Sonic Generations Xbox 360 Review
Sonic Generations marks the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, since the first game was released in 1991 on the Sega Genesis. The milestone makes me feel old since I vividly remember the 10th and 15th anniversary of Sonic which were commemorated by the release of Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic 2006 respectively. To commemorate this Sega decided to revisit the classic 2D gameplay of the original games while still maintaining the graphic quality of modern systems. In the game you'll alternate from playing classic Sonic with 2D gameplay and modern Sonic with 3D levels that curiously often also feature 2D segments throughout 18 stages and 10 boss fights. The 2D Sonic levels are a delight, but the 3D levels feel less engrossing and aren't nearly as fun. The game's short length makes it hard to justify the purchase price, unless you're a particularly diehard Sonic fan.
The game's story awkwardly tries to explain the different gameplay types by introducing time travel into the plot. The game opens with modern Sonic's menagerie, of friends, sidekicks, companions and associates throwing him a birthday party. Then a time vortex appears a sucks all the party goers in. Modern Sonic decides to enter the vortex to save them and is transported to a void space with portals to classic Sonic levels. In the void space he meets classic Sonic, and they team up to restore order to the universe and set things right. After beating both the 2D and 3D versions of each level you'll save one of Sonic's friends and a cut scene will play out. Sometimes they can be pretty humorous if you save the modern friends with classic Sonic. For some reason classic Sonic is mute, so the task of moving the narrative forward and explaining the incoherent plot falls to modern Tails and the nearly identical looking classic Tails. I find it odd that now like the comics and old DIC TV show Sonic is now obsessed with chili dogs, and he consumes many of them during the game. I like the camera work during the cut scenes, but the stark white backgrounds, and the incessant ramblings of the two Tails are pretty boring. Ultimately the story isn't that good, but it does serve the purpose of giving a reason to revisit classic Sonic levels.
In order to advance in the game you'll have to beat every stage twice, once as classic Sonic with 2D gameplay and once as modern Sonic with 3D gameplay. Personally I'd prefer it if you could just select to play only the 2D or the 3D levels at the start of the game, much like how you could select to play only as the good or evil team in Sonic Adventure 2, alas that is not the case here. The 2D stages play like classic Sonic, you jump and bounce into enemies in order to attack them, spin dash up hills, get launched up spring pads, and smash TV screens for rings. The 2D levels are well designed and move along fluidly, rarely will you have to slow down. In the 3D stages you'll use the homing attack to hit enemies, run thru speed pads, grind rails, drop kick, light speed ring dash and various other gimmick moves during the levels. The 3D aren't nearly as good as the 2D ones. don't fare as well. they are not as well designed and are often very glitchy. It's difficult quickly run thru the 3D levels since there are often obstacles like small or narrow platforms, side turns above chasms, or obnoxious tedious puzzles that force you to stop in your tracks and slow down. I really hate the 2D sections of the 3D levels, modern Sonic just doesn't handle as well. My main problem with the 3D stages are how glitchy and finicky Sonic's attacks are. Rouge HOMING attacks get me killed all the time, it's too easy to fall when grinding, when switching rails and trying to light speed dash thru rings will always get you killed. Sonic freedom of movement while running has also deceased. Before it was easy to move left or right while running at top speed. Now you can only really tilt Sonic left or right, and he'll slowly inch his way in that direction. Although it's only really noticeable in boss fights it's still makes dodging attacks and colleting rings unnecessarily difficult. They screwed up the homing attack, before Sonic would attack the nearest enemy or object, now he'll only hone in if a green targeting reticule appears over the enemy's head, otherwise he'll just dash a bit forward. After you beat a level as both Sonics you'll unlock bonus missions where you'll play thru a smaller section of the level with a different objective. like collect more rings, race a copy of yourself thru the level or find and collect a certain number of objects in the level. I find racing the doppelganger Sonic annoying but otherwise the side missions are fairly entertaining. The levels are broken up into three eras, I'll refer to them as Genesis, Dreamcast, and current. Each era has two boss fights, one against a rival like Shadow or Silver and a main boss like Robotnik. Boss fights in the game are generally pretty bad, they are either way easy, or too frustrating due to glitches. All of the 3D Sonic fights have broken mechanics, and are very poorly designed. Every time you beat a stage you'll earn rings that can spend in the void's shop to buy upgrades for either sonic, which make the game easier, for example making Sonic run faster or giving you extra lives. You can also unlock the full game of Sonic the hedgehog 1 in the shop. The void is a 2D plane that acts as a hub area for the levels. Entering the main levels is simple as they're all directly on the ground, and you can switch between Sonics at any time. Starting side missions however is much more difficult as you'll have to maneuver around the voids decorations to "discover" them. Why can't I just pick a level and then choose a mission like in Sonic Adventure 2. The game is pretty short lasting only two to four hours the first time through.
The graphics in the game are certainly a high point. The game has very bright colors and amazing lighting. Texture work could use a little more detail, but I think that has more to do with the art style. The frame rate also seems solid. The game also has support for 3D televisions, but I don't have one myself, so I can't speak for how well it looks, but supposedly it looks pretty good in 3D.
The music in the game is mostly remixes of the music from the original Sonic stages like Green Hill Zone and City Escape. There's also remixes of popular songs from various Sonic games that play during the challenge missions like Super Sonic Racing from Sonic R. Roger Crag Smith does a pretty good job as Sonic, but I don't like the sound of Sonic's scream when he falls to his death.
I would say that $50 the original list price of the game is a little steep, given the shortcomings, in both its length the 3D levels, since you can beat the game in two to three hours, and you probably won't like half of it. At $20 or less however the game is much more reasonably priced, and I would recommend the game to casual and hardcore Sonic fans alike since this is the best Sonic game since 2004's Sonic Heroes. Sonic Generations is essentially two games in one. It's both a 2D and a 3D Sonic game at the same time. Unfortunately until you beat the game you can't only just play the 2D or 3D levels, and in order to advance to story you'll have to play both. The 2D levels are great, but not brilliant, and if that was the whole game I'd give it a 8/10. The 3D levels are bit underwhelming but the boss fights are atrocious, so I'd give the 3D half a 5/10. So as a whole I give Sonic Generations a 7/10, because the 2D levels are worth playing if you can trek thru the lackluster 3D ones.