09/12/2011

[Review] Sonic Generations

It's taken a bit of a while to get around to this, and I will try my best to keep it as spoiler-free as possible. I should warn any readers however that as I'm a FUCKING MASSIVE Sonic fan, I am obviously going to struggle to keep a neutral point of view on things - so instead of trying to be a fence-sitter I'll write this from the POV of a Sonifag. After all, that's who the game is aimed at, right?
The 360 cover art. Very retro - and yet very with the times.

Sonic Generations is the latest in a long long loooooong line of titles in the Sonic series, this one in particular commemorating the 20th anniversary of the blue blur. Seeing as how I've been playing Sonic for 19 of those 20 years I'm well placed to be able to define what makes a good Sonic game and what doesn't. Let's take this thought for a moment, and look at a couple of examples of either end of the spectrum. We can't really count the original Mega Drive games as they are automatically made of win and are compared to just about all other Sonic games, such is their sheer power through great gameplay and warm nostalgia. Neither should we really compare the Adventure games as Sonic Adventure was a good idea at the time, and evolved into a decent title for its sequel - but the Dreamcast was so underused as a console that instead let us fast forward to the first of the Sonic games to appear on a non-Sega console, and the beginning of multi-porting and truly opening Sonic up to the masses.

Sonic Heroes does not. It is a festering pile of shit and if I ever mention it in a blog ever again in anything other than a derogatory manner then please scoop my fucking eyes out with a big rusty combine harvester - the side effect of which being the rest of my head would be missing but that's a side effect I could live with, Sonic Heroes being that utterly pathetic both as a part of a franchise and as a part of gaming history. In fact Sonic Heroes is worthy of an entire entry in its own right and should be entitled "how to piss off Sonic fans in one moment of colossal fail, and in about 10,000 words and several rude pictures". I would mention Shadow but I think I'm the only person who actually liked that game, even through its many flaws.

On the flip side of the coin you have Sonic Unleashed, with its interesting switching between 2D and 3D. So fucking what if the werehog was crap in some people's eyes? I quite liked him and his play style, the amount of hours I've spent levelling the crap out of him in a no-brained bash-a-thon are.... well, I've lost count now. But it's that no-brained aspect of the game that led me to have high hopes for Sonic Colours, hopes that were well placed and led more of the Sonic fandom to believe the series was truly on the up.

One of the boss fights in the game pits you against Shadow, the Ultimate Lifeform.



Which leads us nicely on to the newest title, SG. The main gimmick of this title is the ability to switch between Classic and Modern Sonic, each with their own unique little touches. Classic Sonic can rev up to insane speeds and jumps pretty high, whereas Modern Sonic has the boost, homing attack and general assortment of skills that have been acquired over the years.
Classic Sonic is disappointing a little as the old momentum is hard to get up, but in that respect it is very reminiscent of Sonic 1's handling. Walking up a ramp is a bloody nightmare unless you have a run up! Many people have criticised this, but I prefer to think of it as a subtle copy of the original game's physics. But it's still an absolute joy to be able to nail a precision jump the split second you land on the ground, no waiting for the physics to catch up and let you jump once more - it's tight and appears to have the refinement of later 2D titles.
Modern Sonic moves as eye-bleedingly fast as ever, and his now normal repertoire of moves has been modified slightly so they're less clunky. Drifting now fucking works - which amazed me no end the first time I nailed a turn just right, homing attacks are as smooth as they were back in the Adventure days and just as rapid fire, and if you do die from falling off an edge it's more than likely your fault as opposed to the shitty controls - and that's a great feeling as you attempt One More Go, because you know the game will let you make that fuckin' jump - you just have to nail it.

And it is this that makes the game win in my eyes. One More Go syndrome is an evil son of a bitch and this game is so diseased with it that you could send it to the days of the Black Plague and it'd blend right in with a red cross painted on its shabby wooden door. Very rarely does poor level design land you in trouble, as just like with the old games it is certainly possible to charge through the levels without much of a care in the world - but going too fast means you'll run into spikes and badniks if you're not careful. Purchasing skills allows you a little more agility, speed and better stopping power - all of which encourage you to go faster and faster. But to go truly faster still, you need to remember the levels and time that jump just right. Which brings me back to the first point - one more go. Sweet levels, really good control system. And those levels are really easy to commit to memory.

 
ZOMG CHEMICAL PLANT AND THAT NASTY MEGA MACK FLUID, however it's spelled.


So while we've established the good parts, it's only fair that we cover the downsides to this game... and there's only really three.

The first one is easy enough - the bosses. Incredibly stupid until it just makes sense, and even then it seems like they cheat to ensure you can't get the hit you need. All the bosses are guilty of this, even the last one. There isn't a single boss fight where you can just let rip and bash the shit out of another Egg-O-Matic, it's now all about waiting for them to attack and reveal a weak spot that you then attack within a small window of opportunity, and then wait for the next chance to strike again. I don't like this as it is, and I really didn't like it when the boss almost cheats to prevent you getting that hit. I won't say any more on the bosses because that's really about all I can say about them without going into spoilers, but it would have been nice to have a more traditional boss.

The second? S Ranks - once upon a time incredibly hard to get - are now reasonably easy to get. After about two or three plays through each level, I'd unlocked the achievement for S Rank on 7 acts. And these weren't attempts to get S Rank, they were just trying to get red rings to get more unlockables. There's a lot of replay value to this game thanks to little touches like that, but while I'm happy that S Ranks are now within reach of mere mortals, I'm disappointed that there even needs to be ranks in the first place. I have wondered what ranks I'd get if they were patched into older titles, but it shouldn't be so easy to get the highest rank so quickly. It hardly seems like a reward for repeated playthroughs.

And finally, the third? The fact I've had to stop playing it long enough to write this. Back to the 360 I go, fuckers :P

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