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Jahanzeb Khan
01 Nov, 2011

Sonic Generations Review

PS3 Review | And every night, I lay awake, and I find no conclusion. Every night, it just stays the same, and I dream of an absolution.
Throughout the history of this rich medium that we call video games, there have been numerous franchises that never seem to change beyond their initial groundbreaking debut, never seem to evolve. Often they go on a downward spiral and become redundant. Leading to a point where the gamers, critics, and even the respective developers of the said franchises/genres start to lose hope, and see no point in pushing forward to make things better. Countless times we have seen a franchise enjoy immeasurable success on debut, only to hit a point of stagnancy and fail miserably at making a transition into the future. Just when it looks like things are coming to a tragic end, a miracle happens out of nowhere, rewarding those who never lost faith, and winning back those who walked away a long time ago. Such stories are rare, but the most recent example that comes to mind is Xenoblade.

After over a decade of no significant evolution in design, storytelling, and gameplay, the Japanese RPG genre started to lose its appeal fast and became nothing more than a collection of clichés and archaic conventions. The flaws that plagued the genre, while annoying and for the most part even crippling, soon became part of the charm, tradition, and appeal. When it reaches a point where everyone just learns to let the flaws be and love it for what it is, then it clearly indicates that things will never get better. So you either have to suck up and bear with it, or walk away on bad terms. Xenoblade caught the world by surprise, it set out to make a difference and set things right, and it succeeded remarkably. It was almost as if the developers sat down with a list of everything that was wrong with the genre and decided to create an outstanding video game that was devoid of it all.

This year was the 20th anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Do you all remember the 15th Anniversary, celebrated with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)? No one can ever be drunk enough to forget that absolute travesty. At that point the franchise hit beyond rock bottom. It should have ended there; it should have been all over, but there was still life. For the next five years they tried to restore things. Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors, and even Sonic the Hedgehog 4 weren’t train wrecks, but they were far from being good. There were still crippling flaws, poor design choices, and they did nothing to remove the bitter taste that was left after over a decade of disappointment after disappointment.

It all begins again.

It all begins again.
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A 20th Anniversary is an admirable feat for a franchise that has had so many screw ups. Sonic Generations is a celebration of 20 years, both the highs and the lows, an accumulation of its entire legacy in just one title. So much was riding on this game, and these past two years all the demos and previews gave very positive signs, but we have been deceived like this before haven’t we? Sure it’s the big 20th anniversary, but will that make Sonic Team change its development philosophy and the quality of their work overnight? Well after playing Sonic Generations...it seems so.

What ever happened at Sonic Team, they somehow, in an unexpected and miraculous twist of fate, produced a game that does for the Sonic series what XenoBlade just did for the Japanese RPG genre. Yes it’s a good game...no, it’s a damn good game. All the travesties and problems you would expect from a Sonic title are virtually non-exist. It’s unfathomable, because there are just some things in life you never ever expect to happen, and a polished, well-produced, and thoroughly entertaining Sonic title is one of those things. It’s perfectly fine if you’re still sceptical, but please read on, because in all honesty and unadulterated truthfulness... the fabled revival of Sonic has just happened.

Sonic Generations is a culmination of the entire legacy of the franchise, bringing together both the days of the Mega Drive era and the modern 3D era into one game. In this game you play through a selection of levels from each era. The entire Mega Drive era is represented here, as is the Dreamcast era, and even the Sonic titles that appeared recently during this console generation. It’s an ideal one stop summary of the entire history of Sonic. Not only does it represent each era in terms of the levels and games, but also Sonic. The game allows you to play as Classic Sonic, representing the breakthrough 16-bit days where Sonic was purely a 2D title, and it allows you to play as Modern Sonic, representing the 3D style of gameplay that had its foundation in Sonic Adventure, and later revised in Sonic Unleashed. Having two Sonics allows you to play each level from two completely different perspectives, each held by its own set of mechanics and conventions. The story too tries to incorporate this, where a time travel and space-time continuum premise is used to explain the harmonisation of the Classic Sonic era and the Modern Sonic era.

20 years and still no signs of slowing down.

20 years and still no signs of slowing down.
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Yes, there is a plot to Sonic Generations, but if you’re expecting the lengthy cut scenes, frequent talking, and excessive melodramatic moments that has characterised modern Sonic titles, then you’ll be pleased to know that none that is here. The story is kept nice and simple, like a classic old school platformer from the 90s, and doesn’t interfere with what Sonic games should be about: pure unadulterated gameplay.

The gameplay in Sonic Generations, for the lack of a better word, works. In fact the best way to describe this game is that it’s a Sonic that actually nails everything as it should. The controls, the level design, the boss design, the difficulty progression, and the core mechanics; everything just clicks and is in near perfect tune. There’s literally nothing here that’s deeply or even remotely flawed or broken. Everything just works.

In terms of main game design and structure, Sonic Generations features a big hub world, similar to any modern 3D Sonic title. Thankfully, it’s not as cumbersome and momentum killing as you would expect. The hub world is nice, simple, and streamlined, and the layout (and contents) is relevant and efficient, as there’s no waste of space in the form of open fields or a city full of civilians. The hub world allows you to switch between Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic on the fly and access the levels, challenges, and other bonus content.

Great to see you again, Classic Sonic.

Great to see you again, Classic Sonic.
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Each of the worlds in the game has two acts, one for each Sonic. One thing worth noting is that while all these worlds and levels are borrowed from past games, the similarities are only cosmetic and aural, as the layout, design, and the general feel of the level is completely new. So it’s not just the classic levels being given a HD coat of paint, as these are for all intents and purposes, re-imagined levels. For example, the Green Hill Zone act for Classic Sonic is much different from the original that appeared in the original Mega Drive release of Sonic the Hedgehog. Similarly, the Speed Highway act for Modern Sonic is much different from how it was in Sonic Adventure. It’s great that the design and layout of these iconic levels have been rebooted for Sonic Generations.

Perhaps the most hyped aspect of Sonic Generations was Classic Sonic. Long time fans have wanted him back for years, because to them, Modern Sonic just didn’t cut it. Classic Sonic handles the same way he did in the Mega Drive titles, and everything is just spot on. Did they copy paste the old school mechanics as they were? Surely that would have been enough right? Apparently Sonic Team decided otherwise. Classic Sonic, believe it or not, actually handles a bit better in Sonic Generations than he did in the Mega Drive titles. The coolest new mechanic is that Classic Sonic can not only perform a traditional spin dash whilst running (i.e., rolling into a ball while running), but can now perform a ‘turbo spin dash’ whist running, on the spot, without the need of reaching a screeching halt first. This small little touch really gives Classic Sonic a very refreshing momentum boost.

The designs of the Classic Sonic levels are as ingenious and well crafted as the Mega Drive titles, and at times the complexity and the layered structure are almost on par with Sonic CD. They’re very carefully designed, and have that ideal balance between speed and classic platforming. The pace is just right, and the levels are refreshing to play with carefully placed challenges and pitfalls that rarely frustrate. They’re filled with plenty of cool moments, and 2.5D look adds some refreshing perspective and depth. To put it very simply, the Classic Sonic portion of Sonic Generations feels like the game Sonic 4 should have been. It feels so very familiar, and yet, it feels so new. It’s everything a fan of the classic era could ever want.

So is Classic Sonic the beginning and end of what makes Sonic Generations great? Isn’t that what we wanted since 1994? Modern Sonic can just take a hike right? Because 3D Sonic is always broken right? Well, here’s another miracle for you… Modern Sonic delivers in a way that it can stand proud with Classic Sonic as an equal. Modern Sonic delivers an experience full of thrill and ingenuity that will leave you grinning from start to finish, and will leave you completely awestruck and teary eyed, because even when you expect things to come crashing down in the next moment… it doesn’t. It just keeps getting better. The foundation for Modern Sonic was laid in Sonic Unleased, and later expanded upon in Sonic Colors. While both games showed showed improvement, Sonic was still difficult to control; it was very easy to lose control of him, fall off the path, and reach a dead halt. With Sonic Generations it’s still that same Sonic, except this time the mechanics are finally spot on.

Modern Sonic, you're cool dude.

Modern Sonic, you're cool dude.
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Modern Sonic levels are an absolute roller coaster thrill ride, and for the first time you have proper control over the action. Past 3D Sonic titles were plagued with auto-pilot fillers, long drawn out sections where all you did was watch Sonic run along path without little to any player input. Sonic Generations has those moments, but they are intuitively placed and never overstay their welcome. They give you that short adrenaline rush before putting you right back into the action. In a way the design philosophy in the Modern Sonic levels is quite similar to the Classic Sonic levels, which is why they are so much fun to play. The gameplay is relentlessly fast, but always under control, and the levels are filled with many breathtaking and exhilarating moments that will make your jaw drop. Just wait till you get chased by that truck in the City Escape stage, it’s so insane that the truck could have been a boss battle. Modern Sonic is over the top and explosive without overdoing it or making things confusing, and there’s so much player involvement this time that you will constantly stay on your toes and put your reflexes to good use.

All the levels deliver, and you would expect one or two levels to really screw up later on in the game but that isn’t the case at all - the game just keeps getting better. What’s crazy is that Sonic Generations even includes a level from the atrocious Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). You’d think they would just write the game off and pretend it never existed, but now, it seems Sonic Team decided to acknowledge the highs and lows of their career and include the Crisis City level from that absolute disaster of a game. And you know what? It’s now an awesome level in Sonic Generations, and the fact that it’s actually fun and entertaining makes it so very surreal. It’s almost as if Sonic Team included this level to show that they’ve really learned from their mistakes, and are now setting things right and making up for what they did.

Boss battles in Sonic Generations are monumental. Compared to past Sonic titles there’s very few of them, but the quality of the battles are unlike anything you’ve seen before in the franchise. They are huge, with their design style being almost Zelda-like, and are of appropriate length and difficulty. Speaking of bosses, Sonic Generations also has rival battles, and you will go up against Metal Sonic, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Silver the Hedgehog. They’re really cool rival battles with each feeling like a race, but they are in fact very combat heavy.


Robotnik has never fought so hard.

Robotnik has never fought so hard.
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Sonic Generations displays immense replay value, through a host of challenges, and shockingly enough, they are actually fun and well designed. Some feature Sonic’s friends as support characters (e.g., Tails using his flying ability to help Sonic reach higher places). There’s Chaos Emeralds too, and all sorts of little Easter Eggs, skills, and extras. There’s a lot in here to keep players busy for a long time.

Sonic Generations is an outstanding game to look at, with set pieces that are tear inducing beautiful with so much vibrant and inspiring detail, and a vivid display of colours and artistic flair. It runs beautifully too, as from a technical standpoint everything works as it should. In fact, even the 3D camera fails to ruin the experience. The music is outstanding too; the tracks are from past games, but each has several remixes that sound absolutely fantastic. Sonic games have always been known for their great music, and this game delivers an epic score infused with nostalgia and fresh perspectives.

Obviously, Sonic Generations isn’t the holy grail of video game perfection. There are a few annoyances here, such as the occasional frame rate dip, some minor camera naggings that makes it difficult to see what lies ahead, and the minor graphical glitch we encountered during the battle with Silver the Hedgehog. They’re little naggings, but rest assured, none of them are game breaking, consistent, or crippling. They’re very minor naggings that are few and far between. Just know that Sonic Generations functions beautifully, not just as a Sonic game, but any video game for that matter.

You finally did it, Sonic!

You finally did it, Sonic!
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Even with so much good going for it, Sonic Generations is, in the end, just a really fantastic Sonic game. It’s not going to leave a monumental mark on video game history and pave a path for other games to follow. It’s not going to change the world or rewrite the book on platformers. It’s not a landmark contribution to the video game industry. By creating this game, Sonic Team has not set a new benchmark for the genre like Naughty Dog, Insomniac, and Nintendo have done in this era. All Sonic Team have really done is create a Sonic game that is still fundamentally the same Sonic you played in 1991, 1999, and 2010. Only difference being that everything has finally been nailed as perfectly as possible when it comes to Sonic. That said, it’s a fantastic platformer in its own right and has every right to be praised alongside the likes of Ratchet and Clank and Mario Galaxy. It’s still Sonic, just really fantastic, which isn’t a problem because how many other platformers out there will provide you with an experience like it?

Sonic Generations is the perfect celebration of the series. It accumulates everything that made it so great without reminding us of the darker days that it has seen over the years. The staying power of Sonic isn’t a fluke. The franchise lasted this long because even with all the travesties, everyone knew it still had the potential to achieve the same greatness as it did back in 1991, and after over a decade we finally get a truly great title. For all the fans that were left heartbroken after the glory days, let this game give you closure for it is the last Sonic game you will ever need to play. Those who had no faith to begin with, give this game a chance to prove itself. Finally, to all the young gamers out there, you need to experience this amazing history lesson wrapped into one uniquely fantastic platformer.
The Score
Sonic Generations is, quite simply, the greatest Sonic game ever produced. Regardless of whether that statement still holds any relevance today, this game is a triumphant victory for Sonic Team and for the blue hedgehog himself. Stand proud Sonic, you deserve it.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Sonic Generations Content

Sonic Generations Launch Trailer
02 Nov, 2011 Sonic Boom.
TGS 2011: Sonic Generations Interview and Preview
28 Sep, 2011 The developers talk about their Generation.
Sonic Generations Review
26 Nov, 2011 How does Sega's magnum opus fare on 3DS?
53 Comments
2 years ago
fucking called it!
2 years ago
You just read the score icon_lol.gif

Everyone ought to know that the gentleman who wrote this is not a native English speaker - it is his second language. And this piece is not only a testament to his love for gaming, but to a HUGE improvement to his writing ability from the time he started writing here...

All this good feeling...

2 years ago
Superb review Jahanzeb, I'm very, very happy for you! I know you agonised over this game for a long, long time and I'm glad you finished it more than simply being satisfied.

2 years ago
Jeremy wrote
You just read the score icon_lol.gif
Nah more talking about this

Also shit I didn't realise english wasn't your first language, would never have guessed it from the review. Great review and so stoked to hear that this game is good. (Although you're a little harsh on colours icon_razz.gif)
2 years ago
2 years ago
Now nobody can complain this site gives Sonic games poor-to-average scores.

Just that I do.
2 years ago
2 years ago
Rad review dude! Was it just me or was this review a lot larger then normal? haha ;)

PALGN wrote
the greatest Sonic game ever produced
Better then Sonic 3 and Knuckles?

Anyway, here's to your 50th Review!
**passes Jahanzeb bottle of bubbly
2 years ago
Well shit, now I have to buy this...

Thanks, Jah!

(super stoked to see this turned out good - kudos on the review, too! icon_biggrin.gif)
2 years ago
But I still have a backlog of games to buy!

Last good Sonic game I played was Rush on the DS.
2 years ago
OH MY GOD.

Its, its GOOD?

ARGHHHHH! YES! OK, PC or Console, I can trade some oldgaes for a PS3 copy.

Which has the better famerate on console? WO WOW BOW OWWWWWWWWW!
2 years ago
PALGN wrote
Sonic Generations is, quite simply, the greatest Sonic game ever produced.
You just sold me on this game just through your pure enthusiasm for the game. I was a huge sonic fan when I was a kid but haven't touched a sonic game since sonic heroes. Looking forward to giving it a go.
2 years ago
Sweet its in JBHIFI trade three get it free, PS3 it is. YES!
2 years ago
ManeKast wrote
Sweet its in JBHIFI trade three get it free, PS3 it is. YES!
As in street date is broken?
2 years ago
Nope. I gave JB a call, they said it'll be available tomorrow morning.

I was already planning to buy the game, but this review just puts the icing on the cake! Great work Jahanzeb, the fact that English is your second langauge is amazing! icon_smile.gif
2 years ago
Sorry meant to just say its part of their trade deal. Ill be picking this up tomorrow on PS3 alongside Uncharted..... what a weekend coming up, wow.
2 years ago
Damn, well I already have it preordered (collectors edition). Already played 2 zones thanks to the EB Expo and I can say the Classic levels are so close to the classic feel its nostalgic.

Uncharted 3 is going to have to wait icon_smile.gif
2 years ago
Wow, english was your second language? I would have never guessed it, great work Jahanzeb! I'm awfully tempted to get this game (though I'll probably throw it on top of my back catalogue icon_razz.gif)
2 years ago
Ugh... this or Uncharted 3.... damn it.. damn it all to hell. I can't believe they made a good Sonic game. I don't think I want to believe it. I look at Metacritic and see average scores... oh god what to do?!
2 years ago
^^ Commit!
2 years ago
Man holy crap, I never thought I'd hear such words again. And Jahanzeb, no idea english was your second language man, you cover it up masterfully :P

I just can't believe it..sonic......

The only thing that could of made it better would have been chao gardens.

I still can't believe I'm reading what I'm reading XD
2 years ago
STREET DATE BROKEN! GO GO GO GO!
2 years ago
Such praise.. the urges.. I can't fight them.
2 years ago
Gutsman Heavy wrote
STREET DATE BROKEN! GO GO GO GO!
Where and what's the cheapest price for this ?
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  03/11/2011 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Sega
Year Made:
  2011

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