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Sonic Generations - 3DS Review

Game Info
Sonic Generations

3DS | SEGA | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer/online versus) | Play Coin Support | StreetPass Support | Out Now
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Review
26th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

When I first began playing this version of Sonic Generations, I actually found myself having more fun than I thought I would. But once the dust settled, the following question arose: Does this handheld title acquire the long-term appeal and solid game design that other Sonic games do? After allowing some time for it to sink in, I have to say that's very debatable.

    As I'm sure you've already heard, time travel is the main theme of this new Sonic title. With this in mind, SEGA has decided to pair the current wise-crack-talking Sonic (labelled "Modern") with the next-to-silent Sonic from the past ("Classic"). Along with their twin-tailed buddies, the two team up and go on an adventure to restore life to areas that Eggman's new "pet", the Time Eater, has drained. The storyline is presented through simple cutscenes where square-shaped images on the 3D Screen show pictures of figures or events taken from the HD versions. While the plot is principally told through dialogue boxes, the occasional sound clip does occur; we may hear Tails say "Be careful, Sonic!" for example.

    Sonic Generations features seven worlds in total, with two Acts of platforming and a Special Stage where you can aim for the Chaos Emerald. The stages span different eras of Sonic's history, beginning from the Genesis era with the likes of Green Hill, Casino Night and Mushroom Hill; followed by the Dreamcast era which features Emerald Coast, and Radical Highway; and then there's the final set which includes the more recent locales of Water Palace from Sonic Rush, and Tropical Resort from Sonic Colors. Spread out across the adventure, you also have three Boss Gates, each featuring two bosses for you to defeat.

    
Generally the controls in this game are easy to remember. Movement is controlled using the Circle Pad, while the A Button is used for jumps. With nearly everything else, though, the two characters have abilities that separate them from their counterpart. For example, Modern Sonic has the Boost mechanic in place, where collecting Rings and blue orbs emitted from downed enemies will add energy to the gauge. You activate this by pressing the Y Button. On the other hand, Classic Sonic retains the signature spinball move for nostalgic purposes, which can be performed by pressing the B Button repeatedly with the Circle Pad held downwards.

    Additional abilities are unlocked over time, including Stomp for Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic's own version of the Homing Attack. And if you've even tracking this game even a little bit, you'll know that more than a few have voiced complaints over Classic Sonic even having a Homing Attack in the first place. While I didn't understand the hatred at first, the more I played, the more I could see where they were coming from. It almost has an interfering effect with the principles we previously associated Classic Sonic with, to the point that it becomes almost weird to have this in place. His version of the Homing Attack doesn't even apply to item capsules for some reason, and when using it to dash, it doesn't feel as crisp as Sonic's usual Homing Attack.

    
Although not everyone will be pleased with the selection (no Sonic Heroes stages!), it's great to see that the levels for this game are quite diverse. Sonic games have time and time again been known for featuring some genuinely great game design, so couple that expectation with the already-well-designed nature of some of the levels they included, and you would think that that would be a recipe for success. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

    First, I'll discuss the good points. Both versions of Water Palace were quite nice with their challenging underwater segments. Tropical Resort was also quite enjoyable with the way it took advantage of the Burst Wisp from Sonic Colors on the DS. Same deal with Mushroom Hill with its numerous paths and even a noteworthy grind section that the other stages could've learned from. On the other hand, Emerald Coast had designs that were a bit plain and slightly repetitive, even featuring some odd elements like having standalone grind rails in the sky or using gusts of wind to climb a vertical passage. And while it was nice to see the crossbars and the bridge rails return in Radical Highway, the designs just don't lend themselves to players having a lot of fun.

    There are times during the experience where the camera tried to add a more interesting dynamic to weaker areas or familiar scenes, like in Casino Night, or springs would shoot you off into the background for a hidden path, like in Mushroom Hill. But aside from those kinds of moments, the creativity in the level design is average at best in places. Plus, if you were to compare the feeling that you get from playing the Modern stages versus Classic ones, you'll come to realize that the latter set of stages just don't feel right sometimes. When coming up to an interactive element like a small hole in the wall to slide through or a set of quick-jump panels that you can spring from, the game will display what controls are needed to pass this portion of the level. Even if SEGA has been doing a lot of this lately -- spelling things out for the player at all times -- I don't think it was necessary to keep having this appear in later levels as well. Overall, I don't feel they completely nailed down either Modern or the less-favourable Classic gameplay, and furthermore, I think the developers played it a little safe in this area.

    
At each of the three Boss Gates, you'll first engage in a heated race with rivals Metal Sonic, Shadow and Silver, followed by a more traditional boss fight. To be frank, I had problems with every one of these rival battles. With the first, I thought it was nice that they included a remix of Stardust Speedway from the Japanese soundtrack of Sonic CD, but the race itself felt very lazy. I mean, racing Metal Sonic in Casino Night? It didn't feel right at all. With Shadow's boss race, the stage choice was fitting, but the design of it was just lame. And then facing Silver in Tropical Resort came back to square one with a strange stage selection, and the added problem of having his cheap teleportation moves make it not feel like a fair "race" at all.

    Thankfully, the other set of bosses were better. While I didn't think much of the first battle, I did enjoy the good execution seen in the battle against Egg Emperor and, to a lesser extent, Biolizard. After facing each of these opponents and collecting all 7 Chaos Emeralds, you'll unlock the Final Gate where you'll face off against Dr. Eggman and the Time Eater. This is definitely one of the highlights of the entire game, as the battle itself works well and the graphics look great.

    Compared to my mixed feelings over the boss battles, I was more pleased with the Special Stages. Even before the game was released, I already felt drawn to these bonus events since they were based off of the Special Stage model seen in Sonic Heroes. This is one of multiple instances in the game where 3D is put to good use; not only at the beginning with the introduction of the Chaos Emerald and when Sonic is flying through rainbow rings, but really throughout the entire run. As far as control, I enjoyed the smooth transition that existed when while boosting, but when you're just running at a normal pace, it's not nearly as fluid. Also, I found these Special Stages were quite easy, which differed from the challenge factor present in the original format. But overall, they were fairly satisfying as a whole.

    
After seeing the game to completion, replay value comes into context through striving after S Ranks. These typically require fast times, lots of Ring-collecting and minimal deaths, but with the Modern stages especially, I found myself asking "What am I missing?" Aside from that, there's also a Time Attack option where you can set records, but it lacks ghost data to spur you on. Also awaiting you are a series of bonus missions, which include such objectives as locating all Item Capsules within a level or not defeating enemies as you go along. The mission structure reminded me of Sonic and the Secret Rings, except that they're not weaved into the story as sub-portions to the individual levels. You unlock them progressively by accumulating Supporter Points, acquired by playing through the game, participating in online matches, and completing hidden tasks. If you find the system is taking too long, you can redeem Play Coins to unlock them. So all in all, while the length isn't really up there, the replay value is modest for a handheld Sonic game.

     Sonic Generations also contains quite a bit of extras, many of which can be found inside the Collection area. Fan service is explored as usual, with the game offering over 40 different songs to unlock and listen to, 32 pieces of artwork and 18 models. The illustrations, in particular, are nice quality, but they would have been even better had 3D been added. Players can also create their own customizable Profile Cards that can be viewed by others when playing online or when exchanging StreetPass data. Allowing you to choose your favourite Sonic game and plaster an image onto your card, this personalization feature is a decent way for fans to express their love of Sonic.

    
When it comes to multiplayer, the game's Versus Mode offers options for both local and internet battles. The main thing to keep in mind about this mode is that purple energy balls will appear in stages to keep things not so clear-cut. If you get trapped in one of these gravity fields, you'll have to mash the B Button to escape. Even if you know the stage by heart, these will often get in your way, forcing you to adopt a different strategy in some places. I soon realized this was very inhibiting and even now, I think it would have been better to have item boxes like in Sonic 2.

    Playing this online, I discovered that the fun factor is extremely dependent on the stages you play. Not only that, but the lack of a consistent framerate takes away from the tension of races. Besides earning Supporter Points, there is appeal in playing online regularly. Once per day, you can earn a bonus item like a Magnetic Shield for use in the normal single-player stages, which can come in handy when aiming for S Ranks. Sadly, playing this game online just isn't as thrilling as it might sound. After the initial lustre wore off, I found myself sighing more than anything else and started to get a tad bored of it, much to my chagrin.

    On a more positive note, there are times throughout the experience when the system's 3D capabilities are taken advantage of. Casino Night, for example, has bombs that come in from behind the screen as Sonic scores Eggman targets on the slots. Then there's that section in Mushroom Hill where the camera is situated behind Sonic as he grinds along a rail, as well as another point in Emerald Coast where the camera is in front of him when he's trying to avoid the whale. There are some annoyances to be had with the presentation, though. The empty white backgrounds seen on the Stage Select menu bored me, and although this might've been a decision that was tied to the storyline, there's no reason why they couldn't have made it much more appealing once those stages were completed. I also encountered a glitch in Casino Night where I went through a wall, but thankfully that was the only one I encountered.

    
As far as audio, I thought the Modern remix of Green Hill had a great start but didn't feel quite as strong as it played out. Other good examples I can point to include Mushroom Hill's Modern remix as well as the one for Tropical Resort. For the most part, the Modern tracks dominated over the Classic remixes. The only real exception was the music for Radical Highway which was almost equally bad in both versions, but the Modern one just sounded messier. Aside from these dedicated tracks, the 3DS version of Sonic Generations also includes some of the songs featured in the HD versions, including the excellent remix of the VS Mode results tune from Sonic 2. So I wouldn't say the music is great overall, but it's still pretty good.

    It took some time for it to sink in, but the handheld version of Sonic Generations features lots of minor issues that can add up to frustration. And in all truth, I still expect much better from SEGA. Sonic Generations may not rival the likes of Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure, but as a new title for the 3DS system it's not a bad choice for fans of the franchise. Yet, from a critical standpoint, there are definite flaws that reflect an overall lack of commitment that was seen in previous games on the DS and even earlier titles for that matter. Missing key attributes like creative level design and other positive things that Sonic is known for, I can't say the handheld version of Sonic Generations is a satisfying experience.


20/30 - Good

Gameplay 6/10 - Level design is weak in places, few instances of creativity aren't explored further, bosses could've been better, good controls
Presentation 7/10 - Good use of 3D and nice visuals all around, smooth until you play online, soundtrack is good excluding some tracks, some annoyances
Enjoyment 3/5 - Initially enjoyable but it wears off, minor issues can become frustrating, Modern levels are usually more fun, Classic stages seem inferior
Extra Content 4/5 - Missions create replay value, Collection, Profile Cards, S Ranks, online and offline multiplayer, StreetPass and Play Coin functionality

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System


Review by KnucklesSonic8



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