How Sonic Makes Me Sick

Say-blurgh.

Sonic the Hedgehog is 20 today. That means it’s twenty years since the release of what I still consider to be the best platform game ever made.

I was 10 years old when Sonic was released and I loved that game so much. It was the game I bought my Mega Drive for, after first playing it for hours on my cousin’s machine. It was the only game I owned for more than a month and I completed it countless times. I could finish the first Green Hill Zone in 24 seconds. My first ever polyphonic ringtone was the theme music from that level. I still refuse to refer to Dr Robotnik by any other name. I once punched one of my friends on his stupid little nose because he wouldn’t concede that Sonic was better than Mario. And I’d do it again.

[drop2]I consider everything since those first three games (I’ll lump the Sonic and Knuckles cart in with Sonic 3 as it was basically an expansion) a downhill journey for Sega’s flagship franchise.

The influx of weak supporting characters and the horrible fiction and attitude foisted on our animal rights activist hero were egregious. I hated Sonic’s voice and his attitude. He went from being a loveable hero into a cocky teenager who had no likeable qualities.

When Sega announced that the downloadable, episodic Sonic the Hedgehog 4 would be a return to his roots, I was overjoyed. I thought I was finally getting my friend back. And to an extent, I did. Sonic 4 was a move away from the fluff, filler and hideous tacked-on character that had infected Sonic games for almost 15 years. It wasn’t perfect, there was that silly homing attack thing and much of the sense of speed in acceleration was lost so it felt a little too weighty. But it was a definite move in the right direction.

Sonic Generations was announced with a teaser showing the old Sonic character design alongside the new. My heart leapt. Was this another big step back towards my beloved Sonic of yore? Today’s demo on the PSN and XBLM couldn’t download quick enough for me. I loaded it up, delighted by the inclusion of the first few bars of that famous Green Hill Zone music, and immediately started to feel sick.

The design is wonderful, Green Hill looks exactly as it should, albeit a lot more detailed than it was 20 years ago. Sonic accelerates and moves with the speed I remember. He even taps his foot if you leave him standing for too long. This is Sonic the Hedgehog, reborn. I should love it. And I would, if I could play it.

[drop]I’ve never suffered from motion sickness in any game I’ve ever played before but I think that’s what happened with Sonic Generations. On the PS3 demo, the screen zooms out slightly as you speed up but your view of Sonic himself is generally tighter than it was 20 years ago. The Xbox 360 demo, oddly, doesn’t seem to zoom in and out quite as much but it still suffers from some sickness-inducing motion effects.

The demo runs at 30 frames per second and it is very noticeable that you’re not getting the smoothness that 60fps would allow. The background, as it zips by, becomes very busy, blurred and distracting. Sonic has always been about speed but not at the expense of actually being able to see what’s going on. I adore the fact that the first half of the level is a pretty close representation of the original but I wish I wasn’t penalised for speed by not being able to see what’s going on. 60fps would help that immensely but so would a slightly more distant viewpoint and some consideration for how the background animates.

Sonic Generations looks like it has the potential to be everything I want in a Sonic game. It looks like they have finally realised what it was that made that early-90s trilogy so magical and they’re putting it all in the one place. I can forgive, and even enjoy, some of the camera tricks that are being employed to add depth to the game’s 2D viewpoint. I only hope that they can get on top of the disorienting, sickness-inducing motion before the game’s final release. I want to love Sonic again.

Isaac has very helpfully captured the demo footage from both consoles so you can make your own comparisons:

28 Comments

  1. Yup, I felt disorientated.

    The Sun and/or Star will have a field day writing headlines for this one

    I really want to try the 3D out, but I had to turn the game off to give my eyes a rest.

    I have only ever felt weird playing a game once before and that was MW2 when I played the multiplayer for a day solid when I hadn’t really played an FPS before.
    But I found this Sonic a headf*ck, shame as its awesome apart from that, the game I’ve been waiting about 15 years for.

    • Blue Rat Makes Our Kids Vom.

      You’re welcome.

  2. Just finished playing through this, the first run through was tough but I adjusted I think and the 4th and 5th were grand.

  3. Can’t really tell from the vids posted, will have to give this a go when I get back home. Will be disappointed if the final game turns out to be this disorientating all the way through – was really forward to generations and really hoping that they were about to turn the series around again…

  4. I never got to grips with sonic the first time around. It always felt to me that you couldn’t make quick progression unless you knew the levels off by heart. There was no reacting to what I saw coming, only reacting to what I knew was coming.

    • That’s the way I feel about it too. I can’t really see the difference between this and the old games when it comes to reacting to stuff while running at full speed.

      • I completely agree. As a younger gamer, I wasn’t around for the original release, and that’s probs why I’ve never really been into the Sonic games.

        also, the second paragraph was brilliant! :D

      • I never had a Sega console, always had nintendos until the PS1 so my platformer of choice was always Mario.

        I got Sonic 1 & 2 free with PS+ but don’t think I’ve gotten further than the 2nd world in either of them!

  5. Man I can just imagine showing this to my 8 year old self. It’s great to hear the old sounds again. Looks beautiful. It’s a shame about the disorienting nature of it. Hopefully they can make it better with a patch or something.

  6. Im kinda surprised, because I didn’t feel motion sic at all with the PS3 version. I’m also surprised that no-one even seems to love SA1 and SA2. Theres something in those games that I enjoy a lot ;3

  7. I dont find it that disorientating, but then I like the sense of being completely and utterly out of control but I can see how others dont like it

  8. Didnt make me sick but the backgrounds are way too busy.

  9. I know exactly what you mean. When I first started moving on the demo I felt really motion sick, which was bizarre as I have never had that before from a game. I adjusted to it pretty quickly, by the time I had finished my first playthrough it wasn’t bothering me any more. It would be quite unpleasant if it lasted though, so I can see it being a big problem if they don’t address it.

    On a positive note though, it really did feel like the original Sonic games. The multi-layering of the levels meant you could take your time a bit more and explore several different routes, which has been lacking from recent games where you essentially follow one path really quickly. I would have liked to have tried a ‘Modern Sonic’ level as well though, to really get a feel for the game.

  10. What’s up with the massive lag before Sonic jumps, too?

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