Sonic the Hedgehog has had it hard of late. Since attempting to modernise the series away from its 2D roots, SEGA’s foray into transitioning their blue hero into the realms of 3D has been met with varying success.
Whilst the Wii has played home to a number of credible, if flawed, releases that include Secret Rings, Unleashed and Black Knight, the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush series on Nintendo DS were perhaps responsible for remaining to encapsulate what fans loved most about the series. Speed.
Even Sonic Colours, which launched on Wii and Nintendo DS last year, continued to point towards a return to form, so it is understandable that expectations may once again be riding higher than usual for his latest outing.
Sonic Generations arrives to coincide with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the series – the original Sonic the Hedgehog having launched way back in 1991 – and chronicles its history across such a period.
You’ll find yourself traversing Zones plucked from key releases, including the likes of Green Hill Zone, Casino Night, Mushroom Hill and Water Palace from the original, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic Rush respectively.
Within each, you will find yourself tasked with completing a triad of levels that incorporate a Classic, Modern and Special stage. Classic stages see you assume the role of the more portly Sonic seen during the Mega Drive era, whereas Modern stages will see you in the running shoes of a far more agile Sonic seen from the Dreamcast era onwards. Both offer differing styles of play, Classic Sonic having to build momentum to increase his speed whilst Modern Sonic is able to utilise a Boost Meter, for instance. However, later in the game, Modern Sonic shares his Homing Attack skills with his Classic counterpart, which, I have to admit, aided play but will remain a divisive design choice amongst fans.
Special stages play similarly to those within Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the player dodging incoming hazards whilst whizzing their way down a cylindrical track in an attempt to grab themselves a Chaos Emerald before the time limit expires. Such stages prove to grant some of the speediest moments within the game and are a spectacle to behold especially when utilising the stereoscopic 3D.
Whilst Sonic Generations puts its best foot forward, it regrettably soon comes a cropper. With only seven Zones, themselves divided into the aforementioned three separate stages, your progression through the game seems to finish just as it begins to get up to speed.
Furthermore, Boss Gates that interject these zones provide an array of lacklustre Race and Boss Battles that feel particularly uninspired. Race Battles themselves are the direst, the player racing through a stage against characters such as Metal Sonic, Shadow and Silver. Frustratingly, there’s no clear way to gain an advantage with these, the player remaining relatively neck-and-neck with their AI opponent throughout and only gaining the upper hand by pure luck rather than skill.
Luckily, Sonic Generations has further modes to make up for such evident shortcomings. Missions are a core part of this, unlocked by progressing through the main game, by spending Play Coins or through StreetPass. These vary in the challenge, tasking the player with clearing stages without killing a single enemy, defeating a certain number of enemies within a time limit, or completing a stage without losing a life, for example. They amount to the most enjoyable portion, and die-hard fans will revel in the opportunity to prove their worth.
Clearing such missions will also earn you a slew of collectables, encompassing audio tracks, artwork and a series of 3D character models. Its inclusion is welcome, serving to enforce replayability and enticing players to best each mission to nab themselves every ounce of bonus content on offer. Challenging, yet results in reliving nostalgia.
Those looking for more competitive play are sure to find it within Time Attack mode, inviting players to record their best times across individual Acts, Special Stages and Boss Battles which are then uploaded to an online leaderboard. Profile Cards serve to endorse you seeking to continually improve your own records; listing information such as the number of years you’ve been a Sonic fan, your favourite Sonic title, missions cleared and a Supporter Rank – points earned towards this through Versus Mode, Time Attack or StreetPass. Such Supporter points can also be earned for playing Sonic Generations a certain number of times too, for example.
Versus Mode is also a noteworthy addition which allows two players to race head-to-head either locally or online. Again match rankings are uploaded online, so you can keep an eye on how your friends are doing.
All in all, Sonic Generations is sure to provide fans with plenty of fun. Dynamic, engaging visuals are accompanied by a terrific return to the core foundations of the series, that allowed the iconic blue hedgehog to become such a popular figure for SEGA. Disappointments remain, but this is still a Nintendo 3DS release, and celebration of a gaming icon, that you won’t want to miss out on.