Sonic Generations Review (3DS)
As interesting (and enjoyable) as the console port of Sonic Generations turned out to be, we were curious how the Nintendo 3DS version would fare. Back at E3 and the Penny Arcade Expo, we had the chance to go hands-on with the strictly 2-D levels, while enjoying the splendor of the 3-D visuals that the little portable system could provide. Now that the finished product has hit store shelves, does the handheld Generations live up to the hype? Well, sort of.
This game is at its best when it sticks to its old-school intentions. For the most part, it does that. Sonic Generations features two iterations of the fast-running hero, both the modern-day one and the “classic” one we grew up with way back in 1991. The retro version is arguably better, as we don’t have to fuss with little gameplay extras. Instead, we run through remade versions of old-school levels, such as Casino Night and Green Hill Zone, among others. When the game sticks to these basics, it really accomplishes quite a bit. (Funny, huh? Doing all this by dealing with what works.)
Now, by comparison, the new Sonic levels aren’t bad. Rather than going through the motions in full 3D, Sega elected instead to make more modernized 2D levels for the ‘hog to run through, but they pale in comparison to the older ones. They seem a little bit smaller for their own good. You’ve reached the exit before you even know it, wondering where the time could’ve flown by. Fortunately, they’re reasonably big enough for you to explore and find the “little things” you missed the first time around, like 1ups and other little goodies.
One thing I noticed about the two together, though, is that they get progressively harder. Dedicated platforming fans may be thrilled by this, but kids and less experienced players may be frustrated by the fact that there are so many bottomless pits to accidentally fall in, or scattered enemies that bring your run to a halt. It’s a matter of memorization, I guess, but we could’ve used more depth and less instant traps.
Furthermore, some of the boss battles are really lacking here. We’re used to battling Dr. Robotnik at every twist and turn, and we were interested to see what contraptions he had here. Some disappoint, while others aren’t so easy to destroy. However, there could’ve been more of them, instead of lame speed contests with Silver and Shadow the Hedgehog. I suppose Sega threw them in for nostalgia purposes, but they don’t really work as well as expected.
Nevertheless, the games play like a classic Sonic adventure, so you’ve got that. Playing as classic Sonic, you may be a little miffed over the lack of the homing jump, but that adds to the glorious old-school fun. The newer Sonic stages are pretty good, too, even though there are times you don’t have direct control over the hero, such as using a turbo button to outrun a toppling tower and not having any other mobility. Could’ve been helped a little, perhaps…
The graphics look great for 3DS standards. While the character models are a little lacking in areas, the levels themselves look outstanding, hunkering back to the classic design of Sonic games while throwing in some fresh elements. The black-and-white (at first) map system is easy to navigate through, so you can see what acts need to be completed and what’s left to run through. The game runs at a suitable speed, so you can get your blast processing fix.
Plus, if you prefer 3D Sonic, you’ll love the bonus stages, which borrow some design ideas from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, running in full 3D as you collect items and chase after a Chaos Emerald on the run. These are fun – could’ve used more of them.
As for the music, it’s vintage Sonic, with a few new tunes thrown in for good measure. Not all of them will be in your head, but I admit that I smiled a little bit when the all-too-familiar Casino Night riff played in my ears. The sound effects are old-school as well, right down to the “sproing” from jumping on a, well, spring. They’re “sproingy” I suppose.
With better level design and less difficulty spikes, Sonic Generations could’ve been a spectacular must-own alongside Super Mario 3D Land. But as it stands, it isn’t bad, and it’s a nice little reminder that Sonic Team and Dimps still care about their hero. No signs of Werehog-ness here. Whew.