When I was 5, I was introduced to a whole new world, a world that shaped my future and became a large portion of the person that I am today. It was the day the Sega Megadrive found its way into our home along withcountless games that complimented childhood memories. For example, when I think of Sonic the Hedgehog, I remember it was the same week my brother and I joined the local boxing club. In fact, if I remember correctly, my tool of a brother pulled a sickie to duck the boxing and lie in bed, hogging the Sega all to himself. Before I get all teary about how simple the world looked back then and all that rubbish, I think I’d best soldier on. My brother? I strangled him half to death with the controller cables. But that’s another story for another time.
Unfortunately, everyone’s time at the top has to come to an end. For everyone’s favourite supersonic marsupial, however, it happened all too soon. The series inevitably lost its identity when Sega pulled the plug on its hardware business after the calamitous Dreamcast. Since then, Sega has been pimping out Sonic to every platform on earth like some sort of decrepit old hooker. Regardless, we’ve still been treated to some decent entries, but none that have been capable of ushering the series on or making the fans believe that the roots of the game truly belong in the past. Despite all their efforts, Sega have failed to release a Sonic game that has been as playable as their early nineties hit.
In a rapidly changing industry, each bum note can be heard as just another learning curve. In Sega’s case, it’s been a pretty long ass curve that’s brought its beloved franchise back to where it started. In the wake of Sonic’s 20th anniversary, fans of Sonic the Hedgehog can consider themselves satisfied as Sonic 4 brought back the side-scrolling 2D world that its ancestors thrived in. And now, with Sonic Generations, Sega’s very own Sonic Team attempt to recapture the magic that made the originals such memorable experiences.
Without being dubbed a mere regurgitation of a beloved classic, Sonic Team has strived to implement the classic gameplay that has served as the franchise’s biggest selling point. Although it still remains, (and quite playable at that) they’ve modernised the entire affair by blending gameplay from the 2D originals on the Megadrive with post-Sonic-Adventure 3D styles. Dodging the risk of becoming too complicated, Sonic Generations allows you to simply switch between old Sonic and new Sonic on the stage select screen and play the different acts in either 2D or 3D. Don’t become too attached to either one though, as one play through each for both the old and new Sonic is essential for progression.
Keeping on the same page as modern Sonic games, Generations includes a storyline to explain the series of events which Sonic and his friends no doubt find bizarre. Predictably though, emotional empathy is hard to share with a bunch of colourful cartoon critters, especially when the voice acting is this painfully cheesy. Regardless, with the introduction of an all-powerful shadowy menace claiming dominion over space and time, we have an explanation for Sonic and Tails running into their past selves… I guess.
After the pretty yet irrelevant intro had been shoved to the back seat, it was time to sample the gameplay. Hard though I tried, I couldn’t resist the alluring spell of nostalgia that the Green Hill Zone cast upon me. To have this iconic videogame stage so lovingly recreated with such colourful visual wonder was… overwhelming. From the offset, Generations found an advantageous ground with this reviewer as it relentlessly bombarded me with delightful nostalgia of the Megadrive generation, yet refreshed my senses with the modern twist found in the series later entries.
All my favourite Acts were here, and it was a sheer joy to play through them in high definition. Even after completing each act, it barely occurred to me that I was completing the challenges to rescue my friends that have seemingly succumb to Carbonite freezing at the hands of Jabba the Hutt. Of course, this wasn’t the case, as those particular elements belong in some other universe. In fact, the aforementioned shadowy menace is behind the freezing of your allies, but these details inevitably become distant memories as you hunger for another dose of high octane, high speed action.
Any doubt as to Sonic Team’s commitment to its past efforts were eradicated as not only Sonic’s finest moments have made it into this latest instalment, but also his flaws. Thankfully, not many of them hinder the experience too much with the exception of the cumbersome start/stop gameplay. This gradually becomes the norm as the initial charm wears off and you finally find yourself falling prey to deadly drops and awkwardly placed enemies that are unavoidable when first encountered. They can always be skimmed over in your second try, but it inexcusably breaks the flow of gameplay. Also, when whirring around at break-neck speeds, the gameplay changes at the drop of a hat into precise platforming that, while engaging in its own right, isn’t as fun as running flat out and adapting on the fly.
As mentioned before, the old Sonic locales have been treated to a complete HD facelift and are a true beauty to behold. Even though many players will find it hard to focus on the colourful blur assaulting their retinas, Sonic Team have implemented some nice perspectives to ensure the designers hard work is fully exposed. Even when playing in two-dimensions, Sonic will sometimes cross the boundaries dictated by his dimension to allow the players to feast their eyes on the visual candy. Couple this with original and rehashed theme tunes and it soon becomes obvious that Sonic Generations is indeed the killer package the fans have been waiting for.
As a whole, Sonic Generations is a roaring triumph that successfully breeds the old with the new. Even if the stages become too clockwork and chore-like, the fantastic boss fights break up the action and successfully vary the gameplay. And with plenty of mini challenges and copious amounts of collectables, fans of the series will be absolutely delighted while newcomers will get a fun lesson on why Sonic has become such an iconic figure in gaming.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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