Sonic Generations Preview

Sonic has had his fair share of troubles over the past few years. There’s no denying the shift in quality from the more beloved entries in the franchise compared to the current ones. Sega has made several valiant attempts to regain a rapidly depleting fan base, but unfortunately the final products have not turned many heads.

When Sonic 4 failed to make a splash, it would not have been surprising to see Sega throw in the hat on trying new things with the blue hedgehog. Yet here we are, a year later, and Sonic has once again been revamped to try and recapture some attention before he fades out of the collective gamer mind once and for all. The question is, does Sonic Generations do enough to convince us to give Sonic the Hedgehog another chance?

The short answer is yes, at least for my taste. I am one of the few gamers that have genuinely enjoyed the 3D Sonic games that have flooded the market over the past several years. I spent hours and hours on both Sonic Adventure games, and the plethora of DS Sonic titles took up a good amount of my time as well. Sonic Generations manages to accomplish what Sonic 4 failed to — recreate the experience of the original Sonic games while providing gamers with a unique and creative take on the character.

The first level of the Generations demo was (of course) Green Hill Zone, Act 1. It felt identical to the dozens of recreations this classic level has received, but the 3D worked, and it worked well. I am still not convinced by the 3D fad taking over both the gaming and film industries, but I couldn’t help smiling when Sonic actually went around a loop and appeared to be behind the foreground. It was bound to happen eventually, and Generations handles it well. This first zone used the squatter, cuter version of Sonic we all know and love from his Genesis days. By delving into the past like this, Sega has the opportunity to draw in the crowd that loves the character, but is still wary of a new game with the hedgehog’s name on it.

The second level featured the new, sharper, more extreme Sonic — the Sonic we have become accustomed to throughout the 3D era. Green Hill Zone, Act 2 started much like the first, and I began to wonder whether or not Sega had learned anything from their last attempt at a 2D Sonic title. My worries were rather abruptly grinded away when Sonic jumped on to a grind rail and the camera moved behind him. Although gameplay was in no way affected by this 3D showcase, the view was enough to break up an otherwise clear recreation of an old level. Later in the same stage, Sonic jumped from the foreground into the background, appearing much smaller and farther away, giving the player a larger view of the colorful environment. It’s a small touch, but it looks great. These Green Hill zones were just as much fun on the 3DS as they were years ago on Sega’s console.

The third level was not another racing zone, but instead a short boss fight with Dr. Eggman (I prefer Robotnik). Eggman was in one of his trademark machines, causing chaos all around Sonic while the player had to avoid his punching and grabbing attacks on a small, circular platform. The key to defeating the deranged doctor was just the same as it always has been — attack his underside. I’m not sure if Sony will be concerned with Sonic’s rear touch, but it sure is effective against Eggman’s machine. He was dispatched with a few hits, and the demo was over.

Sonic Generations E3 Screenshot 3

I am probably not the right person to come to for Sonic the Hedgehog opinions. Despite my initial disinterest in this franchise, the 3D Sonic games were the first of the series to draw me in and force me to revisit the original, lauded Sonics of the Genesis age. Sonic Generations is nothing revolutionary. In fact, it feels more like the old 2D Sonic games than anything I’ve played on the DS or elsewhere in several years. Whatever the case, I came away with a very positive impression of Generations, and I cannot wait to see how the mix of old and new Sonic might come into play later in the game.

Sonic Generations will be available on the Xbox 360, PS3, and the 3DS in November, 2011.

Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.