It has been a bumpy road for the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise over the years, both with highs and lows. Although recently, it does seem that Sonic is beginning to find his groove once again. With his latest releases of Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors being steps in the right direction. Now Sega has released Sonic Generations, a game aimed to celebrate the Sonic franchise over the years while also continuing that momentum that Sonic has gained.
Sonic Generations brings two Sonic to the table, classic and modern. Classic Sonic being the shorter, rotund Sonic from the classic Genesis series. Modern Sonic being the Sonic that is currently being used for all new Sonic games. It's not just their looks that are different either, as each Sonic brings their respective gameplay elements to the table. With classic Sonic being full 2-D without the fancy boost or homing moves. And modern Sonic with his 2-D/3-D hybrid levels that have been seen a lot in games like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors.
There is a story present and sets the stage for how the levels are laid out allowing for stages from games over the Sonic franchise to be represented. You'll see classic stages like Green Hill and Chemical Plant from the Genesis Sonic titles to stages like Speed Highway and City Escape from Sonic's Dreamcast days. You'll even see more recent stages from titles like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors. These aren't the same stages you're familiar with as these stages are only based off of those classic stages and have been created to take advantage of each Sonics' strengths.
The stages are divided into two acts, with an act for each Sonic. Classic Sonic will have his levels be laid out in his 2-D style, while modern Sonic has his acts in more 3-D. It's all done very well in this game, as you really do get to see stages in a new way. The level were designed well for each Sonic and are filled with multiple pathways that the Sonic series has been well known for, adding incentive to replay levels in order to see everything. Seeing levels from Sonic Adventure being done in a classic way was a real delight. Even seeing how Green Hill would have looked in the modern days really shows how far the Sonic franchise has come.
As you can imagine, the two Sonics also control differently. Classic Sonic's controls are more basic, yet will be familiar for longtime fans who were with the franchise since its Genesis days. Only armed with his jumping and spin dash moves, you won't see classic Sonic doing any homing attacks but the little guy is still as fast as ever. Modern Sonic's controls should also feel familiar if you've played any of the recent Sonic titles. The standard homing attack is still there, along with a dedicated boost that will have Sonic pick up his trademarked speed instantly. Switching from one Sonic to another does take a bit of getting used to, but you'll soon be playing through stages without much trouble as either Sonic.
After completing stages, challenge levels will begin to appear. These challenges have you revisiting stages but with specific objectives. Things like beating your doppelganger to the finish or challenges that have you utilizing the help of one of Sonic's friends to beat. They're a nice spin on the traditional formula and many challenges of many kinds are available. You don't have to complete these challenges if so choose to, but it is required to beat several. The challenges aren't that bad, with some being quite creative.
You'll also come across some Boss Stages that are also re-imaginings of boss fights encountered in previous Sonic titles. These aren't done in the two Sonic style though and will usually have one of the two Sonics being represented. If you're familiar with any Sonic game, you already know that boss battles in a Sonic game can get frustrating and Sonic Generations is no different. It feels as if in boss battles, slight flaws in the controls appear to be more apparent. Especially since a Sonic boss battle tends to be fairly specific with timing and precision being huge key factors. These things do add more satisfaction in the end, but these boss battles are so different with how the rest of the game is played that if you find yourself stuck on a particular boss, it can ruin the flow of the game for you.
The real highlight of Sonic Generations are the levels. Sonic Team has done a good job in really capturing elements from all the classic stages in both classic and modern settings. Multiple games are represented with highs like Sonic 2 to lows like Sonic The Hedgehog '06. The only real drawback with doing this is that fans are bound to be disappointed with the omission of other Sonic titles or levels. Rightfully so too, because Sonic Generations can be a rather short experience if you don't care much for the challenges, collecting hidden rings, or the online leaderboards tied to each level. I would liked to see other Sonic titles like maybe Sonic CD or Sonic's other Wii-only titles, Secret Rings or Black Knight. Even one from the Sonic Rush series would have been something neat to experience. Even having more than one level being represented would have been nice instead of only one level representing an entire game. I'm sure we'll see something in the form of DLC, but it would still have been great to see more in this package.
Graphically, this is a gorgeous game. Sonic levels are always filled with active environments and that remains to be seen in Sonic Generations. You'll also see lots of camera movement that help further showcase what's happening around you. I also dig how the menu was laid out like a Sonic level. Unfortunately, you will encounter several framerate issues when speeding down through levels. It's not too terrible though, but it may take you back a bit. The sounds are also equally done well. Hearing the familiar Sonic sounds from his Genesis days and also familiar tunes that have been remixed. You'll be running through re-imagined stages from the Sonic franchise, so you can expect them to also be accompanied with their familiar theme.
Sonic Generations has something for newcomers and longtime Sonic fans, but those familiar with Sonic from his early days to now will get the most enjoyment out of this. The Sonic Team has been progressing nicely with their recent releases and Sonic Generations feels like another step in the right direction in bringing Sonic back to his glory days. The levels are recreated really well and the classic/modern twist was a great idea and was executed nicely. You really can see how far Sonic has come as you play your way up from the original Sonic levels to the more current gen ones. It has been a bumpy road for the blue hedgehog but this latest release pays great homage to the series over the years and also shows that there's still lots of life and potential for Sonic in the future.