I could make a video describing how much Sonic Generations really opened my eyes to the fallen grace that was Sonic the Hedgehog games. I very well might one day…soon….
The summary is that the series was a flaming brick of “fun” thrown off a building that somehow crashed a plane full of its last adult fans on the way down. Between 2006 and 2011, all goodwill from too many fans to count had completely evaporated under heat lamps named Sonic Unleashed, Sonic ‘06, the disappointing Sonic the Hedgehog 4, and anything Sonic on the Wii. None of the decisions Sega was making regarding Sonic were hitting with any but the lowest common denominator.
Then, in 2011, Sonic Generations comes along, and it’s as terrific in some parts as it is terrible in others.
Even this idea, which basically breaks down to a curated Sonic museum, didn’t pan out for Sega when it could’ve been the simplest layup ever. I remembered Generations when I heard about Crash and Spyro coming back in completely redone fashion because they realized why the teams should stick to the classics: People fell out of those series because of the most current entries.
Why in the glowing name of the Master Emerald would you want to include pieces of your history that were widely regarded as mediocre pudding at best? Crash didn’t include levels from Mind Over Mutant, and I’ll bet my bottled pirate’s soul that Spyro isn’t even going to mention Enter the Dragonfly. It’s your content, so curate it down to the best possible examples of your long-running series. Why the hell wouldn’t you?
Sonic Generations, instead of following that logic slide, helps you remember the bad just as often as the good. You’ll knock around as shorter, silent 2D Sonic just as much as the 3D weirdo he grew into while going through respective versions of familiar venues. I won’t call them all classics, but they’re certainly levels a Sonic fan has played plenty of times.
On paper, the idea of travelling back to Green Hill, Chemical Plant, and others with 3D in tow is intriguing as it gives a literal new dimension to gameplay. The issues every 3D Sonic game has though come along for the nostalgic upgrade with the new venues offering no more or less irritation than the standard dosage.
It becomes very apparent that the 2D levels created from 3D root models are simply not up to snuff. There are some creative twists such as that nasty semi truck from Sonic Adventure 2 wreaking terrific terror upon the scenery for added, appreciated flavor. For each of those positives, there’s a negative that feels like the game trying way too hard to blur the lines and spread some of the 2D goodwill onto 3D bread.
A perfect example comes in that same level with the semi truck barreling down from behind. You jump and spring from platform to platform and notice an item block for a…skateboard? It’s a new idea, for sure, but to what end exactly? You don’t do anything different or unique with the skateboard, just run it down a short distance before you lose it and go faster on your feet alone. So that brush of excitement from the monstrous truck is immediately ended by the awkward.
The few positive upswings come the way of the extras mostly due to their innocent inclusion. You can rearrange the music of the stages and order up special moves and upgrades to create a little more of a bond with Sonic and his past. The segmented challenge levels wherein you race with some handicap or to collect one of your bouncy friends are mixed and ultimately boring. You can say the exact same for the online mode, which by my account, is a desert of Sonic apathy.
Sonic Generations does bring forward a lot of great reasons for Sonic fans to have kept holding on hope for as long as some did. However, it had to turn more away at the door with the fragmented level designs and ultimately questionable inclusions of Sega’s lexicon. Sonic Mania nailed the concept of proper curation. Maybe Sega just needed Sonic Generations as a practice round to see how to do it well.
Sonic Generations Score: