For those of you that have been living under a rock, Sonic Generations is Sega’s attempt to bridge the gap between the traditional, portly Sonic of yesteryear and today’s leaner, faster Hedgehog; taking both styles of play and mixing them together in one game. Act One of every zone is played as Classic Sonic, using 2D platforming, while Act Two is always New Sonic and uses 3D worlds and controls. It’s a novel idea, but like all post-Dreamcast Sonic games it just falls apart in the end.
Sega did at least take Sonic 4’s cold reception to heart and have gone out of their way to make sure that the 2D Classic Sonic stages look and play the way they’re supposed to. No homing attacks; no wonky physics; just good old-fashioned running and jumping. Even the background music and sound effects have been pulled from the original 16-bit games; creating an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. The later Classic Sonic stages, based off the New Sonic era, can get a bit tedious, but they still follow traditional 2D design and maintain a nice balance of speed and platforming. Sadly the same cannot be for the New Sonic stages when played as New Sonic.
If you happen to have played the second Sonic Generations demo, like I did, then you were probably looking forward to the new and improved Sonic. Unfortunately while the Acts based on 2D Sonic stages are quite fun to play and are very well designed, once you cross into the stages from games like Sonic Heroes the frustration level skyrockets. I wish I could say these problems were something new, but alas they’re the same as they have ever been. Let’s go through the list:
Homing Attack Platforming Sucks: Crossing giant gaps is incredibly frustrating. If you fail to lock on, you will die. If you go past the first target you will often not even try to target another enemy and if you turn around you can’t target the enemy behind you. This has plagued the series since it was first introduced and has some how managed to get more annoying with each passing iteration.
No Camera Controls: The camera was never an issue with 2D Sonic games because it was always fixed in the right position. With 3D Sonic it’s almost always locked behind you and often obscures what you really need to see. Is there land behind that platform or a giant hole? You won’t know until you take a leap of faith. On more than one occasion I had the camera jump ahead to the position required for the next scene while I was still stuck in the previous. This resulted in me being unable to even see the platforms I needed to jump to and forced me to commit suicide in order to reset it. If I had had control of the camera I could have just repositioned it. Now there are certainly some segments where the fixed camera makes sense, such as when New Sonic goes 2D or if there’s a long pipe running segment, but when the pace slows down you need to have control.