|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, 3DS|
|Dev: SEGA/Sonic Team|
|Release: November 1, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Josh Engen
Until recently, I would have told you that the people over at SEGA shouldn't be allowed to make Sonic the Hedgehog games any more. Seriously, the last few Sonic titles have tasted a bit like stale bread, and it was starting to feel like SEGA was simply shoehorning Sonic into mediocre games just to make a little extra dough.
The problem is that SEGA had lost sight of what made Sonic games great, and Sonic himself isn't enough to turn a sub-par title into an enjoyable game. But this year is Sonic the Hedgehog's 20th birthday, and SEGA has something extra planned in celebration; they're taking the Sonic franchise back to its basics. Sort of.
With Sonic Generations, SEGA may have managed to do what no other developer on earth has been able to figure out; make a game that appeals to a fan base with a 20-year age difference between the youngest and oldest players. And if they manage to pull it off, expect to a slew of similarly themed games coming out next year.
Over the last several years, fans of the Sonic franchise have been treated to a decidedly different, and unmistakably skinnier, Sonic. The recent titles have concentrated heavily on immersive 3D experiences, and, while the game retained the same aggressive speed, it lost most of the quirky charm of the original platformer. Older players were turned off by the new direction, and younger players had no real connection to the character, so playing a sub-standard game was unappealing. But Sonic Generations may have managed to bridge this gap with a clever combination of 2D and 3D gameplay. The "Generations" title seems particularly fitting, don't you think?
Here's how it works: players are given the choice between 2D side-scrolling gameplay (read: Chubby Sonic), and 3D gameplay (read: Skinny Sonic). Levels are playable in both modes, but each has unique paths and challenges depending on your choice. The 2D mode looks and feels like a classic Sonic the Hedgehog title, except the textures and graphics have been brought into the 21st century. SEGA has also scaled back all of the superfluous attacks and tricks of the recent games for the 2D/Chubby Sonic. Players must instead rely on the tried-and-true spin-dash and classic power-ups.
However, the gameplay of 3D/Skinny Sonic is more reminiscent of Sonic Colors and Sonic Unleashed—but hopefully with fewer werehogs. The controls for Skinny Sonic are much tighter than the last couple of titles, but the gameplay is often unmistakably sloppy (a common criticism of the 3D Sonic series). It's as if Sonic just bought an expensive pair of shoes but forgot to tie them. Skinny Sonic also has the unique ability to switch between third-person and 2D camera modes.
Both versions share a new feature that promises to add an interesting element to the rapid gameplay. Sonic now has the ability to move across 2D planes like a caffeinated version of LittleBigPlanet. Obviously, players will need a new level of dexterity to defeat the evil Dr. Robotnik.
The storyline in Generations seems a bit convenient. I mean, I can't really complain; after all, I'm playing a game about a blue hedgehog that can run at super-sonic speeds. But it seems unnecessary to add a time-travel plotline to explain the platformer motif. Apparently, Sonic's friends have been sucked into some "time holes" and Sonic must heroically travel back in time to save them. This plotline provides the fuel for the 2D/3D combination and allows Sonic Generations to explore the depths of Sonic's 20-year history. For example, players will be transported back to the iconic Green Hill Zone, which is drawn from the Genesis era, while other maps will be drawn from the Dreamcast era and more recent titles.
Now, I'm not yet willing to say if this game is going to revitalize the franchise, but I'm happy to see that SEGA is actually putting the necessary legwork into making a legitimate Sonic title. They've made every effort to create a 2D side-scroller that rings true to the Chubby Sonic lovers (down to the charming retro soundtrack), and they've added new dimensions to the 3D gameplay for the fans of the Skinny Sonic titles. Either way, it's worth checking out.
"It's for the old fans, it's for the new fans," said SEGA's community manager. "It's kind of for every Sonic fan. And if you're not a fan of Sonic, this is why you should be." Hopefully he's right. But then again, he does gets paid to talk like that.
CCC Contributing Writer