How Sonic Makes Me Sick

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. I didn’t get any motion sickness before the video, but maybe I have to be playing it.
    I agree about 60fps though- fast games need all 60fps, just look at Wipeout.
    One more question- is there a chance of this coming out on Vita? I’d love to have a game like this in my pocket.

    • Here’s hoping that the Vita gets something tho I think Sonic 4 would suit the Vita much better.

  2. Comparing the two videos though, I honestly can’t see much of a difference between them in regards to camera zoom. I don’t get any motion sickness from the video’s either oddly, but it is definitely there when you play it. I wonder if it is too overwhelming on a large screen.

  3. Glad they are pushing back towards the Sonic style that so many loved but also happy they are keeping the new style also. You would be surprised but many kids love the new sonic style. Ive struggled for over a year to get my cousin of Sonic Adventure 2 and try out the originals but he is just not interested.

  4. Welcome to my world. Fp games make give me nausea. Such a shame as I can t play the amazing Outland or mirrors edge.

    I’lll have to give this a miss I guess sad face/tear

  5. I absolutely loved the demo and played it a stupid amount of times. It does need to be at 60fps. That would make things so much better. The spindash is also insanely overpowered.

    Can’t say that I noticed any differences between the PS3 and 360 versions at all. They play identically to me. The camera zooms in and out at the same spots from what I can tell.

    I want more. GIMMME.

  6. It does seem from those videos that the PS3 zooms more, which is very odd! Also, no motion sickness for me, seems strange how this affects some people but not other, wonder why that is?

  7. Up until I read about the demo I thought you might be my clone. I’ll get the demo at some point but I’m not looking forward to feeling motion sick. It is probably because of the screen size. I remember Stacking making me feel really sick unless I sat very far away from the TV.

  8. I must admit, I can’t really focus on anything to be honest. I thought that yesterday when I watched the vid. How comes back in the day, it looks great on the Sega megadrive, but now it looks worse?

  9. So I’m not alone on this!
    I’ve never ever felt this way playing any game. Then I played the demo once and felt weird. I think it’s the mix of speed and colour.
    Anyway, didn’t felt like playing a second time :/

  10. I tried it first in 3D which could’ve been good if it wasn’t for some pretty awful framerates, then in 2D which seemed to run alot smoother. Never suffered any motion sickness though.

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