As a thank you gift to the fans who have made Sonic the Hedgehog one of gaming’s few evergreen characters, Sega has today released a demo of the forthcoming Sonic Generations for the Xbox 360 and PS3. But, just like Sonic, you’d better be fast if you hope to catch it, because the Sonic Generations demo will be available for just 20 short days.

Sega announced Sonic Generations earlier this year as part of their ongoing celebration of Sonic’s 20th Anniversary. For those not in the know, Sonic Generations includes two distinct versions of Sonic the Hedgehog: the classic side-scrolling, Spin Dashing Sonic from Sonic 2, and the modern Homing Attack-enabled Sonic that debuted in Sonic Adventure.

As seen in previous trailers, the game’s perspective shifts depending on which Sonic players are controlling. The demo released this morning includes a single stage, and of course there is no way it could be anything other than that most iconic of all Sonic levels, the Green Hill zone. Though each of Generations’ stages will be playable by both Sonics, the demo includes only the side-scrolling version of the stage, along with some classic tunes that fans will no doubt remember.

For those unable to download a copy of the demo, we’ve got the next best thing: a complete playthough captured on video. Take a look at the Green Hill demo for Sonic Generations.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7td_Qic22w&feature=player_embedded

As good as the video looks, it really doesn’t do justice to the game, which deserves to be seen running on a nice, big, high definition screen. Sonic Generations, at least in its side-scrolling stages, is viscerally pretty, with an extravagant amount of background detail and depth. The textures, especially the grass and stone, convey an explicitly tactile sense of the world that only the LittleBigPlanet games can match. That corkscrew near the end of the level? Perfect. That the game and the demo are also playable in stereoscopic 3D on both Xbox 360 and PS3 almost seems too much — though I’m willing to admit that I wish my set-up supported it.

But, of course, Sonic games have looked pretty in the past. The question is, how does it play? Sega has been working hard on re-creating the feel of classic Sonic games recently, both in last Summer’s Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and some portions of the Wii-exclusive Sonic Colors, though with mixed results.

The good news is that Sonic Generations instantly feels superior to the strangely leaden Sonic of Sonic 4. With only his classic move set at hand, the designers have had to jettison the series’ increasing reliance on Sonic’s Homing Attack as a method of navigating the level. Though it slows down the action just a touch, the difference it makes to the game’s playability is both dramatic and obvious.

Sonic jumps neither quite as high nor quite as far as he did in his classic Genesis adventures, though it’s awfully close, and Generations comes closer to the feel of the original Sonic the Hedgehog than any game has in years. The design of the demo level is squarely in the tradition of Sonic’s earliest games, with plenty of paths to discover and explore. As a whole, it’s a joyous recreation of Sonic’s past, presented with a great deal of care and attention to detail — and, again, it just looks fantastic.

Play while you can, Ranters. Nineteen more days, and the Sonic Generations demo will be gone. After that, be prepared to wait for the game’s retail release.

Have you downloaded the Sonic Generations demo? What do you think of it?

Sonic Generations is due late 2011 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo DS.

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Source: VG 24/7

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