Monday, January 23, 2012

Sonic Generations Review

Remember the tale of the boy who cried wolf? He kept fooling people into thinking wolves were on the attack and laughed about it when the townspeople came running, except they stopped responding when the wolves actually came. That experience is nearly identical to being a Sonic fan in the past eight or so years. Just when Sega and Sonic Team promise you a great new Sonic game to rekindle your love for the Blue Blur, they manage to ruin it with some sort of gimmick. As an avid Sonic fan myself, I was understandably wary when I heard the announcement of Sonic Generations, but had my mind opened a bit after playing the demo at Comic Con. Was I right to get my hopes up yet again for a fun Sonic game, or has Sega ascended to new levels of heart-breakery?

Sonic Generations is about Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic teaming up to take down a monster ripping holes in time. By running fast through levels from all eras of Sonic, you repair time and save your friends from limbo. Yes, I agree, the story sounds like an awful fanfiction, but I’ve never really played Sonic for the story. I’ll admit I enjoyed the story of the first two Sonic Adventure titles, but looking back on those games, I believe the gameplay distracted me from thinking too hard about the story. Looking back on cutscenes from either of the games reveals an absurd level of camp that I never really noticed before. I suppose I was always enthralled enough by the game’s wild use of speed and mechanics to pay much attention to the things it did wrong, like the plot. By having less than stellar story, Sonic Team is banking on the gameplay being fun and interesting enough to keep a player motivated to play.

Though the story-telling is lackluster, it seems the development team’s time was spent perfecting the gameplay mechanics. Simply put, I’ve never played a more fun Sonic game. For Modern Sonic, Generations manages to capture the best parts about each of the recent titles and smash them all together to create the smoothest Sonic experience of all time. My favorite Modern Sonic feature is the Boost mechanism; it simply feels incredible. When boosting, all the bass is drained from the sound effects and the visuals blur in such a way that you actually feel the speed difference, something I’ve noticed a distinct lack of in recent titles. Other favorite Modern Sonic moves –homing attack, grinding, etc.—have all made a return as well.

The amalgamation of these features and move sets make Modern Sonic my personal favorite.

But what if you are a Classic Sonic gamer? Your love of 2D sidescrolling, fast reactions, and classic levels are kept intact. I can identify with you, as I was ready for a Sonic title fitting that description with Sonic 4, but the feel was simply off. Sonic felt positively slow, and that frustrated me.

Classic Sonic’s speed feels spot on in this game, and classic levels make you feel right at home.
Another thing I love is the fresh take on past levels and music in this game.

Obviously, to include levels from both generations of Sonic, some levels had to be adapted either to Classic or Modern play style. In both cases, the transitions are great, and each level even has its own take on the music. These changes are aided greatly by the gorgeous visuals. Nary a more beautiful Sonic game has been seen to date. Even if you buy it on console, it’s worth watching some of the 1080p quality videos on Youtube. Who wouldn’t want to see this in glorious high definition?

The only bad aspect I can point out is the minigames which you are required to play in order to gain access to the boss of each section. These short distractions are mildly annoying, and that fact is only amplified by the fact that playing some of them is mandatory. If you get bored of playing through the main story, those games should have been available, not compulsory. A few of the minigame types are enjoyable, but the minigames are annoying on the whole, and can be described as filler at best.

Oh, and the “Confirm” noise definitely sounds like a siren, making me think “Cancel.” Odd choice of sound there, Sega.

Sonic Generations is the most fun Sonic game I’ve played in at least five years. Is that saying much? No, not really, but that detracts not from the fact that it’s an enjoyable game. I would recommend you at least rent the game, if not buy it. I will agree that it’s short and some parts of it feel like unnecessary filler, but the gameplay is fluid and fun, the visuals are gorgeous, and it maintains a perfect balance between nostalgia and new experiences. If only Sega had been releasing games like this all along, Sonic may not have been forced to do Progressive commercials.
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