Developer: Dimps / Publisher: Sega / Played On: Nintendo 3DS / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence)
How many times is Sonic the Hedgehog going to “come back?” I understand that people want him to return to form and be in a game akin to the original trilogy back on the Sega Genesis, but seriously! Every time he’s in a new title gamers bring the topic up. Perhaps out of sympathy for said gamers or sheer coincidence, Sonic Generations for the 3DS attempts to address these problems by allowing players to control two distinct Sonics from the series’ expansive library. Two Sonics also means twice the Tails, which strangely means four tails, which if you think about it… never mind, just keep reading.
It’s Sonic’s birthday, and the chili dog-eating hedgehog is ready to relax when an entity called the Time Eater interrupts the party. Before Sonic and Tails can get away they’re sucked into a vortex that transports them to a dimension between time. Soon after, the duo run into their younger selves, Classic Sonic and Classic Tails! The Tails’ deduce that both Sonics must revisit areas in their past in order to restore time and return to their correct era. The story is largely fan service and the plot is full of holes and unanswered questions. If you’re fanatical about all things Sonic though, you’ll appreciate the dialogue nuances the characters spout, such as Classic Sonic not speaking at all and Dr. Robotnik and Dr. Eggman questioning each other about their name changing over the years. Most people playing Sonic Generations won’t give a second thought to the story though, which is good seeing as it is ultimately forgettable.
Sonic Generations is very straightforward and formulaic in terms of gameplay. Each stage is a previously used location taken from older Sonic games and updated with nicer graphics and sometimes slightly altered layouts. It is good to note that these stages are not seen in the console version of the game. Every zone has two Acts. You play through Act 1 as Classic Sonic in traditional 2D platforming, trying to get to the goal in the fastest possible time while collecting rings and avoiding enemies. Act 2 sees you take control of Modern Sonic, who utilizes all the abilities seen in the newer games in the series, such as speed boosts, grinding, and wall jumping. Completing both Acts unlocks a bonus stage where you can collect one of the Chaos Emeralds, the series’ staple power item. These stages are nearly identical to the bonus stages found in Sonic 2: guide Sonic through a massive tube avoiding bombs within a time limit. Boss battles unlock after completing each zone, and these bosses are repeat foes from other games, such as Metal Sonic and Silver. Playing as Classic Sonic feels very much like it did playing on the Genesis, while playing as Modern Sonic feels very similar to playing Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS.
Outside of the single player mode there are missions you unlock by either fulfilling certain requirements in the single player game or buying them with 3DS play coins. These missions have you going back to previously played levels and completing objectives, such as beating a stage without killing any enemies, or reaching the goal under a specific time. Beating these missions unlocks special artwork, musical tracks, and other Sonic memorabilia. A multiplayer versus mode is also available either online or offline that lets you race against opponents. StreetPass allows you to send and receive data from players you physically pass by, like game completion percentage and level completion times. I tried many times to get a game going online but could never find an opponent, but local wireless multiplayer played well.
I was disappointed by the brevity of the game. The single player mode is a fun trip down memory lane, but it’s all over very quickly. You can complete the game in a single session, and the only reason to go back through and play the game again is to get better scores and times. Missions are nice to extend the life of the game, but they quickly get repetitive since most their objectives are the same. I was also disappointed that Modern Sonic plays pretty much the same as Classic Sonic, just with a different set of abilities. Modern Sonic’s levels aren’t 3D like they would be in the games he’s representing (like Sonic Adventure) so playing as him doesn’t feel as good as it should. The 3DS’s 3D abilities are barely utilized, just making some textures pop out, and this feature can be completely ignored. I was left feeling unsatisfied with Sonic Generations for the 3DS, even with the generous offering of nostalgia.
The Sonic series has some of the most memorable music in all of gaming (at least in my opinion). I felt like a kid all over again hearing the songs I grew up playing to pumping out of my 3DS. Classic tunes like Green Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog, Casino Night Zone from Sonic 2, and Radical Highway from Sonic Adventure 2 still hold up to this day. Every track comes with a remixed version and these sound great as well. Sound effects come from their respective games, such as Sonic’s jump noise or the boing heard when jumping off mushrooms in Mushroom Hill Zone from Sonic 3. There isn’t much talking in the game, but most of the segments that do feature dialogue are voiced and sound fine. Additional tracks are unlocked by completing missions as well, and I found myself beating missions after mission just to hear more music. Overall the soundtrack for Sonic Generations is a definite high point.
It’s neat to see older levels completely redone with 3D graphics. Stages are extremely varied and go from the lush greens of Green Hill Zone to the night sky in Radical Highway and the boardwalk of Emerald Coast. I liked how each Sonic looked the part too, and it was interesting to see the tweaks and changes Sega made to their mascot over the past 20 years. Even with the graphical update, Classic Sonic, Tails, and Robotnik looked like they were actually ripped from their respective timeline and thrown into a new world. There isn’t any real reason to use the 3DS’ 3D slider though: levels don’t function any different when it is on and oftentimes you’ll be flying so fast through each level you won’t even be paying attention to the graphics.
Sonic Generations for the 3DS is by no means a bad game, it is just a disappointing one. Being able to play as both Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic in an assortment of old and new stages is a great idea, but everything is over very quickly. Missions help to extend the lifespan of the title but they don’t offer much variety. Even with its faults, fans of the series will absolutely love the overflowing amount of fan service packed into the little cartridge.