Sonic Generations Review (3DS)
For those people who love the original Mega Drive Sonic games but haven’t enjoyed the direction of the modern titles, Sonic Generations will leave you only half satisfied. There’s something for every Sonic fan in this game, but enough variation to not be truly satisfying for any one group. Generations divides the game’s stages up between classic Sonic, who controls like in the Mega Drive games, and modern Sonic, who has different physics, a lock-on attack, boosts (rather than spin dashes) and grinds rails.
Sonic Generations for the 3DS is a purely 2D gameplay Sonic experience, in the same vein as the classic Sonic games or the Sonic Rush series on the DS. In fact, if you’ve played any of the Rush games you will know what to expect from the modern portion of the game. It’s worth noting that the 3DS version of Generations is not a direct port of the console version. The portable version has different levels and does not feature the 3D gameplay of modern Sonic. This is purely a side scrolling adventure.
Sonic games with little to no story are the best ones and thankfully this one doesn’t throw the story in your face after each level. The 3DS version of Generations has even less emphasis on the story than the console versions, which is a definite plus. The premise is that some beast is ripping a hole in space time and Sonic and his pals are sucked into a world with locations from Sonic’s past. Not only is modern-style Sonic in this world, but classic Sonic (who controls and plays differently) is also in this world. The two Sonics are tasked with beating the levels from their past to restore colour and order to the world and stop the beast from ripping apart the space-time continuum. So, the story is pretty much just there to set up why there are two different Sonics.
Each stage is divided into two acts. The first act is played by classic Sonic. These levels do not have any of the new features of modern Sonic levels, so that means no rail grinding or boosting. Act 2 is played by modern Sonic, and that’s where the game plays remarkably similar to the Rush-style of levels. You’ll have boosting instead of Sonic’s spin dash, physics will work differently and you’ll be able to lock-on to enemies. Each location also has a special stage which is probably the most enjoyable special stage since Sonic 2, even if it is a little easy. In these levels the emerald you need to catch is racing down a tube in front of you. You need to collect coloured balls to allow you to boost through the tube and catch up to the emerald, all the while avoiding obstacles. It plays similarly to the similar level in Sonic 2, but with rings replaced with coloured balls and a lot of boosting.
The game’s levels themselves are well designed with the possible exception of too many game-ending pit falls in the modern stages. This is made worse by the chopping and changing between the two Sonics. Each Sonic controls slightly differently, making jumping between platforms dangling over abysses difficult because you often forget which set of physics you’re playing with. Also, on many occasions I’ve gone to press the boost button as I’m gliding through the air only to realise I’m playing as classic Sonic. The console versions of the games don’t have this problem because modern Sonic plays completely differently because of the 3D gameplay.
The idea of mixing two different Sonics into the same game is made almost inexcusably worse when modern Sonic teaches his lock-on attack move to classic Sonic, thus eliminating the entire appeal of classic Sonic. A classic Sonic game should not have a lock-on attack. It breaks the established flow of the game and makes it immediately feels like a modern Sonic game. When the two Sonics start to control the same it also further confuses the player who has to make sense of what character he’s playing as when he makes a crucial platform jump, as the physics remain unchanged.
As a big fan of the original Sonic games of yesteryear I really enjoyed the classic levels up until the point the lock-on attack was introduced. But still, the developers got the look of the game right. The levels look fantastic. It looks just like what I’d imagine a Sonic 2 remake would look like. The first time you boot into classic Sonic’s Green Hill Zone and see the well-known level remade with new graphics and background popping 3D you’ll probably start to wish the whole game was a classic remake.
The 3D effect works well in this game. It may not be necessary for the gameplay, but it does make the levels come alive. It feels like you’re actually looking in on a little diorama of the stage. In the modern levels the camera still stays mostly side on, but it sometimes changes angles when Sonic goes around loops or when he is being chased. So the modern levels certainly do show off more of the 3D effect.
While the game suffers a bit of an identity crisis as far as the different styles go, the game does tick the box for making use of the 3DS’s features. Sonic Generations is one of the few third-party games that has online play, StreetPass features and uses the 3DS’s play coins. Players can race against others online in a mode similar to the multiplayer from Sonic 2. One of the single player stages is selected and two players race against each other to reach the end first. The mode is a fun inclusion to prolong the game’s length and also can be played in local play.
StreetPass swaps profile cards with people you meet. Each player sets up a card with details like what their favourite Sonic game is, how long they’ve been a fan, their in-game progress and such which are then swapped when you meet people. You can even collect cards from people you play against online. Play coins are also being used in the game and are a way of unlocking the 100 levels in mission mode. The missions vary between things like beating certain times on stages to defeating a number of enemies in a certain time. Missions are also unlocked for accomplishing certain feats in the game. There’s enough in mission mode to keep you busy for quite some time after you’re finished with the main game.
The game also has time trial modes complete with online leaderboards, which is certainly welcome. You’ll be able to set times for the stages and then upload your scores to see how you fair against the rest of the world. Strangely though there isn’t an option to view the times of friends. It only displays your relative position to others online and the top five times in the world, which seems like a missed opportunity.
Sonic Generations sounds like the perfect Sonic game in principle: Mega Drive Sonic fans can enjoy the classic Sonic segments while Rush fans enjoy the modern Sonic levels. But in reality neither group really fully gets what they want. I can’t help but think Sonic would have been better served by either a full 3DS Rush-style game, or a classic remake, or both. The inclusion of a lock-on attack for classic Sonic also furthers to muddy the waters of what this game is. That’s not to say there’s not fun to be had in this game though. The graphics, music and 3D effect are all top notch, and the levels and modes are varied enough to keep you entertained after the main game ends. However the game never quite satisfies the same way a full Rush or classic game would.