Sonic the Hedgehog has lived an interesting life; what started out as a heated rivalry with Mario gradually petered out upon Sonic’s introduction to the ill-fated Dreamcast. The hedgehog’s starred in disappointment after disappointment due to Sega struggling to figure out how to fit Sonic’s high speeds within 3D environments. With the recent release of Sonic Generations, it seems as though Sega has finally succeeded at sorting out a decade’s worth of problems.
Generations blends together modern-day Sonic with his past self from the Genesis era of video games, with levels being played both as the sidescrolling classic Sonic and the snarky Sonic of Sonic Adventure and beyond. In the past, modern Sonic games have fallen short due to cheap deaths caused by Sonic simply running too fast during platforming sections, an emphasis on Sonic’s minigame-inspired friends over the blue blur, and a multitude of unbearable glitches (for reference, see the 2006 PS3 and 360 game. Or rather, don’t.). It is with sheer relief to see that Sega has addressed all three issues for the most part. For one, the majority of the platform-oriented sections of modern Sonic move the action into a sidescrolling view, which drastically reduces the number of cheap deaths due to the player having less opportunities to accidentally mess up. Secondly, the game is relatively glitch-free, though there are a few noticeable framerate issues while playing as modern Sonic.
To any longtime fan of the series, it’s easy to see how modern Sonic’s gameplay has been greatly improved. It is actually quite fun playing as him for the first time in many years, and classic Sonic’s sections will please any fan of the franchise. Sega has also included humorous nods to the fans, such as Tails not recognizing the level based on Green Hill from the original Sonic game (due to him being introduced in the second installment), and it is always a bonus when the catchy Chemical Plant song returns. However, the game is not without its flaws; aside from the aforementioned framerate issue as well as some slightly lengthy loading times (at least on the PS3 version), we see the inclusion of Sonic’s friends in the form of challenge rooms. In order to proceed through the game, players are required to complete one challenge room per level in order to proceed to boss encounters. While there are decent challenges such as races, the minigame-like nature of Sonic’s friends have returned, though not nearly as prominently as in past titles. It’s not nearly as bad as fishing as an obese purple cat has been, but standing still while Knuckles digs up some medals noticeably detracts from the thrill of sprinting incredibly fast through a level.
A few minor issues aside, Sonic Generations is definitely not one to write off as simply another of Sega’s failures to bring Sonic to the current consoles. Sega has, at long last, succeeded at a 3D Sonic game. The old rivalry between the hedgehog and the plumber may very well be rekindled if Generations is anything to go by.