In 1991, Sonic Team reportedly spent six months working on Green Hill zone alone, just to make sure the first levels of Sega's flagship game were perfect. I highly suspect the same is true of the Modern Sonic version of Green Hill in Sonic Generations. It is the perfect Sonic level. However, it's been widely available for free as a demo on XBLA and PSN for weeks now. Can the rest of the game really stand up to this barnstorming precedent? Well let's take a look…
Above: Here it is, folks - the 3D Sonic level you always wanted. Perfect? I'd say... yes
For once, Sonic Team seems to have listened to its fans. There are only two playable characters in the whole game – and they're both Sonic. Proper Sonic. No werehogs or stupid swords. No Big the Cat or E-102 Gamma – just the fastest feet and the sharpest spikes in gaming, doing what they do best: Running extremely fast and dealing spinny death to any fiendish robotic creation that stands in their way.
The time-bending plot is clearly just a vehicle to get 'classic' Sonic and 'modern' Sonic to star in the same game, so it's not like the story is likely to be hailed as a classic work of fiction. That said, it continues the tradition started by Sonic Colors of having cut-scenes that are worth watching, with funny scripting and new, knowing nods to past games which are fun to watch out for.
Above: Aww, look at the cheeky little chappy. Can we keep him? Huh? Huh? Can we?
I've got to say, though, classic Sonic steals every scene he's in – further proof if ever it were needed that some characters are just better when they don't speak. His character has a sweetness and strength, all told through body language and facial animations instead of the traditional awful dialogue.
I sincerely hope current head of Sonic Team Iizuka-san realises the strength of this character and reverses his decision not to make another game with him in. This is the Sonic we love.
Rate me, my friend
Sonic Generations is big on rankings. After each main level, you're graded on your finishing time and score, with an 'S' possible rank if you do it all reasonably well without dying once. But once the main acts are done (of which there are a total of 18), challenge missions open up, dotted around the hub world as gates. You have to complete a few of these to progress to the next area, but there are many more optional challenges.
Above: Once completed, ring the golden bell and collect the musical note to unlock new music
Each gate has two challenges (one for each Sonic), and each of these is graded like the main stages. Going through them to get an 'S' grade on each one is fiendishly addictive and takes a loooong time - I've just done it, about two weeks after receiving the game. The sheer volume of content on offer is amazing, but these missions are undeniably the 'filler' that would otherwise have seen you control a slower character. You still only play as Sonic, mind, despite the appearances of a few familiar faces. How refreshing it is to say that?
Some of the levels are so different in the challenge missions, they really are like traditional 'Act 2's. They even feature nods to classic moments that don't appear in the main levels, like the pinball bumpers of Spring Yard Zone, the elemental shields from Sonic 3 and even the old end-of-act cages full of animals. But, conversely, some of them are something-and-nothing, and a few even feel cheap and tacked-on.
Above: Some challenges are distinctly low-quality compared to the main game. Others (like this one with giant badniks) are brilliant. Less really would have been more