For those of you who know me well, you would know that I may sometimes mock the Mega Drive jokingly with mates as a stir during the 16-bit console discussions. I have never owned a Mega Drive, instead I had a SNES, and then I moved on to PC’s (thus missing out on a large part of SEGA’s pinnacle period with their line-up of consoles). But what many may not possibly realise, is that Sonic and I actually go way back, with a good history- an 8-bit history…
My first exposure to Sonic was on the Master System back in 1992. I will never forget my 10th birthday- the day I unwrapped THE present. I was so hooked on it, that eventually, I was able to finish the entire game in about 30 minutes or so. Not a feat to boast about perhaps, but I loved it and kept playing it over and over again.
Now, the cool thing is, that the feeling I got from getting Sonic Generations, was exactly the same as when I got that first Sonic game almost 20 years ago! The excitement of playing such a vibrant game full of life and colour, is still the same as it was all those years ago. Has it really been that long? Twenty Years? Amazing isn’t it?
Right from the get-go after putting the disc in, I was pumped. As soon as the title screen, with a newer sounding title theme from the original Sonic 1 games came on, I immediately hit start. And there it is- you’re thrown into a familiar zone…the Green Hill Zone, and I must say, it’s a breath of fresh air to return to familiar ground! Or so I thought, until I found that the level was much more detailed than it was in the first Sonic game (naturally).
The premise: Dr. Eggman (it seems he is no longer called Dr. Robotnik) is just hungry for power. Seriously, he invents a new machine which erases time and space, giving himself a winning advantage to avenge his past defeats to Sonic. As much as he thought it was a grand idea to cheat time, unfortunately for him, the machine created time holes which have sucked Sonic’s friends back in time. Sonic, or Sonics (plural) have to venture through classic battles from the past, to once again try to defeat Eggman.
I was starting to get worried though, as tributes to retro games in the past have lured the player in with a sneaky, “Hey there, here’s that level you knew and loved with the music made modern to suck you in, but then after that first level we’ve decided to just give you crud! Sorry about that…”. Well I’m happy to report that what comes after the Green Hill Zone is pure fun and a Pandora’s Box full of challenges to return to after playing the game! Phew!
The primary area is where you travel between zones, you and your friends have been sucked into an empty space in some dimension. You travel along to each area like you’re in a level in the game. Each zone consists of two acts (one where you play as Classic Sonic, and the second one as Modern Sonic). Once completing the two acts, the stages in the “map” become colourful again, and you then proceed to the next zone, or you may wish to return to the challenge levels based on each zone.
As well as the zones, the acts in said zones, and the challenge acts, you also have an incentive regarding the storyline with the challenge acts. You need to obtain 3 keys from every 3 acts to unlock the door to fight the boss. There are a total of 9 zones, with 90 total stages (including the challenge acts). You most likely won’t finish this game in a few hours that’s for sure. That is, assuming you want to actually enjoy the game, as opposed to pounding through a game just for the sake of finishing it.
The graphics in Sonic Generations are by far the most vibrant and colourful that I’ve ever seen in the series. Visually, it both looks and feels fast as well. I’ve played previous modern Sonic games, and well, one in particular felt a bit sluggish. This one however is superb! As I review this game from an old-school gamer perspective, I can definitely appreciate what the Sonic Team have done here. The sounds are what you expect from the 16bit Sonic games from the older days as well, including a you-beaut soundtrack incorporating remixes of classic tunes for each of the zones in the game, with some J-pop thrown in to boot. I’m a sucker for a game with good music in it. Sonic Generations does not disappoint in that area either.
The Classic Sonic stages feel a lot like you’re playing the Mega Drive, and the Modern Sonic stages feel like a cross between Sonic Adventure and Sonic Heroes.
If I have to find a flaw in this game, I guess it would be the difficulty curve. What I mean by that, is that you play the first two thirds of the game at a casual pace, no worries…but then when you get to the last third of the game, you’re completely caught by surprise by the intense difficulties you suddenly face! Another would be the slight irks in the controls in Modern Sonic stages, where you basically end up potentially doing the same mistake over and over. Granted with a bit of practice and enough experience of the control mechanisms, the issue is easily overcome. To put it in a more positive way, consider the difficulty factor as a challenge!
In summary: Sonic Generations is quite possibly the best Sonic game made since both Sonic Heroes (on the Xbox) and Sonic & Knuckles (which Paul has reviewed extensively). In fact, if I had to describe Generations in two games, it would easily be those two. As a retro-gamer, I couldn’t be happier with the game. So much so, that I’m going to go and buy a Mega Drive and all the Sonic games that came out for that, Mega CD and 32X (Well okay, Chaotix was more a Knuckles-centric game but hey, same universe).
No really, I’ve never actually owned a Mega Drive! But I now have a proper reason to pursue.
So what do I rate this game?
I give it a 9 out of 10! :D
– Gorgeous graphics and sound
– Loads of levels, and challenges to tie you in for a while
– It’s actually a lot of fun
– Difficulty incline gets way too steep, too suddenly as game progresses
Sonic Generations is available now at all retail stores on the Xbox 360 and Playstation. The 3DS version will be available later this month. The PC version is available on Steam now, with a retail release to follow later this month.
Special thanks to SEGA Australia for providing a review copy!