Friday, November 11, 2011

Sonic Generations (PS3, 360) Review

We end our platforming/Sonic-themed week right. At SuperPhillip Central we have been leading up to this moment for a long time with multiple videos, trailers, and screenshots of the next game to be reviewed in the jam-packed month of November. The following game is a return to form for a down on his luck hero in Sonic the Hedgehog. It is none other than Sonic Generations for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

A Super Sonic Blast From the Past

Poor Sonic has had it rough this past decade. Sure, he still has a sizable community of fans that support him, but critics speculate that the best days of the blue blur are behind him. Last year's Sonic Colors on Wii gave the hedgehog a much needed shot in the arm in quality, and the game sold well to boot. Now to celebrate his 20th anniversary as SEGA's mascot, Sonic Team has come out with Sonic Generations, a love letter to fans of the azure hedgehog who have stayed with him since his Genesis days. Should you RSVP to his birthday party?

Sonic Generations begins with a surprise birthday party featuring all of Sonic's friends, from his best bud Tails to Cream the Rabbit to Charmy the Bee. There is even a scrumptious cake that may or may not cover the bitter taste of his 2006 15th anniversary reboot! After Sonic wolfs down part of a chili dog, a disturbance occurs. The skies turn black as night, and a specter of some sort bursts out of a portal, kidnapping Sonic's friends. This cosmic disturber thrusts Sonic into a world of pure white where time seems to stand still. It is here he meets his Genesis era counterpart, Classic Sonic. By completing acts the zones of the game have their color restored to them, and one of Sonic's many friends is brought back to the living. The story utilizes a lot of self-deprecating humor, oftentimes poking fun at the bizarre plots of previous games. The humor is definitely there, but not all players will find something to love about the plot.

Generations is split up between nine zones of two acts each. There is the Genesis era, Dreamcast era, and Modern era. Each era is divided up between three zones each which might put off some players wanting to explore fully three-dimensional worlds of Sonic's superior Genesis days. The zone choices are essentially pretty good, but some make a person scratch their heads in bewilderment. Did there truly need to be four zones that take place in a city environment? Regardless, game progression consists of completing the first three zones of a given era, completing challenges to earn a trio of boss keys, facing off against that era's big boss battle, and then moving onto the next era of zones. Acts can be played in any order, but the player is forced to control Classic Sonic in Act One and Modern Sonic in Act Two.

While Modern Sonic mostly plays in the 3D plain...

There are ninety challenges in total to sift through-- ten per zone-- five for Classic Sonic and five for Modern Sonic. These range from doppelganger races where a translucent version of Sonic controlled by the computer races against the player to see who can reach the finish line first, one ring challenges where the player only is allowed one ring to finish a given level, character-specific challenges where a character lends their help to Sonic to complete a level, levels where all enemies move and shoot at twice their normal speed, and many more variants. Not only does beating challenges eventually award the player with boss keys (three open the door to that era's encounter), but they also give collectibles in the form of concept art, official art, remixed and original music from past Sonic games. Everything from Sonic Adventure to Knuckles Chaotix to Sonic Advance to Sonic 3D Blast is represented either through art or through music.

...Classic Sonic moves in the 2D and 2 1/2D.

There are approximately seven boss battles to take part in. For each era there are two battles, one rival battle and one enemy encounter. Rival battles have Sonic running along Stardust Speedway fending off the attacks of Metal Sonic, jetting through space knocking meteors and asteroids at Shadow the Hedgehog, or performing a homing attack or three on cars Silver the Hedgehog raises with his telekinetic powers. The other style of boss battle has Sonic avoiding being flattened like a pancake by the attacks of the Death Egg bot from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, speeding along the tides of the flooded streets of Station Square against Sonic Adventure's final boss in Perfect Chaos, or taking out Eggman's Egg Dragoon from Sonic Unleashed. Each boss gives the player one of seven Chaos Emeralds. Perhaps something pleasant happens when all seven are collected...

As stated previously Act One of Generations' zones are controlled by Classic Sonic exclusively. While his acts are a combination of 2D and 2 1/2D gameplay, Modern Sonic's Act Two levels are a mixture of pure 3D with a sprinkle of 2D action. Whereas Classic Sonic can spin dash at any given moment, Modern Sonic does not have this ability. However, he does have a unique stable of moves such as the homing attack, boost (as long as there is some fuel in the boost gauge), light dash, stomp, and wall jump maneuver. Players can purchase skills to equip to either brand of hedgehog to enhance their performance. Some skills automatically restore boost power over time while others give Sonic more time to collect lost rings, give the heroic hedgehog an elemental shield a la Sonic 3 at the beginning of an act, or bestows Sonic with ten rings to work with at the start of a level. There are plenty of skills to buy, and players can mix and match them to their liking. The only rule is that skills take points to equip. Sonic only receives 100 points to experiment with, so he must equip a set of skills that is less or equal to that amount.

Acts in Sonic Generations are brilliantly designed. They are some of Sonic's best whether he's riding a skateboard downhill on city streets in City Escape, performing a homing attack to safely cross over a dangerous bottomless pit using the heads of enemies in Crisis City, or skimming atop the ocean waves of Seaside Hill. Levels have multiple paths-- some go into the background, some the foreground, some high, some low, etc-- and it takes some serious skill to reach the higher ones. Usually it is the higher paths that shave off the most seconds when attempting a speed run. Later levels are filled to the brim with bottomless pits, however, these are clearly marked with a red sign depicting a falling hedgehog. Past Sonic games (apart from Sonic Colors) neglected utilizing such signs which made every fall a hold-your-breath experience and hope you do not die.

I'm having flashbacks from 2001.

At the end of every act, players are rated based on their score. S is the best rank while D is the worst. Time, points, and rings collected all factor in to how high a rank the player will achieve. In order to reach an S rank, players must not perish at all during a given act. In later zones full of instant death traps, inconveniently placed foes, and ten minute tries this is easier said than done. Alongside going for high ranks, players can search high and low for red rings which return from Sonic Colors. There are five in each act, and they are hidden and placed in some truly precarious and devious locations. These are not just a goal for achievement/trophy hunters either. Collecting these gives the player even more art and music to gather. Unlocked music can be set to play in any act the player chooses, so if one loves that Super Sonic Racing remix or particularly likes Live and Learn, they can set it to, say, Chemical Plant Act Two.

The representative zone from Sonic Heroes is Seaside Hill.

For those who have never played a Sonic game, it works like this. Classic Sonic's goal is to make it to the ending signpost while Modern Sonic is to hightail it to the goal ring to finish the level. Rings are the duo of hedgehog's lifeblood. If any Sonic is hit without any rings in their possession, they lose a life and must start back at the beginning of the act or at the last reached checkpoint. Unlike past Sonic games, if the player has an exorbitant amount of rings when damaged, they will not lose all of them. They might keep twenty or so. This makes going through the game less of a challenge.

Get hit, lose a chunk of your collected rings.

Presentation-wise, Sonic Team spared no expense. The visuals are bright, colorful, and the zones are full of action whether it be in the background or foreground. There is a lot going on in the game at a given time. The PlayStation 3 version stalls out when the action gets too heated, but this does not happen all the time. Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 version runs at a steady 30 FPS though the colors in Green Hill tend to streak together at some parts. If you do not wish to stick with a console, the PC version is cheaper at thirty dollars, and as a bonus it runs at 60 FPS. The vast collection of music Sonic Generations contains is jaw-dropping to say the least. There is a wealth of remixed, remastered, and original tunes to listen to from nearly every previous Sonic game. The voice acting is pretty entertaining with Eggman stealing the show once again. Overall, almost everything is particularly impressive.

Modern Sonic shows off his grinding
prowess in Rooftop Run Act Two.

Sonic Generations is top shelf material. It might not mirror the feeling of playing the Genesis Sonic games to a "T", but it controls far better than Sonic the Hedgehog 4 which is saying something. The zone selection might be worse than desired, but the acts themselves are so wonderfully designed with numerous paths to explore that this problem is minute. The collection of red rings and the completion of challenges adds nearly twenty hours of content to be satisfied with. While not better than Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations shows that Modern Sonic has some fight left in him and exhibits that 3D gameplay with the speedy chili dog-chomping hedgehog can work. This greatest hits compendium of Sonic's greatest adventures is one to marvel at. Happy 20th birthday, blue blur!

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

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