Sonic Generations (PS3)
In the world of gaming there are a few key franchises which everyone who wants to call themselves a gamer must have played at some point. Mario is one, Zelda as well... Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy are also right up there as is Sonic. This reviewer can remember playing Sonic way back on the Megadrive (Genesis) and Game Gear and since then we have seen the games develop from their original side scrolling roots to mind warping 3D environments. Along the way the platform based games have, for the most part, been playable with particular highlights being games such Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast and Gamecube as well as Sonic Advance.
Basing a game on a well-known franchise isn't always a guarantee of success though, just look at Sonic Genesis on Gameboy, a title released to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Sonic, which was critically panned on release.
So what do Sega have in store for the 20th Anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog? Sonic Generations is the answer and today we take a look at the PS3 version hoping that Sega learned from the 15th anniversary title and have created something worthy of the original game.
The first thing which is clear from the outset of Generations is that this is a title which very much tries to please long term fans of the franchise. The menu music for example harks back to the original theme on the Genesis/Megadrive and the nods to the past come thick and fast after that.
Setting the scene for the game we first get to see an intro to the Generations title which shows us that the big bad of this game is a creature capable of jumping through time and space. It manages to capture many well-known characters from the series such as Knuckles and Tails; it is our task to try and save them.
To save the characters we must work through levels which are reimagined versions of content from previous games, our first area for example is an area reminiscent of the opening levels in the original Sonic game. The twist however is there are two ways to play through each, classic and 3D. In classic mode we see the game from the side, occasionally moving out into 3D for effect, and in 3D the gameplay style is closer to the modern games with a view from behind the character.
Both modes must be completed to pass the level which seems a basic and simple premise but from there the game gets much larger and more complex. After we complete the third zone for example the first Boss level becomes available however to access this we must go back through the initial 3 areas completing new challenges, such as racing our double through the level, to unlock Boss keys. Gather all the keys, fight the boss and the next batch of levels are unlocked.
In many ways Generations is a game which will appeal to completists as each act is ranked, we must aim for A, and with these ranks come points. Gain enough points and we get upgrades such as the ability to retain 10 rings when hit. Trophies are available for completing stages and this process unlocks art and music too which we can view in-game then things get a little more interesting with the ability to unlock then purchase (with points) the Megadrive/Genesis version of Sonic.
All of the key Sonic aspects are present in the gameplay too, collecting Chaos Emeralds, spin attacks... you name it. The basic controls are also familiar too with the D-pad used for movement, X to jump, square to spin and circle to slide.
Graphics and Audio
When first starting Sonic Generations it takes a little while to adjust to the graphical style as modern systems allow a lot more detail than the minimalist style which very much benefited the original platformers back in the late 80s and early 90s. Once we have become accustomed to the bright, vibrant and packed levels the game looks impressive though, especially when the side scrolling acts spin out to 3D during fast paced sections. That said there are some issues with framerates, especially when large Havok based physics explosions are taking place. Water and smoke effects look nice though.
Audio in Generations is decent, for example there is a bit of voice acting which serves its purpose. The classic Sonic sounds are all here and a nice remix of the theme is present too. There isn't anything out of the ordinary though, Generations is very much a visual rather than aural experience.
For Team Sonic the concept of being able to delve back into previous games and build the latest title from them must have been a fun experience and thankfully they deliver a great experience for long term fans of the franchise.
Those who have played since the early 90s will be immediately familiar with the classic level styles and the reappearance of key characters is nice. Unlockables will also send us on a trip down memory lane but it is often the little touches which are most appealing. As an example classic Sonic never talks, occasionally uses hand gestures to communicate whereas modern Sonic is voiced.
When playing the game initially comes across as surprisingly simple with basic gameplay only set apart from other platformers by the ability to play in side or 3D mode. Once we complete the first three levels though the game (1.5hrs in) very much takes off and there are countless hours of challenges and levels to take on. Level design is also spot on, always intuitive and fun throughout with graphics that look great , in both modes. The classic full of bright vibrant colours and the modern a complete thrill-ride as the familiar environments fly past.
The instant pick up and play style of gameplay will appeal to many but for those who don't like to complete the same areas several times there may be an issue with repeating areas to gain the boss keys after our initial play though has been completed. A decent amount of variation is involved though, multiple paths, racing, collecting, beating the clock and so on.
Repeated content isn't the only issue Generations has though. We had the game crash on us, though this will no doubt be patched if required, and the framerates as noted earlier can occasionally dip. Homing attack sometimes makes the wrong choice too, sending us falling to our death but on the whole instances of these are few and far between. Boss battles are a little simplistic too, and the mini-bosses (fought for Chaos emeralds) are rarely an interesting challenge but these are minor quibbles.
Key to making a Sonic title that works though is the speed and on that front Sonic Team have delivered. The classic mode is fast as we spin through loops, tubes and the like. Modern Sonic with his streamlined physique is a speed demon and those levels we are incredibly destructive, blasting through environments as fast as Sonic has ever been, taking on everything in our path.
In the end both styles of gameplay complement each other making a game which is a must buy for Sonic fans and overall one of the best games in the franchise. 85%