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Sonic Generations: The Review

Sonic Generations: The Review

Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega’s mascot, has been through a lot with many good and bad games. Fortunately, Sega seems to be on the right track lately despite the major negative reception on Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. One of the up points for the series is the 2011 game, Sonic Generations. The game celebrates Sonic’s 20th anniversary.

Let’s say Sonic Generations not only it reminds us the facts that make Sonic the Hedgehog an enjoyable series, but it’s also a good Sonic the Hedgehog game. For this particular review, I’m focusing on the console version.

Story

It’s Sonic 25th birthday and most of the Sonic cast we all know and love are celebrating. However, their party is soon interrupted as a monstrous entity known as the Time Eater hurls everyone across time and space, trapping them in a colorless void known as the White Space. Not long after rescuing his best friend Tails, they come across their past selves (referred as “Classic Sonic” and “Classic Tails” with their appearances depicted from the early Genesis era) who are also trapped in the White Space. Both Tails determine that Time Eater’s actions are damaging time and space itself, opening distorted time holes leading to different time periods.

Both Classic and Modern Sonic must race through their history, restoring time to normal, rescuing their friends, and defeat the mysterious Time Eater.

The plot is fairly simple and easy to follow, but this type of game actually fits well with this particular type of storytelling. It is meant to celebrate the series 20 year anniversary.

The presentation has its ups and downs though. For starters, it’s great to see some throwbacks to the series from the narrative stand point, especially the Genesis era. I’ve always wondered how the Genesis levels like Green Hill Zone would look like in 3D. Not to mention, the nostalgia.

We also get to see the interaction with the characters we rescued by clearing a level in each era. Depending on which Sonic finish the level last, we get to see them interact with that particular Sonic. Knuckles the Echidna, for example, comments that Classic Sonic has gained weight. It’s very much makes fun on Classic Sonic’s rather chubby appearance.

Unfortunately, that is the downside. The throwbacks and the interactions are rather minimal. As soon as we reach the Dreamcast era, the narrative throwbacks end there. When I reached the Rooftop Run level from Sonic Unleashed, I was half-expecting Sonic would comment that at least it wasn’t nighttime, referencing the infamous Werehog section from the same game. We also don’t get to see the characters interact more in the story outside the gameplay sections. The scenes mostly focus on our Sonics and Tails with occasionally the villains from their respective eras.

They’re a missed opportunity and the game could have been a lot better with more references, throwbacks, and interactions.

Gameplay

Despite its narrative flaws, the gameplay is enough to make up for it. Let’s say it’s the combination of the best from both worlds.

For starters, we have your standard hub world that players can interact and it is divided into three set of eras: Genesis, Dreamcast, and Modern. Fittingly enough, we start with the Genesis era where the levels are based on the early games in the Sega Genesis console. The goal is to clear each level within the era and find the three Boss Gate Keys, which are needed to fight the era boss. Once the players defeat the boss, the next era is unlocked.

It is standard and easy to understand. Besides the main levels, there are the Challenge Acts that players can partake in if they want a good, well, challenge. Completing these challenges will grant reward such as unlocking new skills and power-ups.

Finding the Boss Gate Keys are rather tricky as some of them are found in Challenge Acts with at least one Boss Gate Key can be obtained by defeating a Rival.

In true Sonic fashion, each level can be played with either Classic Sonic and/or Modern Sonic; each has their own routes and gameplay style. Both Sonics collect rings throughout the levels, which can also protect them from dying. If they do get hit, they lose all their rings and they only have very few seconds to retrieve their rings or get more. Getting hit without any rings, you will lose a life and must start from a checkpoint.

Classic Sonic’s levels are self-explanatory. We play as Classic Sonic from a permanent 2D perspective. The levels heavily emphasize on platforming all the way to the end sign post just like in the old Sonic games with some explorations.

Classic Sonic has the Spin Attack (curling into a ball while rolling along the ground to destroy any obstacles/enemies) and the Spin Dash (blasting forward at high speed). The skills can help open up paths or reach certain areas.

The power-ups in these levels are shields from the classic games. The shields have different effects like the magnetic shield that can attract nearby rings and the bubble shield allowing Classic Sonic to breathe underwater while also bouncing at a great distance. Of course, if you do get hit, you will lose the shield but not the rings.

Modern Sonic’s levels carry on the current 2D/3D gameplay style where you race through the levels at high speed. As such, the levels are more action-oriented and also put your reflex to the test. You speed through the levels until you reach the Goal Ring.

Modern Sonic has the Sonic Boost (runs faster while also invulnerable), the Drift move, and the Homing Attack (to take out enemies one by one). However, players need to be careful using these skills at the right time. Otherwise, they may accidentally dash out of the ground and fall into the pitfalls.

The power-ups in these levels are different with the most common one being the Invincibility and the Speed Shoes. Some power-ups are unique to specific stages such as the Skateboards for the City Escape levels.

In addition, players can also perform Freestyle Tricks to increase their points and the boost meter (which is used for the Sonic Boost) when launching off Trick Ramps or passing through Rainbow Rings.

Enemies in the levels come in different variety as well and they’re fairly simple to take out. Just a single hit and they’re destroyed. However, as the game progresses, not only the enemies have new attacks such as firing projectiles, but also have their own gimmicks such as shield to block Modern Sonic’s Homing Attack. They require different approaches to deal with them.

Another challenge is the levels themselves. The first and second levels (the Green Hill and Chemical Plant) are fairly simple. However, the third level and so on are getting a lot trickier.

Take the third level, Sky Sanctuary, for example. We are above the sky and there are tons of tricky platforming. Modern Sonic’s level is possibly harder than Classic Sonic’s in Sky Sanctuary, at least in my humblest opinion. This is due to the insane amount of pitfalls scattered throughout the level. If you try to Sonic Boost all the way through without watching your surroundings, you will fall a lot.

Another example is the City Escape level. Not only you have to worry about the flying robots that fire lasers, but you also have to worry about this crazy truck. The giant truck chases after Sonic relentlessly so players have to keep on moving without any sign of slowing down.

Clearing the levels with either Sonic grant you some ranks for rewards or even achievements, but the points you achieve depending on your performance in the level can turn into currency. The better your performance, the higher the points you make. The higher the points, the higher the currency gain.

By clearing certain Challenge Acts or achieving enough ranks, you can unlock new skills and power-ups along the way. However, they cost points. Once purchased or unlocked, you can set them on your designated Skill Sets, which can grant the Sonics new moves, additional passive skills (such as saving 10 rings when get hit once), which power-ups should appear more often, and so much more. The Skill Sets can help make the levels a lot smoother to go through and even getting higher points/ranks.

With that said, player skills and power-ups are essential in completing the levels, including the boss levels.

There are two types of bosses in the game: the Rival Boss and the Main Boss.

The Rivals in each era have different gimmicks that correspond with Sonic’s skill. Shadow, for example, is Sonic’s rival in speed so the rival battle focuses on speed and momentum. The objective of the fight is to get a flying power-up (twice or thrice depending on the difficulty level) to unleash a powerful attack.

The Main Bosses are your typical boss fights from recent Sonic titles. You have to attack the boss by their weak points through different means. An example is Perfect Chaos, the boss of the Dreamcast era, requires you to approach it via high speed. If you get to it at a fast pace, you’re able to hit its weakpoint.

Sonic Generation has two flaws, however. One flaw isn’t exactly a big deal while the other is. The first flaw is that the game has very few level themes. There are only three varieties: the modern city, the green outdoors, and industrial factories. Sure, the Modern era has another modern city but used molten lava as a gimmick, but it could have used more themes such a snowy mountain or even a spooky Halloween set. It’s only nitpicking; it’s not that big of a problem.  The major flaw, however, is the final boss. The bosses and rivals are great, but the final boss is such a disappointment. The concept of the final boss does have potential, but the execution rather feels off.

Despite the flaws, Sonic Generation is an enjoyable game and worthy as a celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th anniversary.

Authors:

  • Yogi Udjaja
  • Jeremy Siregar

Published at : Updated
Written By
Yogi Udjaja, S.Kom., M.T.I
SCC - Game Art | School of Computer Science

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