Let’s start with the facts. Sonic Generations is Sega’s celebration-cum-video game for the titular Blue Blur’s 20th Anniversary. With nine levels from the past 20 years remade in both a classic and a modern flavor, Generations pulls out every stop to try and make fans old and new comfortable.
It would be reasonable to doubt Sonic Team were still capable of anything like this. After the franchise hit rock bottom with the 2006’s disastrous Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors offered glimpses at how Sonic games could redeem themselves in this day and age. However, still plagued with some fundamental problems/bottomless pits that have persisted since Sonic Heroes, it was tough to put any faith in Sega for this latest offering.
Good lord did they pull a fast one on everyone.
The most overlooked and probably the greatest achievement of Sonic Generations is the true realisation of the modern Sonic mechanics first used in Sonic Unleashed. Finally fixing all the major problems with level design is one thing, and something greatly appreciated, but doing that while creating pixel perfect homages to some of the most memorable Sonic stages of all time is an astounding feat.
In true modern fashion, Sonic literally blasts his way through zones modelled somewhat like racetracks. Traversing grind rails, sidestepping obstacles, and using homing attacks to cross gaps and find alternate paths is all present and accounted for. A mixture of experimentation and timing rewards players with a thrilling roller coaster ride on every level that makes replay, and ultimately speed-runs, a joy.
The classic Sonic gameplay is nothing to be snorted at either – with a Sonic 2 move-set of Run, Jump, Roll, and Spin Dash, the all-important feel of the original Sonic games make a welcome return in a series of levels that captures the style of the older titles.
Arguably the most difficult aspect of the project was translating the post-Sonic Adventure zones into something playable for retro Sonic, yet still paying suitable homage to their originators. In that respect the levels are certainly recognisable, however more time has clearly been put into making them enjoyable, and they certainly are. Going into Inception territory, some of the more modern levels have homages inside their homages, with underwater tunnels in Seaside Hill coming from Sonic 3’s Hydrocity Zone, and Roof Top Run’s vertical platforming section taking its cues from Labyrinth Zone in Sonic 1.
A lot of care and attention has been put into capturing key aspects of the remade levels, from camera angles and set pieces, to three-way loops in Seaside Hill and an Eggrobo chasing animals in Sky Sanctuary. When you face Shadow in a rival battle, a quick cut-scene beforehand recreates shot for shot the opening movie from Sonic Adventure 2.
Even with the fantastic gameplay, great level design, and gorgeous graphics, Sega still managed to find time to squeeze in a phenomenal soundtrack. Appropriately remixing all the famous themes for Classic and Modern Sonic, comprising of 16-bit drum beats for the former and wailing guitars on the latter, there’s as much anticipation to hear the new music as there is to see each level.
They didn’t stop there either, allowing you to unlock at least one piece of original music from every major Sonic title to play in game, as well as having a selection of random remixes in the missions ranging from Sonic R to somewhat obscure GBA fighter Sonic Battle.
Against seemingly all odds, Sonic Generations delivers on all of its promises. Formulating a perfectly balanced dose of nostalgia and reverence for classic Sonic and then blending it with a respect and understanding for the modern incarnation that doesn’t disrespect its fans. I might even go as far as saying it’s the ultimate reward for the hardcore/foolish Sonic fan who stood by the Fastest Thing Alive through every high and low over the past 20 years. Like me.