Monday, February 10, 2020

Sonic Generations (PS3)

I would consider myself more of a casual fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, though when I was younger I was really into the character despite not being able to play many of the games, thanks to other media such as The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) via rental, as well as the Sonic X anime series (yes, the 4Kids dub), Archie comic and an official website that kept me up to speed on everything prior to the infamous Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (Sonic ‘06). Fast forward to 2011, the announcement of Sonic Generations seemed intriguing to me, primarily in its goal to celebrate 20 years of the franchise’s history. Though it came out that year, I wouldn’t get to actually play it until 2012 due to receiving it as a Christmas present, though I didn’t get to actually finish it after finding the final boss fight to be a horribly-designed mess. Eight years later and almost to the day, I replayed every level of the game for this review before finally taking another shot at the final boss and actually won, allowing me to finally see the ending. Overall, I find the game to be a good representation of the franchise, though not without some issues.

Classic Sonic is seen running through the terrain of Green Hill Zone, however he gets kidnapped by a mysterious, shadowy force. Meanwhile, a surprise party is held for Modern Sonic by his friends, during which the same mysterious force appears to kidnap his friends. Sonic then wakes up in a white void with representations of his past adventures, going through each of them to rescue his friends. There honestly isn’t a lot to the story, as it mainly serves as a thin plot stringing nine levels from across Sonic history together, though for what it is it gets the job done.

What the game lacks in story, however, it makes up for in gameplay. As stated previously, there are nine levels based on past Sonic titles, each with a version based on Classic Sonic design and another based on Modern Sonic design. Since three levels come from Classic games and the rest Modern games, it’s interesting to see how they redesigned certain stages to accommodate the other type of play, usually with very inventive and enjoyable results. That being said, a couple that stuck out to me were the ones based on Sonic ‘06 (Crisis City) and Sonic Colors (Planet Wisp), mainly for being a bit long and the former for being a bit more difficult than it needed to be. While not on the same level as Blinx 2, the game also has a tendency to hold your hand through Omochao, a robotic Chao who won’t stop spouting tutorial information, though thankfully the Options menu allows you to turn this feature off if you find it too intrusive.

Modern Sonic running through Chemical Plant Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

There’s also a handful of boss fights throughout the game, each of which is based on previous bosses from the series, as well as Rival Battles inspired by different fights against Sonic’s known rivals such as Metal Sonic (Sonic CD) or Silver the Hedgehog (Sonic ‘06). That said, when revisiting each fight for review, I found the Egg Dragoon battle to be about as annoying, if not more so, than I remembered and ended up giving up after several attempts, unsure as to how I managed to accomplish it the first time. Although I took eight years between attempts to finally defeat it, I found the final boss, known as the Time Eater, to be poorly designed then and I still find it poorly designed now; the layout of the stage is a visual nightmare that makes it very easy to miss Rings and I only found out before my last try that you have to hold down the buttons for the final attack even though it says to simply press them.

Metal Sonic (top) is one of several Rivals that can be fought in the game.

The points you earn during a stage can be spent on Skills, which can be equipped and have an effect on gameplay during the Modern versions of stages, though not during bosses. Such Skills include the ability to stop on a dime no matter how fast you’re going and the ability to start off with 10 Rings upon startup or respawn. Red Star Rings can be collected as well, with five in each level outside of bosses, though you have to recollect them if you die before reaching the next Checkpoint and without losing all your Lives. Each new Red Star Ring you collect in a level unlocks special bonus artwork than can be viewed in the hub world.

The graphics are a high point of the game, managing to hold up well after eight years. Great care is shown with recreating levels from previous entries, with Dreamcast levels given a great graphical upgrade and the Classic versions of Genesis levels lovingly translated into 3D while retaining the same feel as their original counterparts. Each level is also designed distinctly enough to stand out, allowing each one to have a memorable experience in its own way.

One thing that seems to be a constant between Sonic games is a great soundtrack, and this game is no exception. Aside from the battle music, each level features remixes of the music associated with each of the represented stages, with a different mix for Classic and Modern routes, a particular standout for me being the two mixes of the City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2) stage music. The voice acting, continuing with the current voice cast that was established in Sonic Colors and Sonic Free Riders, is also good, though most of the characters don’t get that much screen time. That said, Roger Craig Smith sounds in this game as though he’s getting more comfortable voicing Sonic, while Kate Higgins does a good job voicing both Modern and Classic Tails while making them distinct. Mike Pollock, notably the only holdover from the previous voice cast that was established with the 4Kids dub of Sonic X, gives a consistently great performance as Dr. Eggman, with a clear amount of fun put into his delivery.

Despite some hiccups, Sonic Generations holds up as an overall enjoyable Sonic game and a nice celebration of what was the franchise’s 20th anniversary. While it doesn’t have much in the way of plot, the well-designed levels and amazing soundtrack make up for this, along with some well-casted voice talent. This is an easy recommendation for new and existing Sonic the Hedgehog fans who either want to experience the selection of levels for the first time or relive many of those same moments from across the series.

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