Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sonic Generations is the work of the devil

         I refuse to accept that Sonic Generations was made by Sega. Not because it's another disaster like Sonic 2006, but because it's simply too good. Apart from being a fan service compilation and during nothing embarrassingly stupid (Hoverboards, turning into a werewolf, superpower granting jellyfish aliens etc.) Sega(?) might have hedged their bets by adding different Sonics, but I feel like a good deal of care went to both of them. In case you don't know what I suppose is the gimmick this time is that there is the current Sonic and Sonic from the early 90s. They're both treated equally for better or worse.

I never remembered Sonic from the early 90s looking quite this cute. I certainly don't remember “Green Hill Zone,” “Chemical Plant” and “Sky Sanctuary” being this blase. His levels improve dramatically once he is out of his element (the later two thirds of the game) left to interpret the 3-D Sonic games as a 2-D one. “City Escape” and “Rooftop Run” seem to be ripped from a side scrolling masterpiece form a parallel dimension. Both have a strong sense of a end goal and an adversary.As great as they are, they still can't make up for classics Sonic's controls. Classic Sonic is more or less like in improved version of Sonic 4. He doesn't stick to everything like he's made of Velcro but he still can't carry momentum and can't pass through the loop unless he's at full speed. It's as if the Phantom Menace was “fixed” by removing Jar Jar Binks; it's still a big improvement but still disappointing.

Modern Sonic however holds up better. While he also inherits weaknesses from past games (this Sonic still doesn't handle well in tight spaces and by “tight” I mean the size of your driveway) and generally feels more like a car than someone running on foot. His stages are still my favorite, and they are surprisingly fun to speed run, mostly thanks to their multi-route nature. I do, however, wish that boosting would be toned down. Boost meter is far too easy to get. You collect rings and defeat enemies all the time so I'm often feeding my boost gauge while boosting often making me nearly invincible. Modern Sonic his share of poor levels as well; mainly “Chemical Plant” which ends too abruptly and “Seaside Hill” half of which feels like a chaotic mess of stuff. He does have my favorite stage in the game; Speed Highway is as awesome as I remembered it.

If a level had a particular landmark, gimmick, or geographic tendency it's likely re-created in Generations' interpretation of it. The levels from both Dreamcast games have billboards for a move called “Chao in Space.” Seaside Hill has you shooting yourself out of cannons and running through those three-way loops (alone this time.)

Most of the levels also have fantastic arrangements of original music. While some were disappointing (both versions of “Chemical Plant”) Others surpass the originals (modern “Speed Highway” and “City Escape”) while still others are the most creative interpretations I've ever heard (classic “Speed Highway.”) You even unlock more arrangements of classic Sonic music and songs taken straight from older games in the series 20-year history. Many of those arrangements are a little underwhelming but still neat. Stardust Speedway and Route 99 are unusual musical fits for Speed Highway.While the music is satisfying, the only thing that seems to fail in the fan service department is the story.

Sonic Generation's story is about a shadow blob monster abduets Sonic and his friends and drops them in limbo. Sonic then meets his past self and discovers they restore the past by running through stuff. I am not making this up, and no, Sega(?) hired two writers to write this. Also Sonic's friends seem unable to tell the difference between the Sonic they know today and Sonic form 1993. It's like I have been reunited with the lobotomized retards of Sonic Heroes. By the time the cast figures out the obvious, I am alredy fluent in Klingon. I also don't remember Rouge, Vector, Charmy Bee, and Cream the Rabbit ever been Sonic's friends. If anything, I remember sonic avoiding having to talk to them. I know this is kind of stupid and nitpicky but does the sonic fan base really hate Big the Cat so much that they would rather put up with a motormouth bee with nothing to say? This story has few throwbacks to older games. A major missed opportunity, especially when the game's levels are such detailed re-creations. It's not much of a story anyway; it sets itself up, does nothing, and ends itself with a stupid plot twist. This leads to the moment that brings back everything been wrong in the series for the past 10 years. Supporting characters being incredibly annoying, a boring final boss battle with bad controls, and a thoroughly unthreatening villain. It makes the end of Sonic Generations feel strangely cynical.

All the boss battles or disappointing in some way. “Perfect Chaos” is an improvement over the original as is the showdown with Shadow the Hedgehog but they both end too soon. Meanwhile Classic Sonic has two boss battles that are too boring for me to even mention. All the bosses have a hard mode but even then they are to easy and too short.

After you suffer through that schlock however, Sonic Generations offers great replay value for a game that can be played start to finish in 4 to 5 hours. Each Sonic gets 5 side missions per stage. My favorites are easily the ones involving the supporting characters, especially the ones where they help you. While some of the side missions forget the limitations of the game's controls, most of them are enjoyable. They almost feel like a prototype for a future game (or least I would like it to be.) While the game has 80 of these missions, most of them are quite easy. The real longevity in this game is from perfecting your speed runs for the leader-boards. Finding the fastest routes and how to quickly bypass normally time-consuming obstacles can be harder than it looks. It's the only way to get a challenge in this game. Only the most dedicated fans can get a time of 1:50 on “Green Hill” or break two minutes on “Speed Highway.”

I can't deny that I love Sonic Generations. My biggest complaint is that there is enough content. This is definitely the best sonic game since Sonic Adventure 2 (2001). It even made me remember Sonic Heroes fondly for a brief moment. That however is all the proof I need that some kind of satanic magic was involved.

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