Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Sonic Generations

So here I am taking a day off from my GAMEX writing to play a game. That game is Sonic Generations, the 20th anniversary celebration game for our dear hedgehog. Last year we had titles like Sonic 4 and Sonic Colours that I just so happened to score the same, a good 7.5 out of 10. Will Sonic Generation top its two elder brothers? Might it even go so far as to make it to the Sonic hall of fame? Read on to find out.

  • Sonic Generations
  • Developed by Sonic Team / Published by SEGA
  • Reviewed on PC / Available on PC/360/PS3
  • Extra Info: Stereoscopic 3D (PC/360/PS3)
  • PEGI: 7+ / ESRB: E10+
  • Reviewed by: Tobbii Karlsson

I'm not going to lie, even though I was a fan of later Sonic games like Sonic 4, Unleashed and most of Colours I was sceptical of Generations.I did not like the stage selection, I did not like the level design presented through the demos I played and when played on console I could not get used to the controls. So Generations did have to do a lot if it were to convert me and I'll admit, it does a hell of a job at it.

The game's story starts of with Classic Sonic running though Green Hill, as you finish the Act you get introduced to the first, horribly pre-recorded, story-sequence. Sonic is having a birthday in modern times and nine of his friends is throwing a surprise party. At the party a mystical creature called The Time Eater flies in and starts eating up time and space itself, Sonic's friends gets swallowed and Sonic wakes up in a colour-less landscape of which he bears a vague memory, and you move on to playing Green Hill with Modern Sonic. From here on you can choose freely which Sonic to control and the story progresses with a cutscene every other stage.

The story is well written with some fun clever dialogue, just like last year's Colours. However, just like Colours it has the problem of not informing you of what's going on often enough. What I mean is that you tend to forget about the story, not because of the game immersing you in the gameplay, although that happens as well, but because the cutscenes get so far inbetween that you just lose track of it. If you don't mind that and just want to race through stages, that's fine. But when the story actually is fun and interesting it's a shame that it's not presented frequent enough. This unfortunately is probably one of the reason that the story mode only lasts about three hour.

Green Hill was the first stage of any Sonic game back in 1991, it's rendered beautifully in 2011.
The voice acting has its ups and downs, these are the new Sonic voice actors that were introduced last year. Roger Craig Smith is perfect as Sonic and Kate Higgings has become my favourite Tails voice actress. The voices for Knuckles, Rouge and Shadow is quite alright as well. But the new Amy voice actress is not even close to either of the two before in terms of quality, and that's saying something seeing as the old voices weren't that good either. The Chaotix have a decent set of voices, Silver's new voice is somehow more annoying and Cream's voice is a good reason as to why she should never be in another game ever again.

But the biggest mistake in terms of voices is the incredible low use of Mike Pollock as Dr. Eggman, he's amazing as the character and was one of my major positive aspects of Sonic Colours, he's barely used here for story-reasons, good reasons mind you, but it's still a shame. The music in the game is mostly re-mixes and re-recordings of old Sonic music, so you pretty much know it's good from the get-go. The only shame here is the lack of a vocal main theme, the first time in over 13 years of Sonic console-gaming I think. It's not a big problem of course, but I was really hoping for Crush 40 to rock the ending-credits when it's celebrating our hero-hedgehog.

Perfect Chaos, the final boss of Sonic Adventure (1998) is the most fun boss in the game.
The visuals of Generations is once again provided by the gorgeous Hedgehog Engine. The light, textures and models blend perfectly and it's a joy for your eyes that should not be missed. But if we're talking art styles I do have issues with Generations. First of all, some stages look messy with too much going on, Classic Planet Wisp is a good example. I still don't like the grey-theme on Sky Sanctuary that was yellow-green in the original, it just looks sad to me. Other stages look amazing, like Speed Highway, City Escape or Crisis City. But an issue here is the weird mix of styles. Crisis City is a down-beat disaster ridden city with molten lava and fire, it looks amazing and gritty, like it did in Sonic 06, then a Sonic Heroes styled cannon from Seaside Hill pops in and looks like a misplaced asset due to the mixture of styles.

The controls on the PC version is far from perfect. The game expects you to play with a gamepad, I did not. I controlled it all with my keyboard, which would have worked fine if you could freely set your controls. But you can not, only certain buttons are allowed, so when I wanted to use Shift for drifting and Ctrl for boosting the game simply gave me the finger and wouldn't let me, same went for mouse-buttons. I finally managed to map the controls alright using the keypad for the face buttons and buttons close to WASD for the triggers and bumpers it wanted to use. And for some reason that would not let me use the drifting mechanism (Triggers) when I wanted to.

Traversing Crisis City from Sonic '06 in 2D was a lot of fun, apart from glitches at the end.
Moving on to gameplay, the important aspect of the game. It's largely unchanged from last years Colours, Modern Sonic have the same moves, apart from Colour Powers, and controls the same. Classic Sonic is a throw-back to Sonic 2's gameplay and controls, sidescrolling and spindashing galore. It all works fine, but could use a few minor tweaks. Modern Sonic I'd say is working perfect by this point, dashing, sliding, wall-jump or homing-attack, it all works and feels right. Classic Sonic however have this really bad case of slippery controls when landing, I realise this is a throw-back to the old controls, but it's slightly too much. On various occasions it's hard to stop on a platform if you jumped to it, you just slide off, often to your doom.

Another issue there falls within level design, Generations does it best to avoid the infamous pits of death, and it most often does it fine. But at certain times it give no warning in terms of signs or camera movement when there actually is a pit that might cause your death if you're not familiar, for people not minding trial and error, especially on later stages, this is fine, but it gets to a point of ridiculousness on certain stages like Crisis City or Planet Wisp. The game glitched out on me a few times as well, sticking the camera in the floor or my Sonic inside walls or just hitting me with invisible projectiles that killed me. In fact, the wall issue happened a lot on the second-to-last boss of the game when switching the 2D/3D perspective, killing me more often than it should.

Planet Wisp from Sonic Colours (2010) is probably the worst stage in the game, but the outside segments are gorgeous.
The boss fights in the game are divided into two categories, the three rival battles and the four boss zones. The rival battles are made up of three rivals of Sonic's past that you get to race and fight for Chaos Emeralds. All three are a lot of fun and differ enough from eachother to make it interesting. The boss zones don't fair as well unfortunatly, there's frankly only one really fun boss, and that was Perfect Chaos, which looks ridiculous by the way, but even that fight had issues with glitches where I would fall through certain platforms for no reason. The final battle is mostly boring, not very tough but certainly not too easy. It's just plain dull and generic in terms of gameplay. The second-to-last boss might actually be one of the worst boss fights on Sonic history if you ask me, it's unfair and not fun what-so-ever, it doesn't even respect the original boss fight it was based on. The only boss I have not mentioned is actually the first boss, it was decent, but not a lot of fun.

In terms of extra content, there is a lot. To finish the story mode itself you need to at least play 12 side-missions, all of which are different from eachother. Basically you roam the colourless world-map, which also is sidescrolling I may add, looking for challenge portals or rivals challenging you to a fight. To give a few examples of what you might do in these challenges; I raced on-foot against Tails in biplane, I charmed robots using Rouge The Bat so they would lose focus, I dug for treasure with Knuckles and I raced a "Ghost-Sonic" across an entire Act. Some challenges use the same level design as the regular act, some use their own. This challenge mode certainly give the game a lot of replay value and raise the three hours of story mode to I-don't-know-how-many hours of good fun. Not to mention trying to beat your high-scores, collecting red coins for unlockables or upgrading you Sonic's skills. There's A LOT to do in the game aside from the story mode, it's mostly there to introduce the stages for you.

Sonic Generations has issues with glitches and some stupid level-designs, like Planet Wisp, but in the end it's just so much fun that it barely matters. There's so much to do and there's so much fun to be had in terms of gameplay and story that you will not lose interest while playing. You're doing yourself a favour if you purchase your copy of the game, it's worth the wait. Stay tuned for the 3DS version as well, I'm going to try and get my hands on it.

Final Evaluation:
8/10 - Great Game

Tobbii Karlsson played Sonic Generations for a total of 3 hours during the single-player campaign.
Further 2 hours was spent on challenge mode. Tobbii beat the game once.

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