Sonic the Hedgehog is probably one of gaming’s most iconic characters, but despite the reverence for the character himself, the games he’s starred in have a rather checkered reputation: While most of the earlier games in the series are regarded as classics, most of the recent entries in franchise are pretty much simply examples of how not to make a game.
Of course, that all changed last year when Sega quietly released Sonic Colors for the Wii, which was surprisingly fantastic; unlike every other post-Dreamcast Sonic game, Colors controlled well, had intelligent level design, and was just generally a well-made, polished game. It was definitely the best Sonic game in 3D, and I’d go as far to say that one could argue that it may have been the best Sonic game, period.
So when the latest Sonic game, Sonic Generations, was announced, I got hyped: Sega promised to blend the “Modern” Sonic Colors style gameplay with the classic, 2D sidescrolling of the Genesis games, combining the two best periods in Sonic history in order to create what could potentially be the best Sonic game ever created.
Unfortunately, Sonic Generations seems like it has a good chance of recapturing the sometimes-good, sometimes-bad, bi-polar nature of games like Sonic Unleashed: while the main “Modern” style gameplay is still as solid as it was Colors, the “Classic” 2D stages are surprisingly kind of bad.
To put it simply, the classic Sonic section of the E3 demo was afflicted with stiff controls and weird, unpredictable jumping physics that made even basic movement a chore: jumps that should’ve been simple became huge hassles that required multiple attempts to pass. Despite being labelled as such, the “Classic” Sonic didn’t control anything like you’d expect him to: he lacked the satisfying, quick responsiveness of the Genesis versions, and while the stage in the demo was a recreation of the iconic first Sonic stage, Green Hill Zone, it was significantly more difficult (and less fun) than the original Genesis game because you had to fight the controls constantly.
But as strangely bad as the Classic Sonic stages were, the Modern Sonic stage delivered: they had the same type of fast, polished, hyperactive platforming that made Sonic Colors and a small portion of Sonic Unleashed such a joy to play, and while the controls did seem a little looser than they should’ve, the modern Sonic section definitely managed to nail all of the qualities that make Sonic good.
Last year I was surprised at how good Sonic Colors was, and I really, genuinely hoped that Sonic Generations would build upon Colors’s foundation and deliver the ultimate Sonic experience. Unfortunately, the E3 demo raised more concerns than hopes, though Sega still has some time before the game’s Fall release date to iron out the game’s problems… And here’s hoping that they do, because Sonic Generations definitely has the potential to be the game that will make us forget all about the more sordid moments of Sonic’s history.