Developer: Sonic Team
Launch Date: 4th November 2011
Since Sonic launched on the original Sega Mega Drive, it's no lie that the blue spiky hedgehog has had his fair share of ups and downs when it comes to games. With both Sega and the Sonic team deciding that to celebrate the spiky ones twentieth birthday, they would take some time out and rethink how they can reinvigorate the series whilst also staying true to what the fans plead for.
The first answer was Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Part 1, a game that would continue the series of Sonic in his original 2D fashion, but keeping some elements that made the 3D sonic games over the years so fun, like the auto dash attack. The game was met with mixed response, it was praised for going back to the 2D roots but parts of the gameplay was panned especially with how many of the stages looked like cheap rip offs of old stages from past Sonic games.
The next answer was that Sonic's next outing would merge both 2D gameplay with 3D to make for an experience that would fit together seamlessly as we would be able to control modern day Sonic and the Sonic we remember from all those years ago. So how does Sonic Generations match up to the other games in the series, does this game break the mold that as been set by so many bad outings for our blue friend, or is his twentieth birthday going to be one he will want to cry over. Like always you're only going to find out by reading our in depth review where we dissect each area of the core gameplay and tell you everything you need to know.
Gameplay - 8/10
When it comes to gameplay the Sonic series of games has normally stayed true to its roots, with only a few games straying away from the norm and doing something completely different. Sonic Generations takes the old school platforming from the original 2D sonic and creates stages that recreate levels you may have found in the very early games in the series history.
When playing the game in 2D you will be given the use of the old classic Sonic, pretty much all of his abilities ranging from Sonic 2 and 3 have been kept for use with this version of our hero. You will be able to use the spin attack and the spin dash. The only other notable movements or things this Sonic can do is either move forwards and backwards and cling onto different obstacles.
Now if for some reason that doesn't take your fancy you will be glad to know that the game also features the 3D and modern version of Sonic, not only this but stages that are represented in the 2D area of the game, have been fully fleshed out and made into full on 3D landscapes also for the modern sonic to work his way through. The 3D Sonic comes with so many more features then the 2D version, with moves such as the spin dash attack that auto aims onto enemies and other objects such as springs. New moves include the ability to jump and stomp down on objects to get them to move down lower for you to move to the next area. The wall jump is also another new feature for the 3D modern Sonic that allows you to obviously jump from wall to wall to get to higher distances and continue your progress.
There are numerous enhancements to the core gameplay for the modern Sonic, may of which will feel like they was unneeded but like the Mario series its good that they are always looking at new ways to play. The overall level design is well thought out, taking old classic levels from the 2D games and recreating them for the 3D era was a great touch, not only this though but the levels are also padded out to help extend the life of them. With the speeds that the game can run at and with how some of the old Mega Drive levels were quite short, this really does help.
Whilst the games levels will normally average out at just a few minutes for the first set and near on ten minutes for the later levels it is fair to say that the game is quite lengthy, the game is split primarily into nine different worlds with four boss battles that you will have to work your way through to complete the game. Each world comes with two levels, one of which is from the 2D era of Sonic whilst the other as a more Modern 3D twist, once you complete both acts you will have in effect completed that world. There is incentive to go back and return to past levels in the game though with the addition of hidden stars that are located in either hard to reach spots, or areas that are off of the direct route the player may take. Once you have completed three worlds you will notice that the game will tell you that challenges have opened up, whilst many people would of normally have just left these until the game was over, Sonic Team decided that they would throw in a curveball by making you play and complete at least one of these in each of the three different worlds to unlock three different keys in which you can then use to take on the end of stage boss battle. When the challenges do open up they will come in numerous different ways with different sets of rules, and for each different version of Sonic, so are the challenges to boot. This means that if you want to complete all of the challenges the game has to offer, you're going to have to get used to controlling both versions of Sonic. Whilst taking on the challenges may be fun, something a little different is that hidden in each of sections of the game before the boss battles, you can take on rival challenges. These challenges will let Sonic take on one of his old nemesis, be it Shadow or one of the other two rivals, these add a nice little break from the core gameplay and if you are successful in beating the rivals you will be rewarded with a Chaos Emerald for your troubles. Once you have obtained three different keys you will be able to take on the boss battle for that area, again just like the rival battles these are a nice little break away from the standard platforming that the game is based all around in. Whilst some of the battles will be relatively easy to work through some will take some time to complete and possibly many retries. The game is single player only but this didn't stop the option of an Xbox Live tab appearing on the main menu of the game, what the option brings to you though is two different modes which are based around beating your friend's high scores and bettering yourself to keep getting to the number one spot. The two modes consist of getting through levels as quick as possible and getting as far as possible within thirty seconds. I'm not sure why these weren't just included in the single player of the game, but it is still nice to see they did get included, even if you have to go out of your way to play them. Whilst the game play works very similar to all of the other Sonic games, it's good to see that some variation as been added into the mix and with a campaign that will last you roughly four to six hours, your bound to get your fill of Sonic and once the game is over you still have plenty of options to keep you returning for more.
Graphics - 8/10
Sonic Generations to put it bluntly is bright and colourful with each of the different worlds perfectly rendered in glossy HD for their makeovers. With each of the colours levels having a different colour palette to the rest, it's great to see the graphics are so diverse and vibrant. Not only this though but the game runs at some really high speeds in both versions of the game be it 2D or 3D the speed that Sonic can travel at is amazing and as you see things fly past you, you will notice that there is no pop up or texture issues that arise whilst you play through the game. However unfortunately when the game tries to take on too much for it's own good there can be some slow down, but not enough to cripple the game to an almost stand still. The slowdown that does affect the game is only just barely noticeable and unless you're good at spotting slight issues, it's possible that you won't notice it. The in game cut scenes whilst looking colourful and bright like the rest of the game, are unfortunately poorly rendered and you will notice that no matter the screen size you play the game on, you will see that the characters will have issues and their will be quite a lot of pixellation in the background. It's such a shame to see this as I'm not sure why the Sonic Team decided to compress the video files until the point they came out as they did. The characters themselves in game are good looking though, with both variations of Sonic and Tails in the game, it is easy to compare them both and see the differences that both characters have had during the years. Not only this though but a large selection of both Sonic's friends and foes which are all rendered to look fantastic and as they should look. Apart from what as been stated though that is pretty much it as far as the graphic front goes on the game, with lots of diversity in levels and with the characters looking great it's hard to see why the development team decided to leave in some of the faults such as the poorly rendered movies or even the slow down. With a little more polish this could of easily have gotten a better score.
Sound - 7/10
The music in the game features both old classical renditions of past stages theme tunes, as well as remixed and more up beat and funky versions of the same songs. There are also a few new songs thrown in for good measure also. As with the music that occupies the game, the music itself seems to work really well for the type of stage that you are on, be it the happy green hill theme tune or the more relaxed songs from the skywalk stages, everything just seems to fit rather nicely. Unfortunately though I can't say I enjoyed all of the music choices that were put into the game, take for example one of the newer songs that features for one of the stages in both normal and remixed form. The song itself is pretty upbeat which goes well with the fast paced action that goes on for the stage, but the song itself also contains singing, and the singing is pretty dire to be fair, with it sounding like it came straight out of the mouth of a bad cover band for a well known group. To have to sit through four to five minutes of listening to the song I was happy when I eventually reached the end of the level for both acts to finish the world. Voice acting isn't that great either with many of the voices being primarily aimed at children, the way lines are said from each character comes off rather cheesy but I can see why it was done that way. It would have been a little nicer to have had a more grown up voice cast but worded still for family use so that all generations of gamers could have been pleased with what was on offer. Sound effects do the job well, with dash attacks sounding spot on and when you hit one of the metal springs you sound like your making Sonic bounce off of something nice and hard. With many different sound effects that are in game though, it's hard to point them all out and describe them, but you will be glad to know that some of the old effects make a return like the effect for when you collect and lose coins. Overall though the sound that is on offer helps restore past nostalgia from previous games and that is exactly something you want from a game that wanted to revisit classic stages and revamp them for today's modern age, especially for gamers who may have missed out on classics from the past.
Let the birthday bash commence
Difficulty - 7/10
With all of the past Sonic games, this game is about as hard or as challenging as you want to make it for yourself, Levels will start off relatively easy and you will be most likely play the Green Hill zone first as that is normally everybody's favourite with it being colourful and easy to play through. As time progresses onwards though the difficulty will start to increase up until you complete the game. You will no doubt find yourself dying over and over again in some of the later levels especially the final stages of the game, not only do the levels steadily increase in difficulty though, so do the bosses as most will take some skill and time to complete meaning you better bring your Sonic A game with you for the later rounds. Challenges start to become ever more increasingly difficulty also as time goes on, with challenges that will start off as simple get to the finish line in x amount of time, will normally by the end turn into challenges that require you to not die or fail or even get hit by an obstacle or opponent. Whilst with a little practice they are more then doable you will soon become aggravated with the sheer difficulty of some challenges and the requirements they meet towards the end. Sometimes I felt like the old 2D version of Sonic was easier to work through as opposed to the 3D modern Sonic stages. Not because of the platforming aspects so much, but with how linear the levels were and knowing you could only die if you missed a platform, made it easier to deal with. When playing as the modern Sonic you have to take into account small things such as falling off the edges of the platforms and spin dash attacking off of the platform and falling to your death. It will easily come down to personal opinion though at the end of the day, both sets of Sonic s are positives and negatives to how they handle in the later levels, but with practice nothing in the game is unbeatable. In the interest of fairness though I think it's good to mention the difficulty of finding the stars in the game, and again these can be easy enough to find with a little practice and possibly a guide if you really do get stuck. The stars don't get harder to find as the game goes on as some will normally just be placed right in front of your direct path to the finish line. With option multiple routes to take though you will find yourself playing stages over and over to find those hidden stars in routes you may not have found or taken previously.
Achievements - 7/10
When you first start playing Sonic Generations you will notice how giving the game is and how fast it will chuck achievements out at you for simply progressing or doing tasks you would normally have completed whilst playing the game. However whilst it is possible to pick up a good three fourths of the achievement list in a single play through, the gamerscore that you will receive in order for your hard work will no doubt still leave you with so much left to gain afterwards and this is simply put down to how grindy the rest of the list will probably be when you have finished. With the game featuring so many different collectibles and different ways of obtaining these collectibles, you will more then likely notice that it is these achievement's that you have left at the end of the game. Achievements such as for obtaining all of the secret red stars in both the old era Sonic s world and the Modern Era World, this means your going to need to find ninety red stars in total over the nine different worlds. By collecting the stars you will also be picking up artwork which also goes towards the collectible side of things, and if that wasn't enough when working your way through one of the many in game challenges, once complete if you ring the bell and catch the note you will unlock even more secret extras. To top off the list though you have achievements for attaining S ranks in certain amounts of stages/levels, and the hardest achievement to get will be for getting an S rank on all stages which will mean you will need to complete a level really fast and with no mistakes allowed. Other then that though the rest of the achievements will come at a nice steady pace up until completion and will more then likely grab you just over five hundred gamer score. Summary
Overall this game does feel like a solid return to gaming for Sonic as it will please both old and new fans alike and with the mixture of ways to play and with how seamlessly they have been incorporated it's a nice blend of styles in which I hope they keep up the trend. The development team could always develop a second game if fans want it after the success of this title, and in all honestly the game does deserve a follow on because as nice as it is to play as a modern version of sonic for the umpteenth time its an even greater feeling to get back into the series old roots of style and play as the shorter, more chubbier Sonic that we have all loved since the very beginning. This should be a purchase for anybody who owns an Xbox 360 at some point, whether you like platformers or Sonic, it's hard to fault the game bar for a few minor details and the effort put into the finished product shows the time and love the team spent whilst creating it.