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Sonic Generations: Hands on 3DS and PS3 preview plus exclusive gameplay videos

You probably played the Sonic Generations demo and think you know exactly how good the game's going to be. Well, forget it - that demo is old. The game has taken visible strides forward and a fresh hands-on with a near complete version shows that there's way more to the game than initial impressions suggested. Bucketloads of fan-pleasing content and the slickest 3D Sonic platforming since... Sonic Jam. Yes, from 1998. We've also got hands-on impressions of a dramatically improved 3DS version too, so there's loads to tell you about. Take a seat - oh, but mind the spikes.

Let's start with the 'big' version, in this case running on PS3. Taking the pad, it's immediately apparent that my biggest complaint has already been fixed – Sonic's jump height now seems slightly higher than it was in the demo, making it not only more authentic, but easier too. Take a look at this exclusive gameplay video - you'll notice that the jump Sonic makes at 0:44 would have fallen short in the old demo, yet here it makes it to the platform. It's details like this that make all the difference to hardcore Sonic fans.

But, improved though it is, you've seen Green Hill Zone lots already. But where the demo stopped after one level, I was treated to hands-on time with Sky Sanctuary, Chemical Plant, Speed Highway, City Escape and a Death Egg boss level, not to mention the hub world and mission challenges. 

Funny joke is funny

The game's plot is told through deliciously self-referential cut-scenes. Sonic eats chilli dogs while holding Amy at arms length literally with his whole hand over her face as she runs on the spot trying to get to him. But just as it's getting all cosy, a vortex opens up in the space/time continuum and all of Sonic's buddies (which include some Chaotix members) get sucked into it. Some cynics would likely be happy to leave the game there, having solved the most irksome problem of the past 19 years, but they'd be missing out on some gorgeous gameplay, so let's carry on.

The hub world is devoid of colour to begin with, featuring themed areas based on old levels from Sonic's past. Sonic goes round filling them in with colour and saving his friends. Tails is rescued first, which brings up a neat little exchange where Sonic says Green Hill Zone 'looks familiar' and Tails says 'not to me'. More lolz.

Above: Of course, Tails would recognise this level. Who wouldn't?

The mission modes work like they did when replaying levels in Sonic Adventure, only now they're separate and can take wildly different routes, even making some parts look like a traditional 'Act 2, they're so different. I tried a 'doppelganger race', where Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic square off against each other in a dash through a previously cleared level. It works well, especially when you trigger a collapsing platform and watch your hapless competitor fall straight through it.

The hub world is used to access these challenges, rewarding you with keys that you have to collect (easier said than done as they fly around the hub) and when you've got enough, you can access a boss area.

The boss I saw was a reimagining of the boss fight from the end of Sonic 2. Robotnik's giant mech is now in full 3D and you have to dodge his attacks while triggering switches to spawn bombs. Make his attack miss you and hit the bomb and you get the chance to land a hit on his big shiny head. It looks great and there's a very cute animation where Sonic hits the mech on the bum with a spin attack. It's quite literally how we all wanted to kick Robotnik's ass back in the day.

Reliving the dream

The old 2D levels have made a good leap into 3D - the demo alone showed us that. But what's more interesting is how the already 3D Dreamcast levels have been updated.

Some sections are virtually identical to the old ones (only looking nicer), but set-pieces are mixed around and re-ordered, plus given some extra surprises. For instance, the GUN truck that threatened to squash Sonic (and did indeed flatten Big the Cat) in Sonic Adventure 2 now features added spinning blades that try to slice you into hog fillets. It's thrilling stuff.

Above: The blades are yet to be deployed here, but it's already exciting to play

Similarly, Speed Highway (the first level ever shown off when Sonic Adventure was announced in 1998) features familiar sections like the dash down the side of the building and the helicopter, plus that wonderful hill at the beginning, it's just that they're slightly rejigged to make them feel fresh. Example? Using the bumpers on the pad to quick-step left and right on the wall run, like in Sonic Unleashed. 

Some ideas are entirely new, like a skateboard bit (which you can glimpse in the 'Dreamcast era' trailer), where Sonic is in side-scrolling mode and pulling off ollies like Tony Hawk. Also, while the familiar music returns, to my ears it sounds like it's been re-recorded, with familiar vocals but new inflections. It could just be a remaster or a different take from the original recordings, but they sound much clearer. And there's a classic and modern version of each track (something that works particularly well on the 3DS game, but we'll get to that shortly).

I wanna fly sky high... oops wrong game

We moved on to Sky Sanctuary, which features transparent sections of flooring and fluffy cloud platforms to bounce on. Oh, but don't take my word for it - check out our second exclusive video:

Sky Sanctuary is perhaps the least intuitive of all the levels we've seen so far, with a couple of Sonic Colors-esque moments of clumsiness. But I'm pleased to say it wasn't a recurring theme through the other levels I played. The pacing is superb and, for the first time in ages, the game doesn't look crap if you don't know where you're supposed to be going. Sure, you'll make mistakes, but the game won't look broken now because of it.

Fixed!

There is even hope for the more awkward bits that are still in there. If by some chance you were lucky enough to try the 'Modern Sonic' version of Green Hill Zone (at E3 or Summer of Sonic, for instance), you might have tripped up on a few obstacles near the end of the act. Well, they're gone now. The levels are being worked on even now to ensure they flow as well as they possibly can - and that's (hopefully) going to be the making of this game.

Sega is working very hard to get this one right. Everything about Generations is clearly aimed at pleasing long-term fans of the series and the game is full of surprises - even more surprises than we've seen so far. Let's just say that while playing, there were a few moments when I chanced upon some things I definitely wasn't supposed to see yet...

No, I can't give you a clue. Really, my lips are sealed on pain of spiky death. So let me tell you instead about the 3DS version...

17 comments

  • Enaksan - October 7, 2011 6:45 a.m.

    Hub World?..... hmmmmm.... Having said that though, i did very much enjoy the demo i played at Eurogamer Expo, the only issue for me is what platform to pick it up on. Does the 3DS version have the same levels as the 360/PS3 or is there a noticeble difference? Might have to check out both!
  • Tangerine - October 7, 2011 5:09 a.m.

    Great preview! I'm glad it's come a long way since the demo. I was in two minds on the game based on that but you have cleared many of my fears Justin :)
  • negiWDJr - October 6, 2011 6:46 p.m.

    "It's worth noting, for all the hate that surrounds modern Sonic's homing attack, you don't half miss it when it's not there". I created an account to applaud that statement.
  • SanctusScorpius - October 5, 2011 8:23 p.m.

    'No werehog', huh? Oh dear, am I a bad person for waiting to see the reactions to...?
  • IceBlueKirby - October 5, 2011 7:47 p.m.

    I'll always stand by Sonic because I grew up with his games, and I don't even have a problem with the majority of the modern ones either. Whereas most people my age see this as a return to form of sorts, I see it as a wet dream combining both styles of Sonic into one game for a massive attack of that trademark speed that disappeared with blast processing all those years ago and that style and flashy flair of the 3D games.
  • birdro - October 5, 2011 4:47 p.m.

    High hopes as usual, sad there's a need to be wary of sonic these days but nothing is glaringly wrong with this yet. Also about 2:10 in the sky sanctuary vid, they got those awkward run fly platforms back! Supposed to be in marble garden, but i prefer Sky Sanctuary and they got the game right anyway. I remember getting stuck on low ledges with those and then firing off at like triple spindash speed once i cleared them.
  • suicidali - October 5, 2011 10:44 a.m.

    ... No werehog? No hoverboards? No Excalibur? You sure?
  • liadz - October 5, 2011 12:28 p.m.

    And no human princess romance? I'm afraid that's too good to be true. Also, fat Sonic is so much more charismatic than his modern version.
  • db1331 - October 5, 2011 12:51 p.m.

    Reading that while looking at your avatar cracked me up. It fits so perfectly.
  • mickeygfunk - October 5, 2011 9:40 a.m.

    so what about the input lag present in the PS3 demo, has that been fixed?
  • Burdmayn - October 5, 2011 9:49 a.m.

    Where did you experience lag? I've seen a few people mention this but I never noticed lag on either the 360 or ps3 version.
  • mickeygfunk - October 11, 2011 8:31 p.m.

    there is approximately 300ms of lag between button press and on screen reaction, it makes the demo unenjoyable and very hard to time jumps. i also notice it in all the sega genesis collection games (sonic 1-2, gunstar heroes, etc), and to be sure, i dug the old genesis 3 out of the closet to compare... there is a substantial input delay on the ps3 sonics.
  • shawksta - October 5, 2011 9:20 a.m.

    Awesome! Its great to see Sega do it right, they started off on the right foot with colors, now their going full flegded goodness. Interesting how the 3DS version is different in certain aspects, I also usully leave the 3D slider full, I wear glasses and it barely bothers me, I might pick both versions up.
  • EnigmaSpirit - October 5, 2011 2:47 p.m.

    I agree, they definitely started on the right foot with Colors. I am really looking forward to the full version. The 3DS seems cool too, but I grew up on Sonic Adventure, so I would like the balance of both gameplay styles. My 3ds has been kind of lonely lately though...
  • Diego_UK - October 5, 2011 8:52 a.m.

    I am way too excited for this game.
  • db1331 - October 5, 2011 8:51 a.m.

    You Sonic fans sure are an odd bunch. I have to give respect to anyone who was able to endure a decade or more of horrible games and still stand by their hedgehog, though. I'm not sure I could do the same. Hopefully this one turns out to be the game you have all been waiting for. Goodness knows you deserve it.
  • flabslapper - October 5, 2011 9:47 a.m.

    I WAS going to bust balls about Sonic the Hedgehog 4 part 2 never coming out but apparently it's in development so I'll just shut my mouth otherwise I agree with you (like usual lol) that Sonic fans deserve a good game, and hopefully this is it I wish I had that sort of patience though

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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