Friday, January 27, 2012

Sonic Generations Review

I've been a Sonic fan since I first picked the series up all the way back on the Sega Genesis and recent Sonic games have left alot to be desired. In fact the last Sonic game I truly sat down and played was Sonic Adventure 2 then after that the series sort of tanked out as if Sega had no clue what fans wanted from the series. Game after game tried to recapture the magic that made the earlier games so great yet time and time again they failed to achieve. Now we have Sonic Generations, celebrating 20 years of Sonic, but is it celebrating the right years?

I'm here to answer that question with a huge YES. Sonic Generations does a fantastic job at bringing both classic Sonic (the one we all know and love from the Genesis era, pot belly and all) and modern Sonic together in one of Sonic's best adventures yet. Gone are the gimmicks of past games, there are no talking swords, were-hogs, or pointless side characters to play. In fact all the main gameplay is done as either classic or modern Sonic with the side characters playing only a minor role here.

The storyline is fairly basic, an unknown force has started tearing through time and has capture modern Sonic's friends, scattering them throughout time and they must be rescued by completing each stage. Everything opens with a wonderful romp through Green Hill Zone as classic Sonic before cutting to modern Sonic as he celebrates his birthday (apparently classic Sonic forgot it was his birthday) with his friends. However things don't go exactly as planned as the party comes under attack by this new enemy. At first even Sonic doesn't appear to be too thrilled about running off on another adventure as everyone gasps in horror as the monster appears though Sonic simply gives a heavy sigh before his friends are kidnapped.

Each zone allows you to choose whether you play as classic or modern Sonic with Act 1 being a classic Sonic level and Act 2 being for modern Sonic. In order to advance to the next zone you only need to complete one Act however every three zones there is a boss battle. Each boss battle is opened by collecting three keys from challenges for each of the zones you just completed, however in order to open these challenges you must beat both Acts. I know a few of you just groaned at the thought of being forced to play as modern Sonic but I'm here to tell you that the modern Sonic levels are actually good! Yes you heard me correctly, Sega has finally found a balance that works incredibly well for our blue hero as the levels are all about speed and top notch platforming. You'll see the camera swing behind Sonic as he speeds down paths, blasting through enemies and bouncing from spring board to spring board before flipping over and giving you a retro 2D perspective that again works rather well for our modern hero.

Sega has done a brilliant job at building each level, bringing back multiple paths and requiring split second timing if you wish to take the best path possible. Numerous times I found myself making mental notes of where I would need to jump next time or a better way to navigate through an area. Nothing is quite as rewarding as zipping through a level at top speed without slowing down and navigating through obstacles as if it were easy. Both classic and modern Sonic feature amazing level design and at times you can see where the two different Acts cross paths. More than once I noticed areas that I had seen as the other Sonic and it was interesting to see the 2D take on the newer zones and the 3D take on the older ones. The game is made up of nine different zones, each one taken from a specific Sonic game ranging from Sonic 1, 2, 3, Adventure 1 and 2, Sonic Heroes, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Unleashed, and Sonic Colors. You start off with Sonic 1 and work your way through time until you reach the most recent games.

One thing that I instantly noticed about the game was the humor though some of the fans out there might not get it if they haven't been with the series for the last 20 years. For example in the Chemical Plant Zone (from Sonic 2) Tails makes a comment about the pink water making him nervous for some reason, a younger fan might not get the joke there though I remember plenty of times desperately seeking air as that pink water filled the stage around me and the surface got further and further away. Another one that made me chuckle was modern Sonic commenting on how familiar Green Hill Zone was but Tails had no memory of it because it was before he joined the series. At times the game even pokes fun at some of the missteps Sonic has had along the way such as when Tails comments on how weird this adventure is only to have Sonic come back saying weird is what they do but this is fairly normal with no talking swords, were-hogs, or aliens (though you do use the wisps in the Colors stage).

The hub world I thought was fairly interesting and worked as almost a mini level. Each Zone starts off colorless and lifeless with the side character frozen as a colorless statue in front of it. Beating one Act brings back some life to the zone as color is filled in thought beating both acts brings back the side character and completely restores the stage unlocking the challenges that go along with it. Everything is set in a 2D view though you can switch from classic to modern Sonic with a tap of the button, also each version of Sonic has their own set of challenges you can complete.

Now the challenges are the first area I feel the game really stumbles. Most of them aren't overly interesting, sometimes having you pair up with a side character or race against them collecting items, rings, or whatever. Personally I found them to really ruin the pacing of the game as you go from blazing through zones to suddenly engaging in a rather pointless contest. However there is one redeeming quality here that I quickly found myself skipping all the other challenges to go for. The Doppelganger races are perfect for Sonic and they fit the mood and pacing just right. Whether you are playing as classic or modern Sonic each zone as a Doppelganger race which pits you against a ghost Sonic (same version as you) and your only goal is to beat them to the end of the stage. Doppelganger Sonic however isn't perfect, you'll see him make mistakes, take damage, and not always pick the right path. That isn't to say these races are easy by any means. A few times I found myself nearly neck and neck coming up on the finish line or missing a platform and suddenly ghost Sonic is right there with me. Doppelganger Sonic sometimes fights enemies where it makes sense though you'll often see him slip by them and this is a tactic you must adopt as well in order to keep up. Overall I found these races to be incredibly enjoyable and really saved me from having to complete boring tasks in order to advance the game.

The other area I felt the game stumbled was the boss battles or rather the lack of them. There are some pretty memorable boss battles with Dr. Eggman throughout the years and I felt this was a missed opportunity by only including four boss battles overall and three mini boss battles for chaos emeralds. Some of these fights are over pretty quickly as well and don't really offer much of a challenge, while others (especially the battle with Silver in Crisis City) are pretty fun and definitely play to the strengths of the game. Another thing is the chaos emeralds are basically handed to you as each boss battle gives you one and you only need to truly collect three on your own by battling Metal Sonic, Shadow, and Silver. Again another missed opportunity by not including the bonus stages that really test a gamer's skill in earning (keyword here) these emeralds. 

There are plenty of collectibles to earn here with over 50 songs to unlock (each unlocked song can be played instead of the usual zone music) and alot of concept art. It wasn't enough to get me to tackle all the challenges, which is where bulk of these are earned, though it was pretty cool to see these included. Another addition I didn't bother with much was skills, which can be purchased from an in-game store and give you a way to customize your Sonic experience. Whether you want to start with 10 additional rings, land on feet after taking damage, run up hills and such faster, or other things like that you'll find these little perks here. It didn't take me long at all to purchase them all though and I didn't really in much of a need for them outside of giving myself a few extra seconds to gather my rings after getting hit and increasing my speed in water and going uphill. Each skill has a certain point cost and you have 100 points total to spend for equipping a skill. This was a nice addition but not something I spent that much time with, I basically bought them all and equipped the ones I wanted then never looked back.

Now I did play this on PC (purchased via Steam) and the graphics are top notch, the stages look amazing, and on my system the game didn't slow down at all. However this is simply a port of the 360 version as Sega didn't even take the time to change the in-game key prompts which display the standard 360 controller inputs. The cut scenes looked slightly grainy and not nearly as clear as the gameplay was, but that is only a minor complaint on an overall great package.

With gameplay that is amazing for both Sonics, level design that gives Nintendo a run for their money, and only few minor missteps it is hard for any Sonic fan to go wrong with Generations. This is truly a return to form for our hedgehog friend and hopefully Sonic Team uses this as a template moving forward with future Sonic games. Sadly there are no plans right now for classic Sonic to return in future games, but that is ok though. At the start of the game I favored classic Sonic but by the end of it I was always going for modern Sonic and finding his levels to be pretty intense and very enjoyable. If modern Sonic has levels like these in future games then Sonic Team has successfully brought me back to the series I used to know and love. I'm giving Sonic Generations an overall 8 out 10, this is a great package with only a few minor stumbles though I wish the overall adventure was a little longer and featured more zones from Sonic's past. Happy birthday Sonic, it has been an interesting ride these past 20 years though this gives us alot to look forward to and hopefully it will be another great 20 years ahead of us.

No comments:

Post a Comment