Previews// Sonic Generations

Posted 15 Jun 2011 13:25 by
Games: Sonic Generations
Every time I see something new from Sonic Generations, my inner eight-year-old child starts to jump up and down in euphoric joy.

Whilst waiting for an unrelated appointment on the E3 show floor, I saw the reveal trailer for another iconic level in Sonic’s history - City Escape from Sonic Adventure 2 - on the huge screen looming over SEGA’s booth. And I’m not embarrassed to say that I might have conducted something of a man-squee.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Sonic Generations, think of it as a Greatest Hits compilation of all the blue blur has achieved in the last two decades. Mixing classic 2D platforming (with fat1990s-era Sonic) and the best of the 3D adventures (starring modern-day Sonic), it’s Sonic Team’s way of trying to cater to all kinds of fan while celebrating the hedgehog’s colourful past.

And while the first stage to be revealed for the game was the obligatory Green Hill Zone, it stands to reason that the second world would be related to a modern-day classic. That classic ended up being Sonic Adventure 2, and while you might expect to play a carbon copy of the Dreamcast original when you play City Escape as Modern Sonic, rest assured that this is not the case.

The modern City Escape looks to re-imagine the level, rather than outright remake it. There are various elements lifted from SA2 like the downhill boarding section at the start, the epic dash down the side of a skyscraper and the steps leading to the iconic hilly roads of San Francisco.

But almost everything else about the stage has changed, with Sonic Team opting to open the world a bit so that you can take advantage of an alternate 3D route or two. Of course, the level ends with the same old chase by the GUN truck - but this time, it’s come equipped with massive buzzsaws that try to chop you up into little pieces!

Controlling Modern Sonic appears to be inspired heavily from Sonic Colours, with the exception of the double jump acting as a mid-air dash when you’re not near an enemy (it works as a homing attack otherwise). I preferred the simple double jump that was performed in Sonic Colours. The boost also returns, and is powered by rings once more.

The boost can make you miss a lot of stuff when playing Green Hill Zone, but thankfully you don’t end up dying an awful lot. The punishment just seems to be a straightforward path with the odd spike trap, meaning if you’re time attacking or want to actually have an interesting play through, you don’t want to be pressing that button the whole way through.

Producer Takashi Iizuka said that it wasn’t so much of a challenge to re-interpret the Sonic Adventure 2 stage as a new 3D level, but noted that it was a tough task to bring the feel of City Escape onto a 2D plane with Classic Sonic. The result, as he showed me, was mightily impressive. The pudgy blue dude smashes into GUN robots and spin dashes around looped roads (why these exist I neither know nor care), with classic spring sounds and badnik-bopping effects highlighting your every move.

To add to the retro atmosphere, a dance remix of Escape From The City (the level’s soundtrack) pumps through the speakers, with the nostalgic kicking of the old Mega Drive soundboard drums peppering the track. There’s also a really nice sample of Endless Mine from Sonic 3 in the middle of the song too.

As for the gameplay, traditional platform-hopping is the order of the day, with upper routes being taken out by a runaway GUN truck if you’re not quick enough to climb the scaffolding. As a nod to the 3D streetboarding segment in Sonic Adventure 2 whilst maintaining its 1990s feel, Sonic can also bop open a power monitor that includes a skateboard for him to trick out on.

Most gimmicks like this would be sneered at by the more ‘high brow’ Sonic fan, but really this is nothing but a tasteful addition that reminds me a lot of Sonic 3’s Ice Cap snowboarding section. Even better are the tiny little Easter Eggs that have been laid throughout the stage - ‘Wanted’ posters featuring Fang/Nack the Weasel, Bark the Polar Bear and Bean the Dynamite, along with ‘Missing’ flyers for Ray the Squirrel, Mighty the Armadillo really highlight the level of fanservice Sonic Team is packing into this title.

Sonic has never looked cuter than he does in Classic mode. The little guy has all the characteristics of original designer Naoto Ohshima’s Mickey Mouse-inspired creation from 1991. A lot of the animations seem influenced by age-old Disney cartoons - at the end of the stage he checks your score as if he’s on a pirate ship searching for land. There’s no boost, and no double jump either - the boost button is replaced with an instant spindash.

It’s funny how it seems the more Sonic Team looks toward the past, the better its mascot titles appear to be getting. Sonic Generations looks like just the right kind of anniversary present for both the character and the fans alike. Get excited!
Games: Sonic Generations

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