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The year 2012 signals the end of life as we know it, according to the Mayans, but it also marks the twentieth anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog. To celebrate this momentous event Sega has released Sonic Generations, commemorating their mascot's two decades of history since he first took the video game world by storm. The spiky speedster isn't as popular as he was during his Megadrive hay day, when he rivalled Mario for the title of best video game character, but Sonic still commands a loyal fan base that eats up his games, comics and cartoons. The question is whether Generations ends up being a fitting tribute for the blue blur or another disappointing title (as has been the case with some of his recent releases.) Let's have a closer look and find out.
It's Sonic's birthday and the hog with an attitude is having a grand time partying it up with his numerous anthromorphic chums. All is going well until a shadowy entity dubbed "The Time Eater" crashes the party. The creature assaults Sonic and co sucking them into a time limbo known as White Space. Once there the modern day Sonic bumps into a younger version of himself. They decide to join forces and teach the Time Eater a lesson for disrupting their cake munching social event. Before all that however they need to rescue their pals who have been scattered throughout time (even the annoying Charmy the bee who no one likes.) Can the heroic duo save their friends, restore the time stream and return home in time to blow out their twenty candles? Only time will tell (no pun intended.)
A TALE OF TWO SONICS
Levels in Sonic Generations need to be cleared using both Sonics. Old school fans will jizz themselves with delight as controlling the young Sonic allows the player to experience game play that harkens back to the classic 16 bit days. What we get are 2D levels, with the benefit of modern day graphics, which have Sonic dashing to the end of a stage. As usual smashing badniks with a spin attack, and collecting more rings than Mr T and the Mandarin's collection combined, is the order of the day. The rings offer the player some protection as sustaining damage whilst in the possession of some will merely cause Sonic to drop his stash of circular bands. Watch out though as impacting an enemy whilst ring-less will result in the loss of a life. The game touts the 2D levels as being easy, due to the simplified controls, although I am not sure I agree. The jumping mechanics felt a little off resulting in some instances were I would overshoot a platform or not gain enough elevation to reach a floor mere feet above me.
Anyone who has played the current generation's Sonic games should feel right at home controlling the modern day Sonic. In the older Sonic's levels the vantage point switches to a third person view, which has the camera positioned right behind the blue critter. The older Sonic has many moves at his disposal which add a new dimension to his stages. Some of his maneuvers include bouncing off walls, baseball sliding under narrow passages, the always useful midair homing attack and short boosts of speed that allow Sonic to wreck destructible obstacles that get in his way. Many gamers feel that Sonic hasn't transitioned well to 3D platforming, but I have to say that I rather enjoyed the modern Sonic's acts. Since the release of Sonic Colours it seems like Sega's engine has addressed the camera issues that plagued earlier 3D Sonic games and I didn't come across any bugs which made some other 3D Sonics unplayable.
Sonic Generations is broken down into three sections which cover the triad of eras spanning Sonic's gaming library. Each area includes three levels based on classic Sonic games that are accessed by leaping through a time portal. As you would expect the first third of the adventure covers the Megadrive games, kicking off with the place were it all started - The Green Hill Zone. The opening area also has a level from Sonic 2 and the Sky Sanctuary set during the Sonic & Knuckles expansion cartridge. The second zone has levels from the Sonic Adventure games and Sonic Heroes which I remember enjoying on the Gamecube. Things conclude with a sector based on levels from the current generation's titles such as Colours, Unleashed and the reviled Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. I kinda wish they would have scrapped those later levels, as the titles in question are available on existing hardware, and given us more retro themed stages but whatever.
To clear an area and access the next part of the game players need to clear all the levels with both Sonics and acquire three keys. Earning keys requires that you complete one of the optional challenge missions, which involve anything from picking up a certain number of rings within a time limit to beating a ghostly Sonic doppelganger in a race. Some of the challenges can be fiendishly difficult to best, but as you have a broad selection to choose from game advancement shouldn't be impeded just because you get stuck on a particular trial. As with most Sonic games you also have to collect chaos emeralds which you gain as a reward for defeating the game's various bosses. All the guardian encounters are fun to play through and include the likes of Shadow, Metal Sonic and Sonic's rival the chubby moustached scientist Dr Eggman.
If, like myself, you are a Sonic fanboy I highly recommend Sonic Generations. It's easily the best Sonic game on the Playstation 3 and just as good as Sonic Colours on the Wii. You'll get a nostalgic kick out of revisiting the old games' levels which have been given a modern day twist. Visually the graphics are super slick and the animation suffers no slowdowns. If anything I would say that it all moves a little too fast as I often found myself running over ledges, to my death, even though the pitfalls are clearly signposted. Sound wise the game is an auditory treat offering a combination of good voice acting and remixes of fan favourite Sonic tunes. My only gripe with the game is that the story is fairly short. If you are content with rushing through to the end I would probably suggest renting the game or waiting for a price drop. If you are a completionist however there is plenty here to keep you entertained. Trumping the challenges and unlocking all the secret content will keep you occupied for a while. Sonic is now twenty years old and this game proves to be a great birthday gift to anyone who has supported him throughout that time.