Sonic Generations Demo
Developer SEGA Publisher SEGA Genre Action Platform Xbox 360, Playstation 3 Release 22nd November 2011
- So, here's a 'nice' surprise which SEGA dropped on us today, the day of Sonic's 20th anniversary. A demo for their next take on the Sonic franchise: Sonic Generations. I've not been anticipating this game at all, I think Sonic Colours shown exactly how much contempt SEGA has for the people like me, vocal old-school Sonic fans expecting just a little bit of respectability from a franchise which we grew up with, much like how comic book fans want better film adaptations of their favourite comics. It's not unreasonable, right? I'm not opposed to change in the Sonic franchise, infact I enjoyed the 3D Sonic Adventure games and even Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS. They were fun. So when I play games like Sonic Colours, which the only fun they can drag out of the game is by making it a cheap Mario knock-off, I feel rightfully upset. Not just because Mario is a completely polar opposite of the platforming genre but because SEGA just don't have the calibre to pull of such a feat. They barely had it in the 90's and surely don't have anywhere near it today.
Yep, that iconic part of Green Hill Zone gets a mention again. Very little else does.
So here's the demo. It consists of 1 stage; Green Hill Zone, where you play as "Classic Sonic" as the game refers to him. I'm highly suspicious that SEGA didn't throw in "New Sonic" in this demo either, especially since they were more than happy to show him off to the gaming media at E3. I get the distinct, very cynical impression that SEGA just wants to get across the fact that they've made a game very similar to how old Sonic games used to play. Wow, did I really just write that? What's going on... Anyway, so keep in mind that this demo only focuses on one side of the game. Much like how the Sonic Unleashed demo only focused on the first Sonic (not Werehog) stage and look how that game worked out, at least three quarters of the game was stupid Werehog levels which no one liked, cared about or even found to be a remotely good idea in a Sonic game. I'm also rather suspicious of the fact that this demo is a timed demo, you only have access to it for 19 days and you must be connected to the internet to play it. Not entirely sure why, maybe transmitting play data back home to SEGA to improve the game? Just thought I'd like to point that out.
Yoshi flutter-jump not included.
So, my first impressions of the game were... Well, not great. When booting up into the game, you get a strange, jungle-like beat before the game bursts into the Sonic the Hedgehog 1 title screen music. Still, this stylistic choice aside, I couldn't help but notice a shiny "3D Mode Options" selection on the title screen. Didn't know it supported 3D, but hey, it does. Sadly, I barely have enough money to support my gaming habits, let alone enough to buy a state-of-the-art 3D TV, so I can't comment on how that works at all. I suppose I should state that I did read the description of the demo while it was downloading, something about a new "evil" which is apparently ripping time to shreds and Sonic "and his friends" fall into some wormhole or something and come across Sonic's older self. Unfortunately stating that the game has a story which I'm pretty sure we'll be spoon-fed in the form of drawn-out cutscenes with two Sonics voiced by the same person, only one with a higher pitched voice, where we learn that Eggman was trying to build "Eggmanland" using this evil monster, then the evil monster betrays him, the Sonics team up to destroy it and just like in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, the timeline adjusts itself and no-one remembers any of it... And the sad part is, is that this is most likely the actual story of the game. Hence why they haven't elaborated on the story at all
It looks visually cluttered, but it's not so bad when playing.
Right, so, past this I start the game and are greeted to abstract flying shapes cluttering the screen... I can't say I like this 'theme' they have going, if I'm not explaining it well enough, go watch a trailer for the game and notice all the bouncing abstract shapes going on between gameplay footage, that's basically what the loading screen looks like. Still, once the game finished loading and the title screen vanished you were pretty much in control of Sonic. Running forward seemed to be okay, no weird momentum acquisition going on, breaking seemed fine. Jumping... Well, it's a bit off. Sonic doesn't jump high enough but they have the right amount of mid-air control going on. Just a slight tweak to the jump height and they've pretty much nailed it. Spindashing... Well, Spindashing is a huge problem. See, the Spindash, unbeknownst to me until a little on-screen indicator popped up telling me to hit a button, was that the Spindash has it's own dedicated button. So rather than holding down and the jump button (which is only A/X by the way), you can execute the Spindash move at any time, doesn't matter if you're running full pelt, you can still Spindash. Why would you do this? I mean, running at full pelt is as fast as Sonic Spindashing, right? Unless you're going down a slope to build momentum. Well, no. Because in this game, the Spindash is game is way, way too fast for seemingly no reason. I wasn't too bothered about the fact you can now hold down the X/Square button or hold down on the control stick and hold A/X to charge up the Spindash move, especially since you can just tap these buttons to build up speed as well but the amount of speed you get on the other side of the Spindash is a real problem. Also, if you accidentally tap the X/Square button, Sonic will go to perform a Spindash, but immediately cancel out and you stop dead, quite annoying. If they're going to at least keep that dedicated Spindash button, they'd do good to make it so that holding down the button performs a Spindash, not just tapping it. But hey, the game's in development, so they could be working on it already.
See? Loops are huge.
Other than that, the physics in the game seems pretty solid. You don't get automatically boosted around loops in the game like in Sonic 4 due to it's awful physics implementation and if you're on a hill, you wont just stand still on a slope, you'll walk backwards if it's steep enough. Positive signs. I think stage design needs to be tweaked a little bit, the loops that do feature in the game are huge
and Sonic on his own steam (i.e. not Spindash or spring-powered) has trouble getting around them. Not a huge problem to fix, just need to modify the size of the loops. Other than this, the game is pretty solid. Some minor annoyances like how rocks break when you jump into the side of them, but that's really splitting hairs at this point. The game really is what Sonic the Hedgehog 4 should have been and it's about damn time that SEGA has stepped up and delivered us a game which is at least somewhere near what original Sonic the Hedgehog played like -- although not perfect -- 20 years ago. And I think that should be mentioned here, they released a game called "Sonic the Hedgehog 4" a game which took on the mantle of being in the game league of the original Sonic the Hedgehog games and they ballsed it up. Big time. If they had released a game which played like this
for Sonic 4, I wouldn't have been anywhere near as mad. Infact, I sure hope SEGA does everyone a favour who bought that game and update it with this physics engine. I think those people deserve that much, SEGA.
This perspective isn't in the game, but does highlight how pretty the game is.
Oh and a quick word on stage design. It's pretty good. Feels like a Sonic game in that regard. If it wasn't for the odd Spindash and tragic jump height I'd be very content with the game as it is. I can't speak for the whole product, I'm basing this entire article on a 1 stage demo, about 4 and a half minutes in length but SEGA have plenty of time to balls up the stage execution, don't you worry. But as-is, as I've played, the game feels good. Never thought I'd say that about the game, I'm genuinely impressed. Oh and another quick note is that when you get hit, rings bounce off everywhere and they're very hard to collect again. Yes, rings in older games had a similar behaviour but not if you hit standard enemies, if you get hit by exploding enemies or bosses, yes. Regular enemies? No.
Got to love that terrain variation. Good job for once, SEGA.
Visually the game is very impressive, very nice looking. It fixes Sonic the Hedgehog 4's "zoomed in" problem and then some. I never felt I was at fault when I hit spikes or ran into enemies, well, other than when I wasn't adjusting for Sonic's shorter jump height. I didn't like the changing perspectives in certain parts of the stage but I can live with them. I really liked how the game had some nice shadow effects on the lower levels of the stage. "Classic Sonic" when seen in press shots looks strange, but his in-game look is perfectly fine. As I said, the only thing I dislike about the game is the menus, but I honestly can't sit here and critique the game off-of something so unimportant (unlike Sonic Unleashed on the Wii's town hub nonsense. That was terrible.)
My first impressions of this game then, they're good. I'm quite content with Sonic Generations. Can you believe that? I sure can't. Of course, here's where the praise ends and I start being jaded and cynical. Remember that this is a cherry-picked demo of the game to help it sell. The rest of the game could be completely awful, just keep this in mind. I've also had no time with the "New Sonic" style of gameplay, which looks like it's identical to Sonic Unleashed's day-time stages all over again and while they were unmistakably the best part about the game, it's not something I ever want to play again. Oh wait, I did in Sonic Colours and it was still as horrible then too, only with the added tedium of that awful Wisp mechanic. So be warned. This demo doesn't show most of the game and is still work-in-progress. Is Sonic Generations a hidden, unexpected gem? Possibly. Sonic Rush was a pretty cool game in a period where Sonic was really getting silly, there's every possibility that Sonic Generations will be too. Just make sure you rent it before committing to the purchase, okay?