I know that there’s a good number of you who will have seen the words “Sonic Generations” and groaned. We all remember that demo, just how bad of an impression it made and, if you’re like me, you’ll recall a faint feeling of motion sickness.
Sure, Sonic Team had clearly tried to bring things back to the “good old days” of Sonic but it seemed that yet again Sonic fans like me were going to be left disappointed and turning back to the 16-bit era for a dose of their favourite hedgehog.
Yes, the demo was broken, we all know that. However, looking back at it in comparison to what I played it seems clear that Sonic Team were forced to get something out in time for the 20th Anniversary celebrations that Sega had planned; never mind the fact that it might well tarnish the game when it actually came to be released.
The version of the game I saw, which I was told was still not close to the final code, contained four levels, two in Green Hill Zone and two in a stylized version of San Francisco. In each of these zones one level was for Classic Sonic, and the other was for his modern incarnation. Back at E3 Alex saw the levels from Green Hill Zone so I won’t focus on them too much, I only want to say that they were brilliant and both interpretations of the level felt fantastic and true to the original.
As for the San Francisco styled zone (the name wasn’t on display) it’s quite simply brilliant. With Classic Sonic you’ll play through a variety of platforming sections set largely in construction zones. Jumping over and through scaffolding feels true to the series and fresh at the same time. It may be a new level, but everything in it still feels close to the Sonic of memory and you won’t be left scratching your head as to why it was included. It also features a few quick switches into a fully 3D view as a truck chases you down and you turn around corners to link up the platforming sections.
Modern Sonic’s level is a completely different kettle of fish, with it mostly being a downhill race against a different truck, this time armed with buzz-saws and looking faintly like a half transformed Optimus Prime; as if it got the weaponry out and then gave up on actually becoming a robot. This is certainly a section that reminded me more of recent Sonic titles, but it never felt bad or like it was thrown together.[drop2]Essentially, for a large chunk of the level, you’re sliding downhill on a skateboard/snowboard. I’d like to say a skateboard would make more sense for a pursuit on city streets but it didn’t seem to have any wheels. Anyway, as you begin it’s pretty standard stuff, going down hill and trying to collect rings, jumping through boosts, that sort of thing. The only mild frustration is that the camera is in a position behind Sonic that can make it tricky to see at times.
However, everything changes when the crazy truck decides to come for you. The camera switches to back facing position, so you can see Sonic with the truck bearing down on him, and it feels oddly cinematic. The problem is that it feels a little too cinematic, you don’t feel like you’re in any real danger of the truck actually catching you. It’s good the first time, but if you revisit it you might be left feeling a little underwhelmed.
Look, I love Sonic, I absolutely adore the franchise. It’s my second earliest gaming memory (after something that I can’t recall on the Spectrum). With the exception of Sonic Rush on the DS I’ve been left feeling disappointed by the series for quite some time now. From what I’ve played of Sonic Generations it looks like that may be over. My only hope is that Sega don’t throw us a last minute curveball, throwing in a Werehog or having sections where you need to go and pick up missions from people on the street. That’s not what I want from Sonic, that’s not what anyone wants. If they take the type of levels they have now and tie them together with an interesting story that informs us of how the two Sonics crossed paths, I will be more than happy with Generations. I’ve just got to wonder if that’s what we’ll get.
Come back later today to see our interview with Lynne from the Sonic Generations stand at EGX.