Oh, my little blue hedgehog, how many times have we found ourselves in this position? Your latest prospective reboot gains early traction among fans by promising little airtime for sidekicks and a return to basic speed-running action. Anticipation reaches a fever pitch, as your developer Sega boasts huge events and celebrations of your past and present with promises of show attractions and free booze. And while everyone is keen to wait until official release to see the result of their expectancies, somehow I’m always the one to sit before your demo kiosk, skeptical and wary. I blame my love of Sonic Adventure 2.
Sonic Generations is based on a flimsy premise – quel surprise – this time meaning collaboration between modern Sonic (whom everyone hates for all his games since Sonic 3) and early Sonic (whom everyone just assumed grew three inches and lost some baby fat over the years to become Modern Sonic). Gameplay-wise, this means we split our time between 3D characters on a 2D plane as Classic Hedgehog and in a third person 3D perspective as Modern Hedgehog; think Sonic 2 meets the day portions of Sonic Unleashed. With no story or sidekicks in sight, there is little likelihood that Sega could screw this up, right?
While it is still in alpha build, our demo was not quite the promising return heralded by fanboy forumites. Like we’ve been telling Sega for the past decade or so, Classic Hedgehog still plays the best. If you’ve picked up a game in the franchise since 2003, you may not like that the emphasis on “Classic” means no homing attacks and the like, but you may be more concerned with the floaty jump mechanics. We aren’t the only ones to have noted a half-second delay in the inputs across the board, either. The visuals are also a bit anachronistic to Classic Sonic, as the mutual art design between hedgehogs has most environment details rounded and brightened, looking more inflatable than appealing.
In regards to the newer blue rodent, the third person perspective still isn’t quite kind enough to hedgehog platforming, especially at this stage of Generation‘s development. Sonic levels have always been built to stop you in your tracks, but getting Robonik-blocked here nets a significantly longer knockback, even more so than the similarly structured 3D games in the series. While getting hit once meant a flick to the ear one could quickly recover from, here the gameplay grinds to a halt as Sonic flickers and slowly regains his confidence. You are also seem to follow a path destined to launch you six inches above or below your intended jump panels or track continuations. This will send Modern Sonic plummeting for a few seconds, arms outstretched like a chump, to his offscreen death as the environments glitch and crackle around you. At least these segments are more congruous with the art direction.
My dearest, dearest Sonic: weren’t we happy once? Before all these plushie mascots moved in with us, and you got addicted to creepy narratives with humans and Arthurian knights instead of competent controls? You looked like you are finally coming around to seeing it our way. Your Generations is still in early build, and a lot of these mistakes are most likely to be tweaked before going gold, but it just feels like we are going through the motions. Franchises half your age have evolved and innovated beyond their genres, while you stagnate like its 1994. Turn around Sonic, look at those floating rings up there, aren’t they pretty? Now keep focused on them *click* and I’ll tell you about the rabbits…
Sonic Generations is heading to Nintendo 3DS, PS3, and 360 on November 22nd.