Sonic Generations (Nintendo 3DS) - Review by chris
Sonic has been no stranger to making plentiful appearances on Nintendo consoles over the last few years, with the fantastic Rush titles on the DS and the brilliant Colours on the Wii being examples of the blue hedgehog showing that he’s found a new home close to a former competitor and one which has shown off his strengths. It therefore bodes well that Sega’s good work with their mascot on the consoles will carry over to Nintendo’s new handheld, the 3DS, with Sonic Generations looking to honour the 25th anniversary of the character by adhering to the side scrolling, high speed platforming that put him on the map. Can this one finally to convince everyone that the Sonic Cycle has finally been broken?
The story for Sonic Generations is thin on the ground, exactly how it should be for a Sonic game these days. At the opening of play, you’ll find out that a time rift has caused previous endeavours as well as Classic Sonic and Tails to make an appearance in Modern Sonic’s world. Setting off together to find out the cause of the problem, it’s not long before you find out that Dr. Eggman has teamed up with his former self, Dr. Robotnik, and with the aid of a Time Eater, they’re trying to redo all of their previous mistakes and finally get one up on the Sonics. Some mentions of Chaos Emeralds and some light mocking of plotlines from previous titles, such as Unleashed and Colours, is the entire plot you’ll get here to drive you forward, thankfully leaving the gameplay to take centre stage.
Gameplay is exactly as it has been in many of the previous Sonic games: you’ll get a level consisting of two acts which need to be completed by running through them, jumping chasms, collecting rings and defeating Badniks all before you reach the goal but the main difference this time is that any boss stage is saved for a Boss Gate at the end of each distinct generation of Sonic levels, similarly with the special stages which are a level on their own and are a requisite for completing the game. And this is of course where the ‘Generations’ in the game’s title comes from. The 7 levels included in the game, as well as the 6 boss battles that accompany them, are all recreated from various generations of Sonic games for side scrolling platforming which works in most cases but not all. The first three are levels from the Megadrive/Genesis era, the next two from the Dreamcast era and the final two coming from the Rush and Colours games, with some of the Wisp powers from the latter appearing. It provides an eclectic mix of levels that show off how the games have evolved, or at least tried to. It’s the Dreamcast levels which truly suffer as they fail to recreate the magic of Emerald Coast or Radical Highway due to being limited to a side on perspective. Some over the shoulder sections are included but there’s no reason why the original Dreamcast levels couldn’t have been recreated for play here, given the 3DS’ capabilities.
With the two acts per level idea in place, you’re given the option in what order you want to play them but generally, the first act has you play as Classic Sonic, making use of your spin dash to get up to speed and your jumping skills to clear the enemies and levels. After this, you jump into Modern Sonic’s shoes for the second act, where you’ll be able to make use of newer actions such as the Boost feature, the homing attack and the slide to get under small gaps. There’s a clear distinction between how the two play from the beginning but for some inexplicable reason, Classic Sonic is given the homing attack later in the game blurring this distinction to minimal. It does make some of the later levels feel a bit too samey, with the Classic Sonic levels not quite meeting the standard of those for Modern Sonic, which is a world apart from how the early levels play as they’re much better suited to Classic Sonic then Modern, with some strange design choices and obstacles being included in the Modern Sonic levels that just frustrate more than anything.
The biggest hurdle that the game faces is, unfortunately, the extremely short runtime. Completion of all the levels and bosses will take little more than 2 hours, a day’s work for most gamers. Grading for the levels does add some extra incentive to replay the levels for those who love to get the best ranks possible but you’re not rewarded for getting the top S rank in them and so it’s unlikely you’ll come back for more. To offset this, though, the developers have included a Mission mode, where completion of the levels in the campaign, or by using any Play Coins you’ve gained from walking around with your 3DS in sleep mode, will unlock level specific missions, such as collect so many rings or complete a boss with only one ring. It throws up some interesting, and at times tricky, missions but again, you’re retreading very familiar territory and after a few of these, you’ll have had enough. Time Trial mode, with online leaderboards, and online races don’t do much for the longevity either. Yet saying all this, the playtime is very enjoyable. It’s just that there should be more here.
You’ve got the option to use either the d-pad or the circle pad for moving Sonic about but due to the d-pads placement, you’ll more often than not opt for the latter option which works well although can on very rare occasions be a little finicky for some of the platforming. The face buttons take up the rest of the expected actions, with A and B covering jumping and the homing attack depending on which you’d rather use and the Y button being used for boosting. It’ll feel very familiar to those that played any of the DS Sonic titles and even if you haven’t, it’s very quick to pick up and get into the swing of things.
Visually, the game looks great recreating classic levels in full 3D, albeit on a 2D plane. The classic levels are given a new lease of life that brings them up to modern standards yet keeping them colourful and bright, much as you’d expect with a Sonic game, although some of the charm that made them so fun to play through in the first place has definitely been lost in making them look this good.
With the more modern levels, it’s a case of what could have been. While they all look great, recreating their respective levels extremely well, with perhaps the expection of Water Palace from Rush, you’re left feeling throughout that the levels could easily have been recreated as they were originally made as the hardware is more than capable, a point further thrown at you during the credits which shows you stills of the original levels. The transition of some of the levels to a side scrolling plane hasn’t been entirely smooth, however, with the Dreamcast era levels suffering more than most in terms of their level design, which will frustrate more here than they did originally.
Character models are of an extremely high standard, though, with both Classic and Modern Sonic looking brilliant with supremely fluid animation throughout, matching the home console counterparts. Badniks classic Badniks have been recreated for a modern era and definitely look the part, more so than the modern enemies which lack some of the imagination and design that made the originals look simple yet great.
Music from the various Sonic games that the levels are taken from turn up here in a remixed form, with the Classic levels boding a classer relationship to the original music than the Modern ones, with some bearing the hallmarks of influence from Crush40 and the more electronic styles used in more recent titles. You’ll get a fleeting reminder of the true songs courtesy of the credits but even as the remixes they are, they’re still enough to invoke a sense of nostalgia. Voice work for the Modern characters is as cheesy as you’d expect but well delivered and sounds great coming out of the 3DS’ speakers.
As you'd expect, nothing.
The use of 3D for play is subtle and well implemented, giving a nice sense of depth to the stages, especially when you’re able to see the alternate routes. It’s not imperative to play the game with 3D on, as there isn’t any platforming that benefits from it, but it is a nice effect and worthwhile experiencing, even if only for some of the short runtime. StreetPass functions are included, allowing you to swap your profile card with those you pass on the street as well as any times you’ve set for levels in Time Trials.
For his first outing on the new handheld, Sonic Generations is far from being a terrible game but easily fails to reach the highs that the Rush titles brought before it. The short runtime hurts the game, especially when you consider that the other versions are getting new levels as downloadable content, but that doesn’t prevent it from being enjoyable from start to finish and reminding you how good Sonic games can be. As with many big series turning up on the 3DS in its debut year, this feels like a foundation being laid for better things to come but until that inevitability, this is worthy of a look in if you’ve tired of a certain plumber’s recent exploits.
Pro: Gameplay is solid, Classic levels capture what made Sonic so good, game looks an
Con: Rather short, some frustrating design choices, arguable level choices
Final score: 7.5
|Genre:||Action / Platformer|