It has been 20 years since SEGA’s mascot first graced the Mega Drive in Sonic the Hedgehog. Since then, it has not been all good news, but finally, after some reimagining, the series is back to win your heart and controller. You begin the game in the guise of the modern (sleek) version of Sonic and your birthday in the park is interrupted by a strange alien mass that draws all of your friends into a vortex. If that isn’t bad enough, the votex also captures your younger (stockier) self. It’s up to you (as both modern and classic Sonic) to beat each level and free your friends.
All of the usual supporting characters are here for you to rescue and Dr Eggman makes an appearance as an added enemy to eliminate. Visually is where this game gets everything right. The backdrops are a work of art and the Green Hill Zone has been re-mastered and updated to get the most out of the next gen consoles. As you spin through hollow tree branches and glide through underground tunnels being while chased by gargantuan robotic piranhas, you have to appreciate the amount of design work that went into this game.
Each version of Sonic has its advantages and disadvantages. As new Sonic, you can spin and run at headache inducing speeds without even having to think, you can auto lock on enemies and destroy them with a simple double button touch and you can cruise through the level with so much ease that at times it feels a little too simple. On the other hand, as vintage Sonic, you take a very long time to speed up and the absence of auto lock provides the challenging part of getting through each level. Once you work out the rhythm of both characters, you start to get the hang of how to steer and control each Sonic to get through the fastest way possible.
New and classic enemies appear throughout each level. You encounter warped robotic versions of animals that you have to set free along the way as well as boss fights. This is an element that has been taken back a fair bit. There are only three zones to play (each twice) and four bosses throughout the whole game. Considering that Generations attempts to encapsulate 20 years of Sonic, this is a little surprising.
You can also complete various optional challenges in each zone. While some can be taxing, they provide many more hours beyond the story and as a reward you unlock the Chaos Emeralds and Rival Battle stages, which are mini boss contests against Sonic’s various clones Metal Sonic, Silver and Shadow. Some of the levels see you team up with an AI controlled co-op partner, and these require you to perform awkward combos that often result in a drowning or squashing, which can grow tiresome. Fortunately, the rewards after you finish a stage (extra goodies like artwork, music and concept art) are incredibly satisfying and there are so many of them to collect.
As well as tackling the main story, you can play in a 30 second race against any of the levels you unlock and also compete to see who can finish each level the fastest on an online leader board.
The soundtrack is quite an achievement. The classic tracks have been given a complete overhaul with familiar tunes now in surround sound. When playing as new Sonic there is actually a vocal track playing in the background which helps add a fresh and up to date feel to the character.
It feels great to say that after several misfires the team at Sega has finally produced a game that is worthy of the Sonic The Hedgehog title. With not a werehog in sight, Generations offers everything that made the original Sonic a winner by combining dizzying speed, beautiful art design and a new and updated music soundtrack that will draw you back in time and time again.