Sonic has fallen from grace and risen from the ashes more time than perhaps any video game character. Sonic Team graced us with two fantastic entries on the Dreamcast with Sonic Adventure 1&2, then burdened us with the mediocre Sonic Heroes and the god-awful Shadow the Hedgehog. Things were improved by the fantastic Sonic Rush titles, only to fall to the pits again with the notorious Sonic The Hedgehog (2006) and the middling Wii entries. However, a consistent pattern in likability reminiscent of Sonic's Genesis days has been taken up in recent years with the past two or three games. Sonic Generations continues this steady progression towards greatness, while simultaneously putting to bed something Sonic fans have begged for over the past decade: bringing back old-school Sonic gameplay.
The plot is simple enough, and voiced with perfection by the new voice cast Sega brought in with last year's excellent Sonic Colors. Sonic's friends get sucked into a sort of time vortex by an ominous enemy known as the Time Eater. In order to get them back and defeat the new villain, Sonic must travel back through some of his past adventures, teaming up with his younger (and more portly) self from the Genesis games. Nothing too deep, sure, but it's an excuse to travel back and see the best of Sonic's levels put into glorious HD.
And glorious is the best word to describe the makeover these levels have gotten. Sega didn't skimp on the budget this time around, obviously hellbent on making their mascot relevant again. Each level is filled with vibrant colors that suck you right into the cartoonish world that the blue hedgehog and company inhabit, making for a more immersive experience than past entries. This is the best-looking Sonic game in years, and the visual spectacle alone is worth the price of admission.
But looks aren't everything, which is why Sega didn't neglect the gameplay aspect of things. In order to tackle a Zone, a player must utilize both Modern and Classic Sonic in one Act each. Both Sonics control with an entirely different moveset that suits what area of the franchise they're representing.
Modern Sonic controls much like the ever-evolving character he's been since Sonic Adventure in 1999. Complete with sliding, griding, and homing attacks, this version of the hedgehog is an incredibly versatile character who seamlessly nails both 2D and 3D gameplay. This is the most refined gameplay to come out of the franchise in quite some time, and Sonic Team should be proud of the work which went into this part of the game.
What I didn't like so much, however, was Classic Sonic. I'm a sucker for the old Sonic games, I'll admit, but the inclusion of the retro controls in a new game feels done out of obligation and not out of genuine concern of whether it feels natural or not. It would be a bold-faced lie to say that these levels are bad, because they are, in fact, quite fun. It's a blast revisiting Genesis-era levels with the control scheme that they are made for, and seeing 3D levels done with 2D in mind is an interesting treat.
However, these levels never really reach the level of raw energy and speed exuded by the Modern Sonic levels. While I do acknowledge that the point of these stages was to capture the more steady pacing of the older titles, it made me want to actually play the old Sonic games instead of seeing their gameplay shoved into a new entry. Perhaps this will dispel the notion from people's heads that they want more Retro Sonic, and remind them that if the new Sonic has excellent gameplay, they won't need to sit around and wish for the "good old days" to return. Still, the notion of putting these levels in was still a nice gesture from Sega, and a good trip down memory lane for longtime fans.
Even with my gripes, Generations still stands as a great entry in the Sonic franchise, and brings together the best of both worlds from the hedgehog. Sega's commitment to restoring their flagship franchise to it's former glory is admirable, and is beginning to be what fans always wanted Sonic in 3D to be: fast, inventive, edgy, but most of all, fun. And at the end of the day, you can't find much fault in that.