Hands On With Sonic Generations

Sega’s blue mascot makes his return in a fast-paced, all action, dimension swapping adventure that is sure to delight long-time fans and newcomers alike.  At this year’s EuroGamer Expo, located next to Nintendo’s Skyward Sword sat a small booth that contained a game that is a very big deal. The game in question was Sonic Generations and I sat down with the demo to see if Sega has managed to recreate the magic that made the blue hedgehog a gaming juggernaut.

Sonic’s transition to 3D hasn’t been an easy one, the fast-paced action that made the 2D iterations so compelling is difficult to replicate in 3D resulting in games that were awkward to play and plagued with a camera system was poor even by early 3D standards.  Perhaps the only example of a good 3D Sonic game is Sonic and the Secret Rings on Nintendo’s Wii, which placed a 3D Sonic in a 2D control scheme; it revitalised the gameplay and brought Sonic speeding back to gamers’ attention.

Sonic Generations tries to give gamers the best of both worlds with a game that offers the chance to play as the 2D Sonic of old and the 3D Sonic of the current generation. The story is simple enough, with a dimensional rip opening in Sonic’s world allowing him to travel between his 2D and 3D forms.  In the demo, I initially played as 2D Sonic. The gameplay is exactly as fans of 2D Sonic will remember; Sonic feels heavier than his 3D counterpart with a shorter jump and a slightly slower pace. This isn’t to the game’s detriment; it is surprising just how well the 2D gameplay holds up. It’s an exercise in precision and timing that is as enjoyable today as it was all those years ago.

The 3D sections fare just as well.  Be warned though, this isn’t the 3D gameplay of Sonic Adventure.  It’s more of a combination between 2D and 3D gameplay. Most of the stage is played from the side-scrolling, 2D perspective, but you retain all of 3D Sonic’s abilities.  3D Sonic is a much more fluid and faster animal than his 2D version, with the ability to lock on to enemies and use his jump dash to destroy them.  Sonic Generations plays like Sonic’s recent DS outings and is absolutely brilliant. What makes 3D levels different from the 2D ones are the sections of the stage that shifts the perspective from side on 2D to behind the shoulder 3D.  These sections are ultrafast-paced and reminiscent of the special stages of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

The change from 2D to 3D isn’t as jarring as you might expect; In fact, it’s a smooth transition between the dimensions that makes Sonic Generations that more impressive.

I played the game on Xbox360 and I have to say it was a mixed bag, but this was because of the Xbox360 pad rather than the gameplay itself. The D-Pad wasn’t as responsive as you would like, especially in the 2D sections that require you to be more precise. The analogue stick fared better, but 2D purists will no doubt prefer the extra control that the PS3 D-Pad will offer.

From my time with the game, it seems that Sonic Generations may just be a return to form for the Sonic franchise. It’s the perfect marriage between the old and new that will surely impress.  Sega has promised that many of the classic stages will be remastered, with Green Hill Zone already confirmed, along with a host of new stages to enjoy.

Much more than a fan service, Sonic Generations looks like it may be the first great Sonic the Hedgehog title in a long time!

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October 4, 2011 - 2:12 pm