Sonic the Hedgehog’s gaming career sounds an awful lot like an episode of E! True Hollywood Story. When he debuted for the Sega Genesis in1991, he quickly rose to super stardom; spawning everything from TV shows to action figures and even breakfast cereals – but then it all went wrong. After a steady stream of games, some of which changed the very appeal of the character, Sonic and his growing cast of supporting characters began to wear out their welcome with the gaming public. It wasn’t long before the once proud console mascot was reduced to making cameo appearances in his one time rivals games.
Of course, even the worst True Hollywood Stories have some sort of a happy ending – and Sonic Generations is just that for the Blue Blur. Of course Sega has gone back to the well and revisited Sonic’s heyday before – but never to this level. Not since his original 16-bit debut almost twenty years ago has Sonic felt this fast, fun and imaginative. Be warned though, much like Sonic crashing in to a wall, Generations ends with a disappointing thud and reminds you why Sonic went away in the first place.
Sonic just can’t catch a break. While celebrating his birthday with his friends, the Time Eater, a n unfamiliar enemy appears and begins to send everyone into time holes, scattering them throughout different points in history. Sonic finds himself in a bland, colorless area known as White Space where he encounters a younger and more pudgier version of himself. The two blue blurs decide that their best option is to race throughout their shared history, restore order and rescue their friends. Naturally.
What follows is both a love letter to the Sonic universe as well as an epitaph for it. The game is split in to two sections; classic Sonic races through 2D landscapes just as you remember, and its loads of fun. There’s no question that this more than anything is where Generations shines. You’ll race through re-imagined stages from the original Sonic, like the Greenhill Zone and it all feels so natural, and so pure that it’s almost impossible to resist – and this is coming from a guy who’s childhood was heavily dominated by Nintendo consoles.
Perhaps most impressive about the classic Sonic reimagining is the amount of detail and effort that the Sonic team put into its recreation. This isn’t just an HD cleanup of the original visuals; this is a whole new look inspired by the classic. Take classic Sonic himself for instance, inspired by the spirte-based design used for the original, the Sonic Generations features an almost clay-mation like appearance and it feels an awful lot like something straight out of our childhood should feel. To that extent, the game does suffer from a noticeable amount of slowdown when the game gets up to its top speed, an issue for a game like this.
Then there’s the other half of the game; featuring the more modern sonic levels. While still built for speed, this half of the game channels the 3D versions of the franchise, also known as where the series went downhill. Now don’t get me wrong, there are moments (and there always have been these moments) where 3D Sonic games work incredibly well, but they lose a lot of the original charm in the translation. Whereas classic Sonic games were built more on pure speed, games like heroes and colors feel like they really heavily on thunderous velocity, which puts the emphasis more on being destructive than the originals. Also much like the originals, the 3D iteration doesn’t do speed quite as well as its counterpart, as even the slightest error (and even sometimes without an error at all) will cause Sonic to come to a screeching halt. Most disappointing though is that these modern Sonic levels outnumber the classic ones as if Sega is trying to force us to come to terms with what the icon has become.
Regardless, the dynamic between the two Sonics is interesting to say the least. The character has always been built on an in-your-face attitude, but it’s quite fun to watch the two spar. Though he seemed very edgy at the time, classic Sonic seems tame compared to the more modern version. New Sonic seems grizzled, and hardened. He’s less edgy than he is cynical and it’s fun to see how both react to situations, especially when that dynamic shifts about midway through the game.
As you play through Generations, you’re sure to want to go back and play through levels over again to unlock extra challenges or better your time, but those who are going to get the most out of the game are those who have stayed with the hedgehog throughout his entire career as there are tons of unlockables that are sure to make you make you feel all sorts of nostalgic. These won’t really entice any non fans of the series to jump in, but it’s great for those who are dedicated.
The Blast Factor: Though half of the game is a reminder of why an icon fell, you can’t dispute just how fun Sonic Generations truly is. It’s fast, fun and everything else a Sonic game should be. Most importantly, it’s proof that Sega still cares about its biggest star, and knows how to handle him. Those who grew up in the 16-bit era will love the throw back, but really everyone should check it out.