Alright, Mario, you’ve had your fun rescuing the fair princess for over 25 years now. But there’s someone else in the video gaming universe who’s hit his twentieth, and he’s really enjoying himself. He’s the fastest thing alive-Sonic the Hedgehog. June 23, 2011 marked the twentieth year in a row that the speedster flew by TV sets. And of course, a grand celebration was in order. Sure, there was a huge line of action figures, plushies, and comics released, but where would the hedgehog be without a video game to mark the milestone? Fans had to wait another 6 months before that came along. And it did-with a name called Sonic Generations. This game proved to me that the Sonic series is better than what everyone may think.
Generations (for short) was a game created so that players of the series could celebrate Sonic’s twentieth anniversary, as well as revive the series. Many fans of the series felt that it fell flat on its face after the “abomination” known as Sonic 06, since it ripped away all the hedgehog was known for-speed, gameplay, saddest of all, the fun. All over, fans thought the blue blur would never see video gaming fame again. Luckily, Generations stunned players to the point where they wanted more Sonic than ever. But what does that mean in terms of the game? Put it this way: take each one of Sonic’s shining moments, even in cluding the duller ones, practically reinvent them for the HD Xbox 360, and jam pack them and more memories of Sonic’s past into a near perfect game.
The story opens with Classic Sonic. He’s the Sonic of the past. He stubbier and doesn’t talk at all, but makes a great protagonist since he still manages to be a hero. While running along in Green Hill Zone (perhaps the most well known levels in Sonic history), Classic Sonic is soon interrupted by the Time Eater, the villain. He is swept up by the Time Eater and the screen fades to white. The game then “jumps forward twenty years” to Modern Sonic’s birthday. His friends (such as Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose) decide to surprise him with a party, but they all wind up surprised when Time Eater appears and kidnaps them. Later, Modern Sonic wakes up in a “weird white limbo” (as Tails calls it), and after saving some of his friends and meeting “himself”, the Sonics realize they are traveling through time and space, reliving Modern Sonic’s memories and restoring color to the white world. The faster he and Classic Sonic accelerate, the more they bring back, thus saving the world and returning to Sonic’s birthday.
Game play wise, the way one plays combines elements from Sonic’s past and present. Both Sonic’s play as two different characters. Older fans will recognize Classic Sonic’s levels and moves. They take on a 2D perspective, and spin dashes, spinning legs when you hit top speed, and revolving signposts at the end of the path are common in these acts (as they are called). Controls for Classic Sonic feel smooth and flow nicely. Modern Sonic acts will be recognized by younger fans. Though these are considered harder by the manual, they recycle his elements from Colors and Unleashed, such as Homing Attacks, camera swinging from 2D to 3D, drifting, sliding, wall jumps, and the Sonic Boost This means Modern levels contain hardcore speed. This however, makes Modern Sonic controls feel stiff. Sharp turns can be hard to make and you might fall off an edge trying to stop. His levels are still very enjoyable to play though.
With such entertaining game play, there comes replay value-tons of it. Before squaring off against a boss, three keys need to be collected to unlock the boss gate by completing three challenge acts. There are a total of 90 additional bonus/challenge stages (including the previous three), with ten for each stage and five for each hedgehog. They range from racing duplicates to defeating some enemies in a given time limit. It’s an overused concept, but feels original in Generations. By completing them, you can also unlock music tracks from previous Sonic games, beautifully remastered so that they provide pleasure to the ear. Speaking of music and sound, each level has wonderful background remixes, and no one will be disappointed to hear the ring and one-up sound effects. There all also plenty of hidden paths to follow if the player can find them, as well as a skill shop where you can purchase upgrades like shields and even the ability to turn into Super Sonic.
Graphics are also a huge plus in this game. Since the game is on the 360, the graphics are in glorious HD. Take the first level, Green Hill; even exceeding speeds of 1000 mph, the small flowers in the background and tufts of dirt kicked up by Sonic just pop and are still easy to see. In Rooftop Run, a later stage, it’s raining confetti as you zoom through the city. Character models are also cool to look at. Each Sonic looks like his own character. The designers did a great job revisiting Classic Sonic’s style and not making him a clone of Modern. Classic is chubbier, is a bit paler in fur color, and has black irises. Modern is taller, leaner, and has the rather-spoken-about-green eyes. So even if players don’t like to take their time, at least they have something to look at while blazing through the game.
Sadly, the game isn’t perfect in every category. Since Generations is an entire reference to Sonic’s past, some new coming Sonic fans will be confused by nods to the past games, like the time Sonic makes note of two older games (Secret Rings and Colors) in a single line. Voice acting could be better too. (A rather controversial subject in the series) Roger Craig Smith is a great Sonic (to a degree), and Mike Pollock has to be the best person to make Doctor Eggman sound goofy yet intelligent. But take Amy or Shadow; their voice actors just stress their lines to the point where they sound exaggerated and unnatural. Amy is supposed to be crazy for Sonic, but she just sounds too crazy to the point where she’s a pain, and Shadow sounds too dark and mysterious, almost like he’s whispering, and that’s not what he’s supposed to be. With all that said however, any new Sonic fans can play and enjoy this game (since it plays like any other Sonic game), but it might be a bit confusing at first.
With all that said, it’s time for my final score. I give Sonic Generations a nine out of ten. Overall, it is a huge improvement over Sonic games of old, and allows for a great, big Sonic experience. But there were some things (like the voice acting and references) that made me bump down the score just a bit. It’s a near perfect game that I think any returning Sonic fan (or new fan) can enjoy for perhaps another twenty years to come. So Mario, look who’s blowing out the candles this time! Happy twentieth, and you’re doing great, Sonic! I mean, Sonics.
Hunter Fine, Age 13, Grade 8, Mark Twain I.S. 239 for the Gifted and Talented, Silver Key