(3DS)

Game Review

Sonic Generations Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Spin cycle

A lot can change in 20 years. When the original Sonic the Hedgehog launched on 23rd June 1991 we didn't even have the Super NES in the West, and the thought that Nintendo and SEGA would one day work together was less than laughable. Yet here we are, two decades later, playing a celebration of Sonic's career on Nintendo's latest console.

A lot has changed in those 20 years. While Sonic has firmly established himself as SEGA's commercial poster boy, his games have slowly diverged from the early 1990s template, when going around a loop at top speed was the biggest thrill: now Sonic grinds on rails, boosts and has to run away from everything bigger than he is. Sonic Generations wants to reconcile the two styles in one package, but it never quite satisfies.

The story behind Sonic Generations is standard fare: Dr Eggman has discovered a new monster — the "Time Eater" — and wants to use it to destroy the world. One unfortunate side effect is that the two timelines collide, bringing Classic and Modern Sonic, Tails and Eggman together. What's most disappointing is how the story is told: whereas the HD versions get fully rendered cut scenes, 3DS owners are left with talking character portraits, text boxes and the occasional portrait box that shakes or moves. There's no sense of movement or progression with these scenes; they feel more like placeholders than part of a polished product.

But let's not overplay the importance of cut scenes in a Sonic game — many will be glad they received less attention than usual. Picking up Classic Sonic and racing through Green Hill Zone is as appealing now as it was 20 years ago: with just a spin attack, jump and spin dash, this is recognisably the Sonic of old. Playing as his Modern version essentially puts the game in Sonic Rush mode: Sonic gains a boost bar and homing attack, with the balance weighted more on all-out speed than building momentum.

The differences between the two aren't as pronounced as Sonic Generations on 360 or PS3, which features 2D and 3D stages, but the boundaries become more blurred when the homing attack is added to Classic Sonic's arsenal. Here the game deviates from its campaign promise of recreating early 90s Sonic gameplay: having Classic Sonic use a homing attack changes the level design, encouraging you to chain enemies together and zip straight over to springs instead of skilfully measuring your leaps. It's entirely optional to use the homing attack, of course, but you won't access the fastest routes without it, and it becomes more and more important as you progress.

Modern Sonic has had almost no such changes made, and handles more or less identically to his past Dimps-produced handheld outings: with three similar titles on DS before it, the game's modern stages feel assured, with some smart use of background and foreground 3D to introduce alternate routes. It's often thrilling, and the addition of warning signs when approaching death drops helps to limit the frustrating deaths. Cynics may note it's still often a case of holding boost to win, but it's less hands-off than previous titles, at least.

Bosses and special stages will also be familiar to Rush veterans: bosses often sit in a circular arena, though the game uses 3D space more smartly this time, switching between planes deftly. The special stage sees you racing through a tube picking up coloured balls to grab a Chaos Emerald, and is essentially lifted straight from Sonic Heroes.

You may feel there's little here to surprise, and that's half the point, of course: it's supposed to be a celebratory revisit of Sonic's best bits and it regularly succeeds; Mushroom Hill Zone is particularly well captured. The sound also excels, with some high quality remixes and familiar sound effects to round things up.

While the regular story mode won't last too long, your playtime is extended by the presence of online multiplayer, time attack and 100 missions that offer tiny challenges to spice things up: defeat no enemies, complete a boss with just one ring, perfect runs and more. Challenges are unlocked through story mode progression, StreetPass hits or Play Coin purchases, and once conquered offer artwork, character models and music to browse.

Ultimately, however, it's hard to shake the feeling that Sonic Generations isn't all it could be. Just as Sonic Unleashed on Wii was pared-down next to its HD sibling, so Generations feels lacking: there's no overworld exploration to speak of, no red rings to find and little of the same sense of a new perspective on classic games. Adding the homing attack to Classic Sonic betrays the game's core appeal of enjoying Sonic as he was; instead it creates a strange hybrid that doesn't quite satisfy either camp. There's still the odd physics bump to smooth out too, though the game handles far better than at our hands-on preview earlier this year.

Conclusion

Sonic Generations has a lot going for it: it looks good and offers plenty of content, and when it's on form it succeeds in combining Sonic's platforming and speed in a single package. Some design choices miss the mark though, and it's undeniably short and unambitious compared to Super Mario 3D Land. Most of all, it never quite recaptures the original's vibrant spirit that made it stand out 20 years ago.

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Game Trailer

Sonic is coming to 3DS! Out in North America on 22nd November and Europe on 25th November

User Comments (88)

pixelman

#1

pixelman said:

Still want it! I can see myself spending a ton of time making the online leaderboards.

Pyrodon

#4

Pyrodon said:

I kind of wanted this, but I'm not going to get it. Nothing is going to distract me from the upcoming Mario Kart 7.

Radixxs

#5

Radixxs said:

I will pick up Colors instead. I'm not going to encourage lazy game development on the 3DS or any other system.

47drift

#8

47drift said:

A pretty cool idea would have been doing the handheld version of Generations as his past handheld outings. You could start with the Game Gear games and go through the Advance games and end with the Rush games.

Retro_on_theGo

#9

Retro_on_theGo said:

Yeah, screw that, I'll be getting the 360 version. :3
Adding the homing attack to classic sonic is a big turn-off and the console version's demo was just a deal sealer. That is the only 1 level demo I played 1 hour straight.

Linky_97

#11

Linky_97 said:

9/10 from me! Dont compare games with other games! The game is addicting and has alot of content but the only down side for me is that the story is too short! Finished the story in about 3 hours! But there is alot left too do in the game! Get it if u have the money!

hamispink

#12

hamispink said:

@47drift I think that would be a good idea. Especially because I was quite partial to the sonic advance games, as far as sonic games go.
Also, are you batman from minecraft awesome?

Blaze

#13

Blaze said:

I'll get it at Christmas. Until then I have SM3DL, Skyward Sword, Tales of The Abyss and Mario Kart 7 to keep me entertained! :-)

JamieOStaff

#14

JamieO said:

A charming sense of perspective in your introduction, one that is a great complement to a game with a retrospective heart, @James. I had an inkling that you would be in charge of the Sonic Generations 3DS review, I always look forward to your deliberation on a new Sonic game, you're one of the most passionate Sonic fans that I have met.

On many occasions I have argued that a 7/10 is a decent score, one which is worthy of a purchase and I will practice what I preach by requesting this as my third Christmas Day game (alongside Mario Kart 7 and Rayman Origins on PS3).

The sentence that has the most resonance with me from the review is "the game deviates from its campaign promise of recreating early 90s Sonic gameplay: having Classic Sonic use a homing attack changes the level design." It seems a shame that Dimps did not decide to keep the two gameplay styles completely separate, particularly as James mentions that the differences are not as strong as in the PS3/Xbox 360 versions of classic and modern Sonic.

I already know which classic Sonic zones are recreated in this game, I am looking forward to revisiting them with new design paths, just as I am intrigued to see how the 3D effect will add visual depth to side-scrolling Sonic.

A spin dashingly sound review, James. It is a wonderful read for anyone with an interest in SEGA's Blue Blur.

ennan

#15

ennan said:

Was interested in this title for a while... But adding a homing attack to classic sonic kind of ruins it for me. I love the megadrive games but don't much like the modern ones. Keep it simple sega.

Teh-Ray

#16

Teh-Ray said:

If it's shorter than Mario 3D, I can definitely get this to hold me off til Mario Kart 7 comes out. How exciting!

Supreme

#20

Supreme said:

I planned on getting this today, but ended up buying Cave Story instead as it had finally arrived in my shop. I'll definitely still get it another day though, I really like Sonic and the 3DS version of Generations is the only one I haven't played yet.

Stine

#21

Stine said:

I think I'd rather get the PS3 version (if I ever actually get a PS3, that is).

ThomasBW84Admin

#22

ThomasBW84 said:

I love Sonic, but will probably opt to bust out Sonic 1, 2 and 3 on my old Megadrive for now. It's a packed game schedule at the moment, but this definitely falls into the category of games where I keep an eye out for a bargain price in the future.

From the sound of things it's a pity that, despite this title celebrating a major anniversary, it doesn't have quite the level of polish and care that it deserves.

HipsterDashie

#24

HipsterDashie said:

I'm loving the 360 version of Generations. When I have the money, I plan on picking this one up too. :)

pikku

#26

pikku said:

Wow, it's short compared to Super Mario 3D Land? That takes skill! :O

yoyogamer

#27

yoyogamer said:

Having never played a sonic game before, I was hoping this would be a good introduction to the series. I guess not. Could someone tell me what would be the best game to start with?

JayceJa

#29

JayceJa said:

ive been enjoying the steam/console version, may pick this up for the extra classic levels, but am not really a fan of what the 3ds modern sonic gameplay looks like, never really could get into the rush games

i guess its worth a try though, will import it together with mario 3d land and mariokart some time in the next couple of weeks

TeeJay

#30

TeeJay said:

I haven't played a lot of Sonic games, so most of these areas are going to be unfamiliar to me. Would this make the game more enjoyable or less?

Supremeist

#31

Supremeist said:

I'll still get it, but not anywhere near the release. I've played the PlayStation Demo of SG and I must say, I am impressed with the visuals. But there's nothing really new to the formula, which really shines up Colors.

TheGreenSpiny

#32

TheGreenSpiny said:

How does the homing attack ruin classic Sonic? That's what he's desperatly needed all these years.

Dodger

#34

Dodger said:

Does it still have levels themed after the stupid Sonic games like 2006? Reading Game Informer's review for the 360/PS3 version sounded just like the Sonic series. The first half is great. I'm just shocked that they added a Sonic 2006 stage. That would be like the Realm of Memories in Four Swords Anniversary having a level themed after Zelda: The Faces of Evil. :P

StarDust4Ever

#35

StarDust4Ever said:

It's good to know that mt Sega Genesis Sonic & Knuckles cart (with Sonic 2 or 3 attached) still has a lot of replay value left in it. I recently discovered a Game Genie code that lets me use Tails with Knuckles on Sonic 3. Learn from the pros, make a "NEW SONIC THE HEDGEHOG" game. Sega, you can do better. "Nintendon't" make crappy lacluster games. :P

LEGEND_MARIOID

#38

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Great review thanks. TBH I'd give it a solid 8 but no where near a 9. I agree that both Sonics should've been kept completely seperate, but the game does require some getting into. Once you do, its ace - but inessential

I find it annoying that the handheld Sonics of the GBA and DS era don't get acknowledgements when people talk about the modern Sonic incarnations. Probably because they didn't appear on the Sony or Microsoft mega-hype, mega-advertised consoles.

James

#39

James said:

@C-Olimar What skill shop? :P

@Dodger No level from 2006 thankfully — it's got stages from Sonic Adventure, SA2, Sonic Rush and Sonic Colours though.

@StarDust 7/10 is not a "crappy, lacklustre game": it's a good game with some flaws.

DM666

#40

DM666 said:

I have the PS3 version as well as this and they compliment each other nicely, the graphics in this are great and I can honestly live without the cutscenes, on another note I have Rayman origins for PS3 but what happened to the 3DS version?

SanderEvers

#41

SanderEvers said:

@40: The 3DS version of Rayman Origins is still TBA

And since Ubisoft cancelled the 3DS version of Assassins Creed, I doubt that Rayman Origins will be headed to the 3DS.

RVN

#42

RVN said:

when i read "spin cycle" i thought this was a dissapointing game
glad it isn't sonic deserves better
yes, even better

Wildfire

#44

Wildfire said:

I'm already playing it and I totally agree with this review-It's a good game! If only Sega stopped with those baloon story telling cutscenes in Sonic games...

JamieOStaff

#45

JamieO said:

@TheDarkness The trouble is that at the very core of Sonic Generations, its unique selling point, is that it celebrates two types of gameplay: the retro classic Mega Drive version of Sonic and the homing attack enabled modern Sonic.

That the 3DS version of Generations presents its version of modern Sonic through the visual and rail-grinding gameplay styling of Sonic Rush is understandable, but to give classic Sonic the homing attack capability defeats the purpose of the game.

Classic Mega Drive Sonic already had two gameplay mechanics: firstly you could rush through levels like Green Hill Zone for a speedy experience and secondly, as early as a stage like Marble Hill Zone, the player had to carefully navigate platforms to avoid falling into hazards, like lava.

I was most looking forward to playing classic Sonic in this game, this was the title that would resurrect the Mega Drive gameplay, including slower paced sections where you would have to carefully float your spin jump upwards across vertical platforms. If your platforming skills were not up to scratch you would be punished and have to start your ascent all over again. Timing platform jumps was a core ingredient that SEGA implemented to make retro Sonic games more challenging on later levels.

The homing attack fractures this experience, not even Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 captured the Mega Drive titles in that way. The homing attack provides its own fun additions to 2D Sonic games, but classic Sonic titles already had their own style of gameplay without it.

As a retro Sonic fan, if SEGA are celebrating two versions of Sonic, I wish that Dimps had kept his classic Mega Drive feel and capabilities intact.

Kyloctopus

#46

Kyloctopus said:

This game sounds like fun. Besides I need something to spend my play coins on. The Chaos Emerald chasing was fun on Heroes. Sonic rush was fun and so was Sonic on Genesis. Although this game should have been a little more like the Steam version.

Nintendude92

#47

Nintendude92 said:

It's an average game, you'll have fun if you're into time attack.

Online is no good, lag and these crap items that slow you down

Linkstrikesback

#49

Linkstrikesback said:

Well sonic had to learn the homing attack at some point between sonic 3&knuckles and sonic 4 (which happens right after).

minorspoilers ahead

The console version suggests that Classic sonic learns to use the Homing attack and his boost ability by copying them from Modern Sonic.

He can also use the homing attack in the console version, but you have to unlock it from getting all the red rings on planet wisp and then it takes all your skill points to use.

Spoilers over

I'm not sure this game tickles my fancy anymore. I'm pretty fed up of the rush gameplay. It was pretty good in sonic rush. Passable in rush adventure. Sonic colours DS was just a poor version compared to the console game (and I really liked sonic colours wii). I get the feeling this is going to be the same deal

JamieOStaff

#50

JamieO said:

@Dark_TeeJay Take into account I have only played the PS3 version of Sonic Generations, I do not own the 3DS version yet, I will answer your question from my perspective.

I am a fan of Sonic titles, from the original 1991 Mega Drive game through to Wii Sonic Colours in 2010, I have played shed loads of Sonic games. Part of the attraction of Generations for me is nostalgia, the joy of returning to classic stages, revisiting each environment and revelling in the way this game indulges my memories through its nods to set-pieces and theme tunes.

If you have not played many Sonic games, then you will miss out on this sense of nostalgia.

However, if you are a fan of side-scrolling platform games, then you will find lots to enjoy about 3DS Sonic Generations. The pace and character that is in abundance in a Sonic title will still be a treat for you, plus many of the locations will still impress you both graphically and sonically. After all stages like Green Hill Zone and Casino Night Zone are genuine classics, they will be great to experience for the first time.

Plus, @James has mentioned above that this game journeys through a numbers of stages, including Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, Sonic Rush and Sonic Colours. Therefore, as a celebration the game has lots of visual variety, because the Dreamcast games had a very different setting to the Mega Drive titles and the Wii provided its own Wisp-based spin.

If you like side-scrolling platform games and own a 3DS, then it does not matter if you have not played many Sonic games in the past, the core Sonic gameplay is very accessible and you will enjoy this release.

milkman12

#51

milkman12 said:

@2

ohreally? because im pretty sure the modern sonic levels were designed for 3DS. ;)

TeeJay

#52

TeeJay said:

Oh good. Thank you. It's nice to know that the game doesn't completely rely on nostalgia to be fun. I've played Sonic Colors DS and The first Sonic for the Game Gear, so at least I'll be able to recognize elements from those games. I'll probably pick this up sometime in the future.

XD375

#54

XD375 said:

The stage from Sonic 06 in the HD version was ironically one of the best stages in the game. Sonic 06 had cool levels and music, they just needed to be in a game that actually worked.

Henmii

#55

Henmii said:

I knew it: A cheap alternative to the console version! I much rather had the console version!

Anyway, maybe I'll buy it someday if it gets a lot cheaper! Since yesterday I am a proud 3DS owner (I bought the Zelda-branded 3DS), and I also have Starfox 64 3D and Mario 3D land. And next week I'll buy Mariokart 7. The really good third-party titles have yet to come, wich is actually a blessing in disguise for me. 3DS titles are expensive and I am almost out of cash! Besides I also want to download some titles (I have Four swords already, but that one is free), so I also need some cash for that! Though the e-shop cards have yet to arrive!

So no Sonic for me (only if it gets cheaper), no Shinobi, no dr Lautrec, and only Cave story 3D if it gets cheaper (maybe). I wonder if Crush 3D will be any good!

By the way: Are the loading times still awful? I saw a video on youtube that showed a very long loading time. Wich was awful, of course!

carson

#56

carson said:

hmm...im guessing if you're a sonic fan, you'll love this game.

if you're a sonic fan, you'd prolly give it more than a measley 7/10

Kage_88

#57

Kage_88 said:

@27 - Start with the originals; pick up the Sonic Classic Collection on DS (it has 1, 2 & 3 plus Sonic & Knuckles), as well as the Sonic Rush titles. You can get Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 pretty cheap for Gamecube if you want an introduction to the 3D titles.

...but for Pete's sake, don't touch Sonic the Hedgehog 2006!

Oh, and I found this interesting;

"Just as Sonic Unleashed on Wii was pared-down next to its HD sibling..."

Not having played the HD versions of Unleashed, I need to ask James; was the Wii version actually inferior? Because many outlets have actually scored the Wii/PS2 versions higher than the PS3/Xbox 360 titles. They even have higher Metacritic scores!

...Oh, yeah, Sonic Generations...w00t w00t, and all that.

EDIT: @56 - Jeez... a 7 is not "measley" - it is good. 5 is average, understand?

LEGEND_MARIOID

#58

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Sonic Colours Wii was an outstanding game as well (NL revw 9/10). Better than Adventure IMHO. Again, not mentioned much as its not on the Sonysoft, mega-hyped, mega-advertised systems.

XD375

#61

XD375 said:

@Kage_88

Yes, the Wii version was horrible! Most people who actually played both Sonic Unleashed games will tell you Sonic Unleashed for 360 and PS3 is actually an alright game.

stromboli

#62

stromboli said:

Hated what I have seen from the console version. This looks nicer but I'm just not interested in Sonic. I got the Sonic Collection for the Gamecube to play on the Wii for a few bucks and couldn't even enjoy that.

supers0nic91

#63

supers0nic91 said:

I never experienced a confusion of controls nor did I ever find the story lacking. I prefer the story as it is kept simple, simulating the experience of the old Sonic games. Also, I thought it was clever to add in the homing attack to classic Sonic's arsenal particularly at the time he would have learnt it, Emerald coast. I think that Sonic generations 3d is an exelllent buy, and any Sonic fan would not be disappointed!

James

#64

James said:

@carson I'm a really, really big Sonic fan. Really big.

As for Unleashed, the Wii version had some stages missing and in the 360/PS3 version you can walk around the cities, whereas Wii just gets a map and areas to click on. This is a similar situation: on 360/PS3/PC you can run around and explore a 2D hub, but this is just a menu. Not saying it's the be-all and end-all (Super Mario 3D Land has no hub, of course) but it's a bit of a letdown, to me at least.

@Henmii The loading times didn't bother me to be honest :)

XD375

#65

XD375 said:

The Wii version of Unleashed actually didn't have any stages that the HD version had. They were in similar settings, but they played like flat racetracks for the most part whereas the 360/PS3 version had more variety in level design.

Here's a comparison of one of my favourite stages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxL21NQMczg

StarDust4Ever

#67

StarDust4Ever said:

I still have been hesitant to play any of the newer Sonics ever since I got burned with the craptastic mess of on-rails racing called "Secret Rings" for Wii. I did get Sonic 4 Episode I though, but Sonic's stride starts off a little on the slow side. Still, great classic game play. I wish they'd release all the additional episodes and place them together on a disc as a full retail game. The GBA games were good too, but they added way too many characters. Also Sonic Adventure DX Game Cube was nice too. Doesn't feel really like a classic Sonic game, but I enjoy early 3d platformers in general, complete with all their exploration / collection elements. But please, no more 3D rails games.......

TKOWL

#68

TKOWL said:

Still getting this, even though this makes yearn more for the console version.

XD375

#69

XD375 said:

@StarDust

Secret Rings was a crappy spinoff, play Sonic Colors - best Sonic game since Sonic Advance. It's mostly 2D gameplay, but the Wisps are really fun.

cheetahman91

#71

cheetahman91 said:

Glad to see it's good. I'll pick this one up when the price goes down. But what were Sega thinking when they decided to give classic Sonic the homing attack?

TikiTong

#72

TikiTong said:

7 is a good score and all, but when a game like this is hyped up and you look forward to it a lot, it's a little dissapointing it only gets a 7.

michiganurse

#73

michiganurse said:

I played the demo on my PS3 and I was totally blown away with this game. I have to say that it is a must buy.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#74

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

I actually have played about 9 hours total game time on this game and am now trading it in. Very good game, but hasn't grabbed me and kept me like previous Sonic outings on the handheld. Had to finance other games like Rayman Origins and Kirby's Adventure as well. I said 8 earlier, but I think a mid 7 or high 7 is about spot on.

Most of the SEGA fans I know say they like it to be fair, but prefer the psbox console version significantly moreso.

Mr_Reece

#77

Mr_Reece said:

I almost picked this up today, but remembering how Dimps added the homing attack to Classic Sonic's repertoire of moves — instead of keeping the move exclusive to Modern Sonic, a la the 360/PS3 versions — is putting me right off, no matter how much I'd like to play through the 3DS version's set of levels.

Maybe when it goes down in price I'll take a look.

B-dUbTHEking

#79

B-dUbTHEking said:

I think its awesome not very long but sonic games never are. this console is the perfect time for sega to make sonic adventure 3D?

tripunktoj

#80

tripunktoj said:

I remember this game was announced to use SpotPass, even in eShop and nintendo.com. Did I miss something needed to activate it? or is that info. wrong? Do this game appears on your "Extra data" under Data management of 3DS settings?

Blue_Yoshi

#82

Blue_Yoshi said:

The levels are better than on the HD versions but Classic Sonic getting a homing attack doesnt seem too bad until they force you to use it.

Linkuini

#83

Linkuini said:

The more I think about this game now that I've beaten it, the more it frustrates me. Is it still a good game? Definitely. Is it good enough to cap off Sonic's first 20 years? Not even close. I don't know what the console version is like (looks a whole lot better than this based on the trailers), but if this is supposed to be a special occasion, couldn't the handheld release be somewhat less... objectively inferior?

I want to like it, but in my heart I realize all this game adequately celebrates is 20 years of being outclassed by Mario. There, I said it. :'(

TheN64Dude

#84

TheN64Dude said:

I thought it was pretty good, and for that matter addicting. I aplaud the fact that the choices of levels like Mushroom Hill or Emerald Coast are WAAAAY better than the console version but, I have to say there are a lot of problems. If we took out the classic homing attack and gave Modern Sonic 3D levels, maybe the other problems could be overlooked and acceptable. I still LOVE the 3DS version though.

Yanni

#85

Yanni said:

@Linkuini
I have the same feelings about the 3DS version. Being a huge Sonic fan back from the Genesis (Mega Drive here ;-) ) era, I was blown away by the Green Hill, Mushroom Hill and so on modern recreations, but they got old too quickly. After beating the game, I have no reason to get back to it and the 100 missions don't do the job for me.

Tohru

#86

Tohru said:

I liked Sonic Generations on the 3DS but I did not like how there wasn't any animation in the cutscenes! I mean Wii or 360 (I dont know which console had animated cutscenes) got those cutscenes perfect. Besides that, I really liked Sonic Generations. u

SonicTheBluBlur

#87

SonicTheBluBlur said:

@Nintendude92 You must have poopsiedoodlecacadoggiepoopledoodoo Internet. I don't experience ANY slowdown on my copy of the game (even at my dad's house where we still have DSL). Are you on dial-up or something that barely supports Wi-Fi?
Please watch the profanity — TBD

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