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Review

Sonic Generations Review

Say-gah!

How many times have you heard it claimed that a Sonic game will be a “return to form”, or that it will be “the best Sonic yet”? By my count it’s pretty much every Sonic game since SEGA moved on from the Mega Drive (which is pretty much where things started to go wrong for the company as a whole). There have been the occasional gems, Sonic Rush was particularly good, and those have generally been the ones that stuck to what Sonic does best: 2D platforming.

Unfortunately that’s not what Sonic Generations does. Oh, there are certainly 2D platforming sections, and they excel, but as a whole the game swings violently between high points and low points with certain issues seeming consistent throughout.


Sideways on works best.
The stand out frustration of the game is the wait you have to endure for just about anything to happen. There are the obvious loading screens when you you start a level, which feel just a hair too long but don’t touch the length of ModNation Racers or WWE All Stars. You also have to wait for a load when you skip back to a checkpoint upon death or even when you change characters in the over-world.

Realistically, there shouldn’t be a need to load on a character switch, all it does is discourage you from toggling back and forth; something that should be a fun activity.

However, by far the worst wait is the one you have to endure on returning to the game’s over-world menu from a level. There’s no text on screen to indicate that you’re waiting, in fact it looks like you should be able to control Sonic. After a pause just long enough to make you believe that the game might have locked up on you, you finally get an indication that the game is actually saving. Of course, you can’t move until it’s finished saving, you’re just forced to watch a strangely immobilised Sonic until the save’s done.

The other consistent issue the game suffers from is its frame rate, although it doesn’t utterly ruin the experience. The problem is, for a Sonic game to feel as snappy and responsive as it should, you need a rock solid frame rate. There are certainly times where Generations is missing that. It doesn’t dip constantly, and there were levels where it didn’t seem to crop up at all. At other times though, the gameplay just completely freezes for a moment or two, a single frame sitting on the screen for half a second or more.

The gameplay resumes pretty comfortably after this but it’s enough to throw you off the game’s pace. It’s not going to have you throwing your controller at the screen, but in a game that’s all about momentum, these issues completely rob it of that.

Now, you’re probably wondering about this over-world that I’ve mentioned. Essentially this is its own 2D level, and isn’t just a simple way to move between zones. It’s not much more than that, but there is some platforming to be had here. It’s hardly the most challenging element of the game, but it’s a nice addition.

Beyond just being a fun extra, the platforming sections in the over-world contain the game’s challenges, which appear every time you complete a block of three zones. The challenges range from time trials to racing your doppelgänger to skill challenges, such as using modern Sonic’s boost feature for a whole level. If you wanted to complete all of these and S rank absolutely everything in the game you could probably add another five or more hours to the game, and as you complete the challenges you do unlock bonuses like artwork and music from other Sonic titles. However, all the challenges actually require of you is to complete at least one from each zone to gain a key for the boss gate which, you guessed it, lock away each of the game’s bosses.


The art style is really very attractive.
You see, unlike classic Sonic titles where the third act of each zone was host to a boss fight, they only feature in Generations after every group of three zones. Although you can do the zones and acts in any order, you have to beat both acts in all three zones before facing the boss, and you need to take out the boss before you’re allowed access to the next three zones. As the game only features nine zones, you’re only given three boss fights plus the game’s final boss.

It actually feels pretty underwhelming and, realistically, the game could feature a lot more.

The story probably clocks in at six to seven hours. Although, you’ll probably spend half an hour of that being frustrated by the game’s final boss which suffers from poor controls and a complete lack of explanation. In comparison to the pretty detailed hints you’re given for the rest of the game’s bosses, this feels out of place. Of course, the challenges do add something and give you some replayability but, unless you’re a completionist, there’s very little to reason to go back to them.

On the upside, the selection of zones is really nice, each one being drawn from a different game from the Sonic franchise. Unless you’ve played every Sonic game ever you won’t instantly recognise the source for all of them, but the credits feature a nice video showing the levels that inspired each zone. I say inspired, because these aren’t perfect remakes. There are certainly chunks that are almost identical to the originals, it’s particularly noticeable in Green Hill Zone, but largely it’s just aping the style and play mechanics. The biggest thing about the zones though, is that they pretty much all look absolutely gorgeous. Sonic isn’t the best looking game in terms of graphical power, but this is certainly one of the prettiest games to look at of this year.

Of course, even if Sonic Team had wanted to create pixel perfect recreations of the original games it would be pretty much impossible, due to the nature of the zones. Each zone features two acts, one using classic Sonic and one using modern Sonic. The only exception to this are the boss fights, which force a version of Sonic on you.

Each of the Sonics has his own abilities; classic Sonic is limited to just spin dash, whereas modern Sonic has a boost meter and a homing attack. The two acts are clearly drawing from the same inspiration but are different enough to take advantage of the different abilities of the two characters, as well as the different play styles associated with the different eras.

While it does make sense that each of the Sonics features his own abilities, it can become frustrating. Although modern Sonic is largely 3D platforming, he does have some 2D sections which look and play similarly to classic Sonic’s levels. This leads to you forgetting that you can’t use the homing attack when you’re classic Sonic, which ends in you missing enemies at best and falling to your death at worst.

The game's launch trailer shows it off nicely.
This pretty minor irritation isn’t the worst of it though, the 3D platforming sections as modern Sonic prove an intense and constant frustration. 3D platforming has never been a strong point of the Sonic series and Generations fairs no better. It’s fairly easy to fall off a cliff or island anyway but add in the homing attack’s ability to lose lock on the instant before you use it and the ease with which jumps can be misjudged in 3D and you’ll find yourself dying a worrying amount as modern Sonic. The game does warn you that modern Sonic’s acts are tougher than those belonging to classic Sonic, but I suspect the control failings aren’t intended to be the cause of that.

Aside from the default abilities of the two Sonics, the game features a skill shop that lets you customise your abilities. However, it’s so easy to earn points to buy these that it completely removes any challenge. They also have so little effect on the gameplay that they feel pretty much pointless.

If you’re wondering why the two Sonics have been thrown together like this, there is a pretty basic story involving time travel. It also gives you some explanation as to the presence of zones from so many different Sonic games, as well as the over-world. It’s by no means deep, well told or particularly interesting but it does at least explain what’s going on in some vague sense.

On the other hand, the Sonic series is hardly renowned for its gripping storylines, so it’s hard to say just how much of an issue it is. No, it’s not great but it’s probably about average for a Sonic title.

What is a real problem though is the voice acting. It’s generally abysmal; in fact it’s so bad that it actually feels like a relief that classic Sonic can’t talk (even though classic Tails can). Beyond the quality, there are points where it feels like it’s simply missing. A character will talk to Sonic and he’ll look like he’s probably going to say something in response; instead he just pauses before gesturing at the character.

The suspicion you’re left with is that the game was over budget towards the end and they simply couldn’t afford to get the voice actor back in; it sort of feels like an incomplete experience.

Pros:

  • The best Sonic game for a while.
  • A good mix of zones from previous Sonic titles.
  • Fantastic art style.
  • 2D platforming feels like Sonic of old.

Cons:

  • Terrible 3D platforming controls.
  • Awful voice acting.
  • Lacklustre story.
  • Frustrating frame rate issues.
  • Feels short.

This is probably the best Sonic title on a home console in quite some time, although it doesn’t have the toughest competition to go up against. However, that doesn’t mean, in and of itself, that it’s a good game. But the actual core ideas here are good, and the whole thing feels like a love letter to the Sonic franchise on its 20th Anniversary.

In particular, the 2D platforming sections are worthy of praise and show that, when Sonic Team are on their game, they can really get it right. The issue is that when they fail it seems to be pretty spectacularly bad. The balance of good and bad levels is pretty even, throwing you back and forth between loving and hating the game.

Score: 6/10

Game reviewed from the PS3 version.

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25 Comments
  1. KeRaSh
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    “The best Sonic game for a while.” 6/10 ^^
    Shame the 3D stages feel awkward. I’m really fon of the likes of Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 (if I remember them correctly…)

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:12.
    • halbpro
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Mar 2009

      Yup. Last one I really enjoyed was Sonic Rush, which was… jesus that was six years ago. I’m ancient clearly. It can’t have been that long.

      Man Sonic Rush was good. I wonder where my DS is.

      Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:42.
  2. Forrest_01
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I’m not sure why, but without even having played the game & only seeing the visuals (in screenshots & stuff), I guessed that the game might have been awarded a 6. Seems I was right (not that it’s the score that matters of course!)!! :O

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:14.
  3. Jen A
    Member
    Since: Jan 2011

    I’ve been playing the 360 version and haven’t found save times that annoying at all. Certainly didn’t make me feel as if the system has frozen.
    Load times are ever so slightly too long but I wouldn’t say ridiculously so.
    That sounds oddly confrontional and I don’t mean it that way :) Just wondering if there’s a difference between the two systems so thought I’d share my experiences!

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:16.
    • djhsecondnature
      Since: Forever

      There may well be, as the saving and loading I experience on my PS3 version was incredibly frustrating.

      Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:25.
      • AcidCrashX
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        agreed, the annoying save times on PS3 really get on your nerves after a while.

        Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:44.
    • halbpro
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Mar 2009

      “which feel just a hair too long” ;)

      Interesting to hear it’s better on the 360. I actually think part of it is a lag when it’s checking to see if you’ve unlocked a trophy. I’ve noticed trophy lag in Uncharted as well (the only other PS3 title I’ve played).

      Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:49.
      • Jen A
        Member
        Since: Jan 2011

        You said the load times were a hair too long, not the saving times! :p They sounded way more irritating than that :S
        You’re probably right about trophy lag. That often annoys me with other games.

        Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:53.
      • halbpro
        Team TSA: Writer
        Since: Mar 2009

        I know but you commented on load times as well. I wasn’t sure if you were arguing or agreeing! Stupid internet.

        Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 16:12.
      • Jen A
        Member
        Since: Jan 2011

        Stupid internet indeed! :)

        Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 16:18.
    • sparkyscrum
      Member
      Since: May 2011

      The PS3 version is a poor copy of the Xbox one. I’ve got the game on both consoles and I have to say trying to play it on the PS3 is a nightmare. Loading times and saving points take easily twice the time of the Xbox version. The controls of the PS3 are just as bad with a clear lag compared to the Xbox version.

      The game itself is a good fun game but it’s not quite as good as it could have been. The later bosses are simply hard because you are so unsure of how to actually complete it, the final boss is a nightmare as you can’t tell what’s what.

      Shame as its a fun game once you start getting used to the new levels. Hopefully Sega will build on this game for the next Sonic game. With Sonic CD and Sonic 4: Episode II out in the next year, the next console game should be an improvement on this.

      Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 19:13.
  4. Hitoriya
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    ” By my count it’s pretty much every Sonic game since SEGA moved on from the Mega Drive (which is pretty much where things started to go wrong for the company as a whole). ”

    Interesting view but I just think you could be missing out on a few gems, really I know Sonic games have been B.A.D. but some of the 3-D games have been great. I’m so sickened by this complete ignoration of the Dreamcast gems even Sonic Heroes was considered decent to me, fun game…. but failure? it just seems so short-sighted from many western critics to believe the next latest 3_D Sonic game is going to be a disaster.

    I agree with the review but its always sooo negetive regarding to gameplay. Argh voice acting is idiotic,and I though Colours was great… LAZY SEGA

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:35.
    • halbpro
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Mar 2009

      I wasn’t actually talking about the games really, there certainly were some good things on the Saturn and Dreamcast, but I meant more it’s when things started to slip for the company and where they began to lose ground to Nintendo (and ultimately Sony).

      I disliked Heroes (just couldn’t click), but as I mention I thought Sonic Rush was good. For me 3D Sonic just doesn’t work well, the speed that’s the cornerstone of the franchise doesn’t fit well with 3D platforming in my opinion.

      Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:41.
  5. Klart
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    Was expecting this after playing the demo & reading previews. Too bad. I quite enjoyed Sonic 4 Ep 1. Let’s hope Ep. 2 appears some day.

    Looking forward to Sonic CD on the PSN.

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 15:37.
  6. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    That is a shame. Sonic is no MGS when it comes to story telling, in fact i think the first sonic game’s plot consist of evil doctor kidnaps animal and turns them into killing machines in the name of SCIENCE.

    Judging from the trailers, i knew it would be lucky to score an above average. :)
    Excellent review Kris and Kris did a review?! :O First Adam now Kris. *dons tin foil hat*

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 16:30.
    • moshi
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      What a weird comparison.u

      Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 17:00.
    • halbpro
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Mar 2009

      Oi, bloody cheek. I did a review last weekend as well! I think I have something else soon maybe.

      Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 17:41.
  7. Sitorimon
    Member
    Since: Jul 2011

    Well I have to say I’m really enjoying it. I’ll agree its going to come up short but as of yet I’ve had no frame rate dramas, the story is minimal and so doesn’t really impact on the game much and while I agree the 2D levels are better, the 3D ones require a a different approach all together. It’s a bit like bit.trip where you memorise exactly what you do as you go along. I can see the game becoming very Mirrors Edge where people get a kick out of speedruns.

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 18:37.
  8. sshaunss
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    6/10 really ah well I’m really enjoying it the saving and loading times do annoy but it isn’t really that bad I’ve played alot more games that are shorter than this and take alot longer to load.

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 18:56.
  9. flatspikes
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    Playing this on PC and it thankfully lacks the loading issues (playing from he HDD). So far I’d give it a 7 and would highly recommend it to 80’s born folk who grew up with the little fella.

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 19:39.
  10. Origami Killer
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    Was expecting more, demo was sure a lot of fun :)

    Comment posted on 07/11/2011 at 19:48.

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