GamesCom Preview

Sonic Generations hands-on preview

A blue streak speeds by, but which Sonic the Hedgehog is it? Both are too fast for the naked eye, but which one is your favourite?

For those not in the know, and after the last 5 years of Sonic games no one would blame you for ignoring the franchise as a whole, Sonic Generations is the 20th anniversary project which sees both "Classic" Sonic and "Modern" Sonic race through levels from the past two decades. The pudgy, black-eyed original and the sleek, green-eyed mouthy redesign team up after a new enemy arrives and starts to erase history.

What this means for players is that there will be a selection of levels from the three "main" eras – 16-bit, Dreamcast, and HD Era. At Gamescom, Sega were showing off the new Roof Top Run level, from Sonic Unleashed in the HD era. There is no Werehog in sight though, so you’re free to experience the level without cheesy jazz music.

Like all the levels in the game, Roof Top Run is not an exact copy of the original. The point of the Generations levels is to capture the "spirit" and "atmosphere" of their namesakes, and even for Roof Top Run they’ve managed to do this. As Modern Sonic you blast through and over the town before speeding up the clock tower that was the centre piece of the original, and then grinding a rail to the bottom. Unleashed gameplay elements such as side stepping and boosting into badnicks to take out other badnicks is present, and is accompanied by an updated medley of the Spagonia music.

In this level, Sonic is chasing after an "airship" (which looks suspiciously like Dr Eggman/Robotnik’s Flying Battery from Sonic & Knuckles) which is looming ever present in the background of each part of the stage. With Modern Sonic you need to shove an enemy into it to bring it down, but Classic Sonic takes a slightly different approach.

Before we talk about Classic Sonic, I want to clear something up. Other previews have been vague on what happens at the end of the Classic Sonic version, and some fan sites have suggested that you may see other old levels within levels due to this. This is simply untrue in Roof Top Run, which we’ll explain in due time.

Due to the amount of classic and even modern levels that Sonic Team has not been able to directly include in the game, recreating all these stages from scratch for each Sonic allows them to take inspiration from other sections. In City Escape and Roof Top Run, Classic Sonic sees the return of the floor springs from Sonic 2 (the ones where you run over them and they cause Sonic to spring up and do a barrel roll in the air), and a platforming section reminiscent of the boss in Labyrinth Zone of Sonic 1 awaits the Blue Blur as he makes his way up the Clock Tower.

Some Sonic fans may remember you had to do this with the Werehog in Unleashed, but let us assure you, it is nowhere near as frustrating or fiddly. Once at the top, the "airship" is in range, and you rev up a Spin Dash to go into it, only to exit it a moment or so later, the camera tracking Sonic from outside the airship as he zips around it from left to right, implying he’s damaging it as he goes. As he steps onto a platform at the base of the airship, he sprints towards the goal post in a set piece based on the bombing run in Sonic 3’s Angel Island Zone.

We had a chance to check out City Escape hands-on as well. The Modern Sonic version again had all the memorable parts from the classic Sonic Adventure 2 stage, such as snowboarding down the street, racing up steps and down hills, before being chased by a much more aggressive GUN Truck. This time with many buzzsaws. Classic Sonic gets a skateboard (very early 90s, although it’s probably a reference to Sonic Chaos) for certain sections and is chased throughout the level by the GUN truck as well.

Both feel and play great, with Modern Sonic’s sense of speed and racing-style antics, along with the slightly more methodical and platforming-based classic Sonic both adding up to make this a game any Sonic fan should keep an eye on.

Stay Tuned.