Can Sonic 1-up recent titles, or is it game over?

     In honor of his 20th anniversary, Sonic Team releases “Sonic Generations,” the grand encompassment of their recent trend of recapturing Sonic’s glory days, in that it does so literally!  When a mysterious plot device tears holes in time and space, modern day Sonic is brought face to face with his 20 year old, Sega Genesis counterpart.  Together, the two Sonics speed through 9 stages from his, or rather their, past.  Each stage is split into two acts; the first being 2 dimensional, modeled after Sonic’s Genesis titles.  The classic music and stage design have been emulated to perfection, and the controls are just right.  The second act features modern Sonic in 3d levels, using the ‘sonic engine’ found in more recent games.  Game play shifts seamlessly from side-scrolling 2d to free-roaming 3d segments, the later tooled to keep you moving forward, focusing on quick response to obstacles rather than punishing the player for going too fast.  The system is in its early stages, however.  While it more polished in this showing than ever, there are occasional control slips or frame rate issues.  It is abundantly clear that modern Sonic wants to move forward, not at an angle, straight ahead, which leaves some jumps more difficult than they should be, and some deaths feeling unwarranted.  Luckily, these issues are remedied with the inclusion of sidestep and homing techniques from previous games. 

      The game truly delivers the best of both worlds.  Long time Sonic fans will love seeing old stages like “Green Hill Zone” re-imagined in modern Sonic style, but it is equally satisfying to see classic Sonic tackle a modern stage in a 2 dimensional plane.  Additionally, because Dreamcast era levels, like “City Escape” from the cult favorite “Sonic Adventure 2”, have never been seen in either style of play offered, both acts feel like a fresh experience.  Boss battles, which are also adapted from previous titles, provide some of the highest points of the game, and succeed in capturing the feel and tension of the blue blur’s most climactic battles.  Unfortunately, the game ends on a sour note.  There is no final level to speak of, and what was a great opportunity for a final boss battle, ends up a confusing MESS.  At least the ending cinematics are enjoyable, and actually manage to pull off an amusing plot twist; quite impressive for a game without an actual plot.

     Sonic Generations absolutely succeeds in its purpose, nostalgia.  Any Sonic fan over the years will fall in love with the game instantly.   However, this calls into question the game’s appeal to those who aren’t Sonic fans.  While this game is incredibly enjoyable to any player old or new, its length is a real issue.  Completists will find at least 30 hours of game play here, hunting down hidden rings, attempting to score “S” ranks on levels, and completing missions (which, unlike past games, provide a unique experience from the main game).   Unfortunately, those only interested in finding the game’s end credits, are looking at a 7 hour investment at best.  If this game were being scored on game play alone, it deserves an outstanding rating.  But an adventure so short, no matter how enjoyable, does not warrant a $50 price tag.  Luckily, Sonic games have a tendency to drop in price quickly, some stores have already dropped their tags to $40, and as with any game on the short side rental is an option.   Whichever route you wish to take, this is not a game to be missed, and is easily the blue hedgehog(s)’ greatest game in over a decade!  Happy Birthday Sonic!