Note: I re-reviewed this game in 2019. Please disregard this original review.
Why did I play this game again? Why did I go through the obnoxious challenges a second time in order to get a meaningless 100% that some may say is incomplete as I did not get four Steam achievements? Why did I buy a game I did not necessarily like a second time? Well, the answer there is that it was part of a Sonic Pack on the Humble Store, which was discounted 50% or 75%. But yes, I am reviewing it again as my library has been drying up a bit, and by chance I glanced at my Sonic Generations review from back when and was not happy with what I saw. So… let’s do it to it!
Sonic Generations Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Sonic Team and Devil’s Details
Being a title that exists more for the sake of celebrating a… troubled twenty year history that makes very little sense no matter how I look at it, there is little to expect from the story. It likely could have been composed in a weekend and recorded the weekend after that, as it is very easy to forget that there is much of a plot. But the gist of it is that a generic evil thingamabob wants to destroy time, and they disassembled it to have nine levels from nine different games all be in the same place. Side characters are incredibly disposable, and the only noteworthy aspects come from Dr. Robotnik and Eggman interacting twice.
Still, if you look at any of the characters and expect a deep story, you should likely rethink that. Instead, the title has to be held up by gameplay, which is split between modes where you play as the Classic Genesis-era Sonic, and the modern Sonic who I regretfully have an absurd amount of nostalgia for. The Classic gameplay is rather simple speed focus 2D platforming. You have the ability to gradually gain speed, quickly gain it upon stopping, and moving through the levels is very much enjoyable, with new paths and shortcuts allowing for a good amount of replayability, while offering some reward as you do not need to bother with a slower paced platforming section.
Still, there are only nine levels, as I previously mentioned, so the levels have a certain degree of quality I feel they should live up to. While I have good things to say about the first levels, near the end the quality dipped in my eyes, with the Planet Wisp stage being rather aggravating as it shoehorns in a mechanic that the player never needs to get anything more than a loose grip on it to succeed in the challenges, as I got 100% in the game as far as I am concerned.
That naturally meant I spent a lot of time as the Modern incarnation of the character, whose controls and core gameplay have still not been quite fine tuned even after this game’s release and… it really shows. With what the title is going for, it should be a very fast reflex based 2D and 3D platformer where the player feels as if they have complete control over their actions and know how the game will respond to them, without question. The latter half of that sounds as if it should be the rule of thumb for games where the player controls a character, but if that is the case, Sonic Generations… It doesn’t fail, but it comes far too close for comfort.
I genuinely could not keep track of the number of times where I hoped the game would work properly during these stages, and was met with Sonic falling into a pit, not landing on a rail, be screwed over my a mistimed boost a of speed, a mechanic that feels awkward unless you use it “properly”. In fact, that is a rather good manner to summarize the Modern gameplay. The Class gameplay does rewards playing through a stage, memorizing it, experimenting with new route, that sort of thing. Yet the modern one has so many opportunities where it feels uncomfortable and unrefined, as if the game is incomplete. The shame is that I doubt that little beyond a gameplay overhaul or extremely careful craftsmanship could prevent this. Every time the game decides to put Sonic in 3D space in a 2D plane, where the boost can unknowingly send players to lose a life, where it is beneficial to defy the title’s clear focus on speed and simply walk through a section. All of these are rather glaring and hard to ignore… But when the game properly works, yes, it can be very much an enjoyable experience. The problem is that it doesn’t most of the time
Though I would be lying if I said playing through the stages was half of what my 16 hours were spent doing, not even close. Instead, to pad out the title in order to justify its retail price, the game houses quite a lot of extras and challenges. The most prominent and in my mind, most devious was the Red Rings hidden about the nine, technically eighteen, stages. They are generally distracting and often require a guide in order to house any decent chance of finding them, or in my case, the ability to memorize the hell I had to go through the first time in order to find most of them myself, as hunting for them is far from fun.
However, upon completing a set of three stages, the player gains access to a series of thirty challenges, fifteen for each Sonic, and they range between fairly interesting to some of the most laughably bad gameplay sections I have ever seen. From bouncing back music notes by memorizing their spawn points, to using a character to seduce robots in order to defeat them, using terrible swinging mechanics to cross a stage, and digging for treasure in a gameplay mode very clearly about speed, I have no idea who through half of these ideas were very quality. Even those that are rather simple, such as collecting 100 Rings, are often hit hard by the grimey rust coated frying pan representing the opposite of polish. They are often frustrating and require many a restart… but they are mostly easy to complete, and you can thankfully play a good variety of unlockable music for playing them. Shame getting it and the concept art can be a pain based on how the hub world is laid out.
I recall swearing that I would never go through these obnoxious sections again, but after plowing through them once more, I was rather surprised by how easily I went through them. Certainly frustrated and not having much of a good time, but I weirdly was captivated by the challenge and felt a sense of relief upon completing them, though that could be represented by completing anything in the game, as getting S ranks will always feel good unless there is a SSS rank, in which case you basically failed. Or in simpler terms, the fact you are regularly rewarded made the wallowing through what may as well have been a sea of dreck not all that bad… that and I love the soundtrack.
I also do love the game’s visual style. Quite simply, the primary color filled palate, richness of the environments, and orchestration of the levels in regards to its set pieces all leave the game looking delightful. I will admit that the choices of levels did seem to restrict the palate a bit in regards to its diversity, but I will only say that the Crisis City stage looks bad, but that is more due to how I reached the revelation that I think that level simply has some of the laziest art direction I have ever seen. So good on the developers for choosing to remake that stage in this beautiful game above all others.
The fact I played Sonic Generations twice is slightly less shocking than the fact I cleared it once, said it was a form of obnoxious hell, and played through it again a year later, partially to justify my decision to purchase every Sonic game on Steam. While I will not deny there being quite a few great moments in the game, going so far as to say it can be amazing when it properly works, the game is incredibly lopsided in its quality, and unsurprisingly liked to crashabout once an hour on top of that. I would be lying to myself if I said the game was not fun despite being as rough as it is, but I would be lying if I did not also claim it to be obnoxious about as often.
By no means something that must be played, but not entirely worth pushing aside forever. The title is ultimately above average and keeps the good balanced with the bad by a noticeable enough margin to still be worth picking up.