Hands-On Sonic Generations: Precise Platforming Vs. A Rollercoaster Ride

By Kris . June 9, 2011 . 2:34pm

Sonic Generations feels like it’s out to appeal to everyone, but I mean that in a good way. For years, disgruntled Sonic the Hedgehog fans have been calling for a return to the design mentality of the Genesis Sonic titles, where speed is a reward for precise platforming, but rejecting the (in my opinion, not half-bad) downloadable Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 for having different physics than the Genesis originals.


On the other hand, there’s another group of Sonic the Hedgehog fans who adore the more modern, 3D speed-and-spectacle-filled approach to the Sonic series. Sonic Generations attempts to cross gap between fans of 2D and 3D Sonic by taking classic stages from the series’ 20 year history and reimagining them for both 2D and 3D.


Green Hill Zone was the only playable zone on the floor, despite the fact that City Escape (from Sonic Adventure 2) was just announced in an E3-released trailer. When I first sat down with the game, I was too curious about how they recaptured the "Classic" Sonic feel to not try it.


In a nutshell, Generations feels like the first Sonic the Hedgehog with the addition of Sonic’s trademark "spin dash" from Sonic 2, which can either be performed the traditional way by crouching and mashing the jump button to make Sonic spin around, or simply by holding the newly mapped square button, which, admittedly, was a little off putting to me at first. Once I got my bearings, all of my old Sonic-playing instincts kicked in.


The "Classic" part of Generations lived up to its name. Sections involving racing through loops at high speeds were offset by segments in which I had to carefully hop from one platform to another. Even the way that the enemies were laid out felt nostalgic. I mean, Green Hill Zone is based on the level of the same name from Sonic 1, and Sega captured the atmosphere perfectly in 3D, from the robot crabs to the ring boxes falling out of trees that Sonic grazes.


However, there were a couple of things that pulled me out of my nostalgic revelry. Getting hit in classic mode only makes Sonic lose 20 of his rings instead of all of them. While Sega’s Aaron Webber told me that this was to make the game a bit more accessible, he also stressed that this wouldn’t necessarily be in the final build. I also asked about the series’ Barrier Shields realizing that I hadn’t actually found any in the demo, to which he playfully replied: "What shields?"


After getting an S-ranking (primarily for speed and the fact that I didn’t die) in Classic mode, I decided to give Modern Sonic a whirl. This mode was much more focused on speed, granting me a boost gauge that filled up as I collected rings. Considering the rate at which I collected rings, this essentially gave me the ability to hold the dash button (square or X on the 360 controller) and race through the level at constantly high speeds. While Modern Sonic was a distinctly less composed and precise than Classic Sonic, bouncing from one enemy to the next with the homing attack (the jump button again in the air) was the same sort of rush I got from hopping on three enemies without touching the ground in the original games.


Playing as Modern Sonic was a little like playing a roller coaster. I wasn’t always sure what was going on, but I was enjoying myself as I dashed through the level, grinded on metallic rails that just floated in midair, got chased by a giant robotic fish, and did tricks by flailing the analog sticks after going off of a jump. However, despite the fact that my brain was struggling to keep up with everything that was going on, I never actually died any pitfall deaths, nor did I take any cheap hits. I was impressed.


I had a lot of fun with both styles of play. Both the more precise Classic Sonic and the manic Modern Sonic were well-crafted and a lot of fun. It might just be that I’m a lapsed Sonic fan, but I’m legitimately excited to see more.


Sonic Generations will be released for the Xbox 360, PS3, and 3DS this Winter. We should have impressions of the Nintendo 3DS version up in the near future.

Read more stories about & & & on Siliconera.

  • A mostly non-Sonic fan saying the game was fun is a good enough sign for me :P.

  • skyblaze

    Sonic was my childhood hero… I can easily tell this will be a very special game

  • Modern Sonic for the win, I love the speed and exhilaration through stunning motion blur etc. The ethereal euphoria felt dashing through the level in a daze…I cant wait, especially with none of those cheap pitfalls, I guess.

  • Chow

    By “accessible”, do they mean it’d be easier?  Were you able to collect lost rings after getting hit, or were they simply gone?  I always felt the ability to capture lost rings made the original games accessible enough.

    Unless I missed reading it in the article, was the platforming more momentum-based like Genesis Sonic, or stop-on-a-dime Sonic 4 style?

    I’m glad to hear that both modes will be fun! :)

  • SerendipityX

    *q* Day 1 since it looks well thought out

  • This looks awesome. Maybe it will finally shut people up but I doubt it.

  • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

    With Modern Sonic, when you’re racing through the levels, is it like the games where you have three “lanes” that you can run in or can you move left, right, diagonal as you wish?

    • Hasnt this been addressed in the numerous gameplay demos theyve shown of Green Hill Zone with modern sonic? I believe here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94s_lu2CbqA

      • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

        Sorry? I’ve been working 15 hours a day these last few weeks so haven’t had time to peruse the web for gameplay videos.

  • puchinri

    I keep forgetting that this won’t be on Wii. That’s going to be so awkward for me. ;u;
    I’m really excited for the game though. Guess I’ll start my pre-order for this when I pick up Shadows of the DmD. (And then of course start my pre-order for Asura’s Wrather when I pick up this.)

  • To be fair, the Master System / Game Gear games usually had you drop rings 20 at a time, too, but you couldn’t really snatch them back up usually.  It’s a different kind of challenge than just trying to keep grips on one SO HELP YOU but not necessarily a bad change of pace.

    Be interesting to see what they stick with, either way.

  • maxchain

    Keep in mind, the fans aren’t all as completely unreasonable as you’ve heard.  Some of us like both.  So, more fun to be had by the three of us.

    • Four, maybe? I love both styles. Doesn’t mean I love all Sonic games, but I love both style! :D

  • Bakuryukun

    Okay, so they have a good gameplay mode…and a terrible gameplay mode. I think if they wanted to do a modern campaign they should have taken notes from the Sonic Adventure series and not from Unleashed and Colors. 

  • Icon

    I hope this is a big seller and for what I feel would be the right reason: classic Sonic gameplay is the best Sega has ever offered. Putting it in this game makes me want to buy it day one.

    Also, the “fat” Sonic is just a much more appealing and lovable character than the lanky modern Sonic.

  • He was joking with the barrier shield thing right?… RIGHT?

    • I hope so. ¬¬

      • It would really be an epic fail if he wasn’t joking xD i hope he is just trolling around and made the troll face to Kris when he answered, if not, this game would feel like a big farce for me lol

        I hope it happened like…

        Kris: Are the barried shield in the game?

        Webber: What shieldz0rz? http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/_/62221183/trollface.gif

        Kris: D:!

        • Kris

          He later told me that I asked a “very good question” and smiled at me. I think we just have to keep an eye out in the coming months! ;D

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos