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There’s probably a large amount of people that aren’t even aware that Sonic Generations came out a little over two weeks ago. Come to think of it, there’s probably a large amount of people out there who don’t care either. It was released in the same week as Uncharted 3 and a week before juggernauts such as Modern Warfare 3, Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim and Halo. Of all the games that people would prioritise, I doubt that a new Sonic game would have been one of them. With that being said, I do want to talk about Sonic Generations, mainly because the game is actually pretty damn good and also because of the above game releases that will be hogging all the lime light.
Now first things first, I’m not putting Sonic Generations in the same league as those games, I mean it’s a much better game than Skyrim for a start... had you going for a second there, didn’t I? Anyway, the Sonic franchise has not been treated with much care since his days of glory on the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis all those years ago. The best attempts at recreating the magic of the 2D games were always the handheld titles and for almost 15 years the various 3D versions have been getting worse and worse. While Sonic Generations is not a complete return to the standards of say, Sonic 2, when compared to recent efforts, it comes pretty damn close. That being said, you don’t have to justify the merits of Generations by that comparison alone, it is still a great platformer that, for the first time since Sonic Adventure, has made this franchise feel modern. In both gameplay and presentation, this feels like a game that was released in the year it actually was.
The speed of the older games is always what made them stand out so much in their time and they still do today for the very same reason. That aspect has always been the core of what makes a Sonic game fun. None of the post-2D era Sonic games really achieved this. There were some very good moments in the Adventure games, but they were watered down terribly by all the levels where you played as some of the most annoying characters ever to appear in a video game. You spent far too much time not playing as Sonic.
That is ultimately the main reason Sonic Generations is so great; you spend 100% of your time playing the best of Sonic. You get the best of the 2D and 3D gameplay with all of the secondary mechanics and unbearable characters removed almost entirely. This means that you get what you’re here for in the first place: the trademark speed of the game. There’s no hunting for gems, controlling mechs, sword fighting or any other kind of bullshit that polluted the past games. There is some real irony that the 3D Sonic levels in Generations are actually more successful in maximizing the speed aspect of the game. While it is certainly present in the 2D levels, they throw too many raw platforming sequences at you, which the controls aren’t quite capable of handling well. But they’re not enough to bring down the entire experience. These are replaced in the 3D levels by simply having you chain multiple in-air homing attacks together, which is much easier and way more satisfying.
There’s part of me that really can’t believe how many nice things I can say about a Sonic game released in 2011. It’s almost like I want to wipe my memory of it and go back and play it again to make sure I’m not crazy. Not only is there a good Sonic game on modern systems, it manages to finally (and I mean finally) do some justice to the series and be a good gaming experience on its own merits. It’s unfortunate that age will play quite a significant factor here, though. I am under no illusions that one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is not because of my fond memories of playing the original games and because of how many crappy installments have come around since then. If playing through an HD re-mastered version of the Chemical Plant zone with the classic music selected doesn’t tug your nostalgic heart strings, or if reading that sentence makes you go, “er, what?”, then I doubt you will get as much enjoyment out of Sonic Generations as older fans of the series. Never the less, there is finally a game that bears the Sonic name that can show you where that enjoyment came from all those years ago.