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Xbox 360 Review: Sonic Generations

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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.

Poor Hit Detection: There are a number of times when New Sonic just seems to pass through objects. Bumpers can often be difficult to hit without a homing attack and it’s easy to run straight through an object that is supposed to grab you; doubly so if you’re boosting. One of the later stages involves doing a stomp attack to drive floating platforms downward. If you’re close to the edge you stand a very good chance of going clean through.

Walking/Turning: New Sonic is really good at running in a straight line, but add any other movements and control becomes a royal pain. In open 3D sections Sonic moves very stiffly and it can be difficult at times to get enough momentum to reach a platform. In the fast-moving scenes where Sonic is locked on a rail path, like he is in the Wii games, refined movement becomes nigh impossible. Side-to-side movement is only really possible by using the Left and Right Bumpers to do little hops and while this works great in straight segments, when platforming is thrown into the mix it all just goes to hell. Even if you come to a full stop Sonic does not return to free 3D movement; making even simple side jumps a pain.

Add some Invisible Walls: While it feels weird to say it, New Sonic’s stages really need some invisible walls. It is way too easy to go flying off the edge of the stage by executing a homing attack at the wrong time or even just jumping in a turn. Boosting at the wrong time may even cause a rebound off a wall and into a large gap. It’s fine to fall to your death during a platforming segment, but when it happens way too often at times when you’re clearly not meant to leave the course, you have a major problem. This could also be solved if more New Sonic stages were set on the ground, like City Escape, and not on magical platforms that float in a void.

Despite it’s flaws, the New Sonic stages do have a couple of things going for them and when they’re good, they’re very good. Many stages feature some kind of high-action set piece that offers a level of exhilaration Classic Sonic just can’t match. Possibly the best example of this is the truck chase from the City Escape zone. In Act One the truck is merely a background object that occasionally smashes through the foreground, but in Act Two it’s an enormous mobile death machine that bears down upon you as you desperately race away.

Actually, in hindsight this high action set pieces are a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand they give New Sonic an aspect that is actually fun; on the other they make the Classic Sonic stages that lack nostalgic value seem somewhat boring.

Joining the various old and new stages together is a massive overworld hub. Rather than just being a map like you’d expect to find in a modern Mario game, it’s actually one big stage. An incredibly simple stage with only minor platforming, but it’s still unique enough to be interesting. While in the overworld you are able to freely switch between the two Sonics, though the only difference it makes is whether you enter Act One or Act Two. For every three Zones you clear you’ll uncover a Boss gate and unlock special stage challenges.

The addition of challenges is a great way to extend the experience and offer replayability, but like every other good idea Sega had, it has a tragic flaw. You see in order to enter the Boss Gate and actually make progress you must first complete at least one challenge in each Zone. This brings the game’s pace to a a screeching halt and force players to endure yet more tedium.

There’s also three rival battles hidden in the overworld that must be completed to earn you the Chaos Emeralds required to enter the final battle. They’re fun in their own right, but like the challenges making them mandatory just slows down progression. If the challenges were optional I’d say Sega did good, but by making them mandatory they’ve essentially sucked all the fun out of the game.

Online functionality is present in the form of stage rankings and 30 second distance challenges, but unless you’re a die-hard Sonic fan they’re just not worth your time. Like a good modern Sonic Game there is absolutely no multiplayer.

Sonic Generations is a brilliant concept, but it makes same old stupid Sega mistakes. This is not a return to Sonic’s glory days, but more an attempt to drown the beloved Classic Hedgehog along with his modern brother. I for one am getting sick and tired of seeing Sega flat-out refuse to acknowledge and correct the fundamental design issues that have been plaguing the series since it first went 3D. There was real hope that this would be the game to do finally do New Sonic right, but alas, are hopes were dashed. If you’re one of the few people who actually enjoy modern Sonic then you’ll probably love Sonic Generations. If you’re an incredibly patient fan of the original games, then you might find the Classic Sonic stages enjoyable at a minimum, but otherwise this is sadly not worth your time.

Sonic Generations is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence.


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About Jason Westhaver

  • d

    Are you Frickin kidding me? Just admit now that you did not play the game. The homing attack works fine, from a much farther distance than in the adventures, and if you actually believe that there were camera problems than there’s no hope for you. Tons and tons of people like modern Sonic, which is why Sonic Colors got so much positive reaction.(And so did Sonic 4. 82 out of 100 on metacritic is cold reception?) Your opinion basically comes down to “I have to platform in the modern stages? This sucks.” Do yourself a favor and never, ever bother reviewing a game ever again. Ever.

  • http://njiska.com Jason Westhaver

    Claim 1: You did not play the game

    I completed the entire game. You can look up my gamertag, Njiska, if you doubt it.

    Claim 2: The homing attack has better distance

    If you’ll note, I never actually complained about the distance. The problem with the homing attack is, and always will be, the targeting system.

    Claim 3: Sonic Colours is good.

    Yes, it is a major step up over the past decade of Sonic titles, but it still has issues. It’s actually a better example of a playable modern Sonic game than Generations ever will be.

  • bscrad

    I don’t know man. It must be cool to say everything sucks, making you the coolest of the cool. Unless you stop reviewing games like a snob, I would agree with the first guy when he says you shouldn’t bother reviewing a game ever again. Try books.

  • d

    Allright sorry if that comment was a little rude, I typed it when I was getting ready for school. I didnt play Sonic 06 until after Sonic Colors due to the fact that I was too young to afford a PS3 at the time it came out, so that may be the reason our opinions differ. Anyway, I’m not bothered if you dont like Sonic, its your opinion, but if your going to write a professional review you should list actual existing issues instead of made up ones or nitpicks(Rival fights to challenging and mandatory? Really?) Anyway, Sonic Generations is more challenging than Colors because its more challenging and has a greater balance of speed and platforming, but based on your imaginary “issues” its obvious you dont like challenge. Honestly, most of the “cold reception” for Sonic 4 came from comments by fanboys, but they actually listed a few real issues that COULD be annoying to some people. For that reason, most of those comments were more informative than this 4 page review. To be brutally honest, you need to be more professional or confine your “reviews” to the comments section.

  • http://njiska.com Jason Westhaver

    Look I’ve been writing reviews for close to 5 years. I gave up earlier this year because formulating a proper opinion takes a lot of time that at 27, I just don’t have.

    I wrote this review as a favour for a friend who needed to have it written and I don’t have any intentions of writing any more reviews anytime soon. Now that being said, this is not some opinion that I through together overnight. I spent three days reviewing the notes I had taken and discussing the experiences I had with my colleagues. What i wrote is what I found.

    Sonic 06 is a god damn nightmare and I don’t think anyone will dispute that. It’s the low point of the 3D series and while there have been improvements since then, there are still some major issues plaguing the series that are just not being addressed.

    I won’t yield on my belief that Homing Attack based platforming is a bad idea. There is no excuse why I if I miss the first enemy in the homing chain that I can’t target the next one or turn around in air and target the one I just passed. Timing also feels far too restrictive and if you miss the margin you’ll often be catapulted into the void for no good reason.

    My issue with rival battles isn’t the amount of challenge involved, they’re actually quite easy, but that the are a deviation from the main flow of the game. When you beat the three zones you are given you should immediately go on to the boss. Having to go back and complete challenges to get boss keys breaks the flow of game play. A better idea would have been to do put the rival battles in line with the regular stages and allow you to fight the boss as soon as you get to it.

    The challenges themselves are just not fun. Half of them are tedious and the other half are so mind-bogglingly easy that they feel like a waste of time. They break the nice flow of progress that you felt when you were through the stages.

    I’m sorry you think the issues I had are imaginary, but they are genuinely what I experienced during play and they are not issues that i alone experienced. If you don’t have issue with them, that’s fine, but it does not invalid my experience. You have to remember that different opinions are ok. I wrote my review based solely upon my own experiences and even asked peers about their experiences to make sure i wasn’t just missing something simple. I fail to see who any of this is unprofessional.

    It seems that both you and the other commentator seem to think I had it out for Sonic Generation for the purposes of snobbery or hits, but that’s just not the case. I really wanted this to be a good game. The demo was utterly amazing and as I said in my review I thought they were finally going to get New Sonic right. But once I actually got to play the game I saw the same old problems were still there. The fact that the demo and the first few stages in the full game were so excellent made the latter half that much more disappointing.

  • Mario Lawson

    I love and own my own copy of Sonic Generations the only problem I see with it is that it lack stages there should have been over at least 20 stages recreating the generation of previous Sonic games and the storyline is quite short it should have gone more in-depth I beat it within 24 hours so thats kinda short for a sonic game. I love the idea what Sega was going with it. All I would say for future sonic game MORE STAGES, MORE IN DEPTH STORYLINE, And A KICKASS MULTIPLAYER/ONLINE MODE.

  • mikesega

    hey [personal attack deleted by comments editor] its the highest rated sonic by major publications since sonic 3 you should stick to reviewing fps

  • mikesega

    IGN gave the game a score 8.5 out of 10 and an Editor’s Choice award, praising the overall gameplay and the level design, whilst criticising some occasional control issues and limited boss battles.[49] Computer and Video Games gave it a 7.5/10, praising the balanced design but criticising the framerate of the graphics.[50] 1UP.com gave the game a “B” score, praising its variety, fun-to-play levels and interesting set-pieces, whilst criticising some on-rails sections and occasional frustration.[51] PlayStation Official Magazine gave it an 8/10, calling it “a masterpiece of platform game design.”[52] GameTrailers gave the game a score of 8.1, calling it “the best Sonic game in over a decade.”[53] GamesRadar gave the game 8/10, calling it “the best Sonic game since Sonic 2

  • http://njiska.com Jason Westhaver

    I hate FPS games and reviews from other sites mean nothing. It’s not my job to follow the crowd, it’s my job to offer my assessment and that’s what this review is.

  • http://www.doblu.com Matt Paprocki

    I’ll just leave this here. It will remain the only relevant comment towards these events.

  • Jordan Richardson

    What does citing other reviews have to do with Jason’s opinion? It’s akin to saying “fall in line…or else.”

    Let the man have his own opinion, kids. One day, when you’re older and have more responsibilities than simply beating the next level of a video game, you’ll understand that dissent is important and other opinions can, in fact, differ from yours without your entire world collapsing.

    As to the review, the fact that Jason’s written about this game for nearly pages and discussed everything from camera controls to what could make it better demonstrates that he not only “played the game” but understood what he did and did not like about it.