, but still). His jump isn’t nearly high or floaty enough… he feels fat. I dunno if that’s Sega trying to tell us that the pot-bellied version of the hog really is more of a porker than his Modern iteration, but it’s annoying. I eventually got used to it but it was jarring at first, and the fact that the original Sonic 1 is in the game will help drive this point home.
Classic Sonic also runs a little too fast at top speed, to the point where it’s harder than ever to see oncoming obstacles. His fastest Spin Dash is also crazy fast, and because it’s assigned to a button now instead of having to press down and then the jump button, using it brings him to a dead halt, meaning you can Spin Dash over and over and really abuse it to get some crazy finish times. (Though, to be fair, having to press down on the analog stick usually makes Sonic Spin Dash in the opposite direction, so this is for the better.)
Classic Sonic’s levels can be really fun, but it’s bad when Modern Sonic’s side-scrolling bits feel closer to the Genesis than the entirety of Classic Sonic’s Acts. (And they’re still not as close as the side-scrolling parts of Sonic Colors.)
2. Modern Sonic isn’t the same as Colors
It’s obvious by now that I like Sonic Colors a whole lot, but that’s because they finally gave Sonic a control scheme that doesn’t make you want to tear your hair out. Sure, he’s got the basics (at least, the Modern basics) like a Homing Attack, Boost, etc. But Colors gave Sonic the ability to do a little double-jump, adding a little extra “oomph” to his normal jump which really helped out platforming. Generations gives Modern Sonic an air-dash move which is like his Homing Attack but doesn’t go as far and adds LENGTH to your jump rather than HEIGHT. (Which makes sense, it’s mapped to the same button.) While the extra length isn’t all that bad for the side-scrolling parts, it can really mess you up on precariously-placed platforms during the 3D segments, and I feel the double-jump from Colors would have been WAY better.
Also, Colors gave Sonic the ability to swim (kinda) in that he could jump infinitely underwater. Guess what else they took out of this game for no reason. I mean, it’s really only bothersome in parts of Chemical Plant and Seaside Hill, but the story of Generations reveals it’s a direct sequel to Colors, so why in the hell does Sonic just lose these really helpful abilities? After a summer of playing through the aforementioned game, it’s a bit of a bummer.
3. What the hell is a floor?
One thing that pisses me off about ALL Sonic games are bottomless pits. They ruin the flow of a well-timed speedrun, they make the player too nervous to run at top speed the first few times through a level, and at least with all of the other stage obstacles, as long as you have a few Rings on you, you’re likely not to die, but bottomless pits don’t give a shit. Yet, the series seems to love these things. Sonic Generations is no exception, and while (like Colors), the game lets you know when you’re in danger of falling down one of these bastards, there’s an over-abundance of them in this game. Really bad offenders are Sky Sanctuary (for obvious reasons), Modern Sonic’s version of Seaside Hill, and Crisis City for both Sonics. Combine this with Modern Sonic’s lack of a double-jump, and Classic Sonic’s bigger gravitational pull, and it can be a headache to beat some of these levels.
4. Havok Engine = Super-Bouncy Rings?
This game uses the Havok engine, like a few Sonic games of the past. This doesn’t seem like much of a problem, until you get hit: the rings you drop act like an entire machine of Super-Bounce Balls just got knocked over at the entrance to the grocery store. This makes picking up lost rings very difficult, especially if you’re on an incline, as those rings are just gonna slide down to the bottom. The weird thing is that this only happens with the rings you drop. The rings that are dropped by various stage elements and Spitter enemies? They don’t bounce at all. It’s pretty infuriating.
5. Sonic’s friends aren’t even playable and they’re still a headache
The title up there says it all. Because the game is celebrating 20 years of Sonic-ness, they had to include the pantheon of idiotic friends the hedgehog has acquired over that time. Thankfully, they aren’t playable so there’s no Big the Cat bullshit, but the Challenge Acts that you unlock after beating the main stages (which are mostly optional) feature them and pretty much every one that features one of Sonic’s friends is a nuisance. Try to get through Classic City Escape while Rouge drops bombs on you for no reason! Have Charmy Bee make platforms out of wind (while he says “Balls!”) so you can get through Planet Wisp! Homing Attack Vector the Crocodile’s musical notes back at him and try not to rip your hair out since it’s probably the most infuriating mini-game I’ve ever played in the history of anything! The only purpose they serve that you actually want is they give you hints on where to find the hidden “Red Star Rings” in each level… and even then, you can just look up a guide for that.
The only part of the game where Sonic’s friends come into play that doesn’t suck are the Rival Battles. Metal Sonic’s battle is awesome and actually proves me wrong when I said in my Sonic CD review that Stardust Speedway isn’t in the game (but to be fair, I wanted the whole level). In fact, the battles versus Shadow the Hedgehog and Dumbshit the Recolor are pretty fun, too. But the fact that the ENTIRE Chaotix crew is in this game almost feels like an insult to my intelligence. Sonic Team threw them in Sonic Heroes and everyone hated them THEN.
…Seriously, FUCK Vector the Crocodile.
6. Some of the Red Star Rings are absolute assholes
Red Star Rings return from Colors, and they still challenge the player to find alternate routes in the levels, as that’s where they’re almost always hidden. But, whereas in Colors the Rings were found through exploration and aren’t hard to grab once you’ve found them, a good number of the Rings in Generations can only be gotten with some careful timing, and a big chunk of the time, if you miss one, you gotta start the level all over again to get it. There’s a Red Star Ring on the go-kart track of Seaside Hill that’s particularly infuriating, as you have to run right over it and can’t just graze it with your kart. And no, you can’t slow the car down. Oh, did I mention that to even GET to the go-kart track, you have to go through the correct loop in a series of three loops, and the loop that leads to the track is constantly shifting like a roulette? It’s not impossible, but if you’re not careful, you could be shot to the alternate path and have to start over at the cost of a life.
Or maybe the one Red Ring that’s hidden right at the end of the “run down the side of the building” part of Speed Highway which is impossible to go back up to if you miss (without restarting, of course). Or maybe the one located on a angled wall that you have to run on in Crisis City? Easily the absolute fucking worst one is a particular Red Ring during the snowboarding section of City Escape. Those who played Sonic Adventure 2 remember Sonic barreling down the hills of what looks to be San Francisco, using a piece of a plane as an impromptu snowboard, and that you can jump off of Trick Panels to get some extra air. The Ring in question is located way in the air, and requires you to hit two Trick Panels one after the other. It doesn’t help that one of them is on the inside of a turn (which is really hard to hit because Sonic doesn’t turn tightly in this section), and the other is on top of a building, and you don’t get the Ring if you just hit the ramps. You have to actually aim carefully as it’s possible to under or overshoot the Ring entirely. I looked at the comments on a Red Ring video guide on YouTube, and everyone seems to be in agreement that that one Red Ring might be the hardest in the entire game, requiring a ton of restarts before one finally snags it correctly. Fuck that Red Star Ring.
Also, later in the level, there’s a Red Star Ring hidden off to the side during the sequence where the giant mack truck chases after you. Have fun.
7. It can be glitchy
Listener Aeshir warned me about Sonic Colors when I got it in the summer, telling me it was a “poorly-coded mess”. No offense to Aeshir, but I never had glitches or problems with Colors. I can’t say the same for Generations. There would be times where I would fall through the terrain, or die after being hit and losing rings. Heck, during Classic Rooftop Run, there’s a part where you have to get Sonic in the middle of the giant clock on the tower (which takes forever to climb, by the way), and he Spin Dashes to get the clock to 12 noon, which somehow triggers the next part of the level. The first time I got up there, I glitched through, and while I could still hear Sonic Spin-Dashing, the character was nowhere to be seen, and the game gave me the prompt to hit Square, which did nothing, because I somehow glitched through the level.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s a real tragedy because the game looks gorgeous and you can tell a lot of love went into it (at least, compared to schlock like Sonic 2006). Also, do frame-rate issues count as glitches? No? Well, whatever. Sometimes the frame rate takes a hit, but at least it’s usually at the same parts each time.
8. The Final Boss is confusing and EVERYONE IS NAVI
The last boss is confusing. I guess I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t played it, but it requires you to switch between 2D (Classic Sonic) and 3D (Modern Sonic) to kill the boss, but you probably won’t know that because every one of Sonic’s dumbass friends is yelling “LOOKS LIKE A HOMING SHOT” into your ear when it’s painfully obvious that that’s what the attack the boss is doing is. Plus they never tell you that you have to keep boosting and aiming for the boss’ weak spot. They just keep telling you what the boss’ attacks are AFTER HE’S ALREADY DONE THEM.
Speaking of annoying voice acting, you’re going to hear “TIME FOR A CHANGE OF PACE” in your nightmares for the rest of your lives.
Okay, so that’s all the shit out of the way. Let’s get to why this game is actually worth your time. No, seriously. Cause it’s actually a pretty fun game.
1. Classic Sonic
Call it nostalgia, call it looking through rose-tinted goggles, but Classic Sonic is awesome. And I don’t necessarily mean his gameplay. I’m actually just talking about him in cut-scenes. See, the great thing about him is that he’s the only character who DOESN’T FUCKING TALK; he just pantomimes and it’s not only adorable, but sometimes he speaks volumes more than Modern Sonic by just using facial expression and gestures. For some reason, Classic Tails can talk, but his voice sounds more adorable than pussy-ish so I’ll let it slide.
2. The Music
The official Sonic Generations soundtrack doesn’t come out until January 11th, which is coincidentally the day after my birthday. I already downloaded someone’s rip of the soundtrack off the game disc because I can’t fucking wait that long. Classic Remixes either stick to the song’s roots or go for a more electronic feel, where Modern Remixes rock out. We not only get a fantastic, almost ska-like version of Green Hill, but we also get a dance version of Escape from the City (as well as a re-recording by the original band), a dubsteppy version of Speed Highway which I swear should be played in clubs, a version of Rooftop Run that’s somehow more fun than the original in Unleashed, and a fantastic remix of Super Sonic Racing by Cash Cash, the same band who did the theme for Sonic Colors. (Their leader also handled a lot of the Classic remixes.)
Add to this that you can unlock a ton of songs from Sonic’s history and replace them with the default music in any level and it starts to get really awesome. Speed Highway with Star Light Zone’s music? Yes, please. Seaside Hill a la Emerald Coast from Sonic Adventure? Why not? Fighting the Death Egg Robot to the theme song for Sonic Free Riders? Hey, whatever floats your boat. Almost every game in the franchise gets at least one unlockable song and it’s that care and attention paid to the Hog’s fantastic musical history that really makes me smile.
3. Most of the levels are great
The above chart shows how I felt about each level in the game for both Sonics. And the majority of them are very, very fun. Classic Seaside Hill was almost a Meh because of the water section, but the 2nd half of the level makes up for it. Classic Planet Wisp gets an Ugh because of the slow Pink Spike Wisp which just slows the action to a crawl. At least the Modern version gets the Orange Rocket, but it gets a Meh because the original Colors was so much better. Rooftop Run is amazing but the Classic version kinda feels exhausting after a while, ESPECIALLY the climb up the clock tower, as mentioned before. Crisis City is just miserable but the Classic version makes it a little fun, especially with what happens to the goal post; it’s actually hilarious. And I dunno, it just feels a lot easier to fall down bottomless pits on Modern Sky Sanctuary compared to Classic. And those a good Sonic game does not make, as I mentioned in the bad section.
Of course, the levels might be frustrating if you’re tripping up and not finding all the better routes right away, but play through a level a few times and get faster on the jump button and the game flows like butter. It’s like most modern Sonic games: they’re only amazing if you’re doing what they want you to. Thankfully, that’s not asking a lot. Just some careful timing and quick reflexes.
4. The fanservice
As a game celebrating 20 years of a franchise, this game was bound to be stuffed full of things fans would love. The plot (penned by the same writers as Colors, I believe), is even more self-referential and loves to poke fun at how silly the franchise has been. The music I mentioned before is another great example of pleasing the fan-base. The choices for levels are pretty damn great, and they’re executed well. Even levels that originally sucked like Crisis City get a little better in this game. There’s little hidden details all over that long-time fans should really appreciate. Heck, the fact that the new Sonic gets to interact with his original, black-eyed self is kind of awesome in its own right. And yes, they do address the Robotnik/Eggman thing at some point, and the way they do it is pretty funny.
I mean, the fact that stuff like Sonic CD, SegaSonic the Hedgehog, and even the US animated series are represented in this game is kind of amazing.
I know there were more bad points than good, but you guys are cynical just like the hosts of this podcast and I’m sure you don’t mind me tearing something down more than praising it, especially when it’s a subject that’s universally joked about in this day and age, like Sonic. But keep this in mind: those four good points easily outweigh the eight bad ones, and Sonic Generations is a pretty good title that you should at least rent if you have nostalgia for the character or 90’s gaming in general.
The thing is that it still isn’t the best modern Sonic game in my opinion. The press seems to think it is, but I really think it’s nostalgia getting the better of them, and the fact that no one really cared about Colors, since it was a Wii-exclusive. But, since I haven’t sucked its dick enough in this article, the ironic thing is that Colors does what Generations tries to do better. I still think it’s the best 3D Sonic’s ever been, (though this game comes REALLY close), and it’s the closest side-scrolling Sonic’s come to the Genesis SINCE the Genesis.
Still, I really enjoyed my time with Sonic Generations and I’m really hoping that they release more DLC than the upcoming Casino Night pinball table, because while the 18 Acts in the game will tide you over for a while, especially if you want all the Red Star Rings and S-rankings, there’s a ton of levels Sega could remake that I would absolutely pay for. Maybe I can get that full version of Stardust Speedway after all.
Also I guess I’m the Sonic guy on the podcast, huh?