I’ve already talked about Sonic recently in my Retrospective, but that was before I had properly played either Sonic 4 – Episode 1 or Sonic Generations. Both of these games seem to be trying to shed some of the stuff that has made the recent games so bad and trying to take Sonic back to his roots, but have either of them succeeded? Lets find out…
Sonic The Hedgehog 4 – Episode 1 was released last year, and seems to be an attempt to continue the series from the last good game (Sonic 3 & Knuckles). It features the classic 2D gameplay, sprinkled with some extra features. It involved the inevitable remake of the Green Hill Zone (now called Splash Hill) along with three other levels, all variations on levels from classic Sonic games and featuring remixed version of classic bosses.
The nostalgia value of this game is high, but the gameplay, unfortunately, is pretty bad. Sonic just doesn’t handle right; he stops too quickly (and in odd places), frequently glitches out and drops like a stone out of the air mid jump… Generally he feels sluggish and moving/jumping is a lot more difficult than it should be, which ultimately ruins the core Sonic gameplay. Also, one of the levels has you holding a torch, which only illuminates the area immediately around Sonic, meaning you have to move around slowly and cautiously and proving that the developers have completely missed the point of the Sonic experience!
The presentation is also fairly weak. Sonic and certain other objects are 3D, but very basic and poorly shaded, while the rest of the environment seems to have been created in 2D, creating a weird miss-match and not looking as good as it could. Also, with the exception of the music for Splash Hill Act 1 (which is addictive), the music and sound design aren’t really up to much. The quality of the presentation, coupled with the dodgy handling and glitches just make the game feel very cheap.
Sonic Generations is a one-off game launched to celebrate Sonic’s 20th Anniversary (which doesn’t make me feel old at all!). It this, a weird swirly creature messes up time, causing modern Sonic and classic Sonic (the ‘younger’ version of himself) to work together. Each act alternates between the two gameplay styles; ‘classic’ 2D and ‘modern’ 3D gameplay. The game is made up of zones which are remakes of levels from previous games, as well as remakes of certain boss fights and ‘rival battles’ (featuring Metal Sonic and Shadow).
While the framing story is very cheesy, it actually kind of works (much helped by classic Sonic, who doesn’t speak, but just keeps rolling his eyes and generally looking bemused by it all. Switching between the two gameplay styles can be a bit disorienting, but they are both a lot of fun. The classic levels feel like old-school Sonic used to, with the added bonus of beautiful graphics, music and sound design. The modern levels take all the best elements from recent Sonic games from Adventure through to Unleashed and refine them perfectly.
With the exception of the final boss fight (which is poorly designed, unlike any other action in the whole game and generally frustrating to play), this game has an excellent and very well polished presentation that successfully celebrates the best of Sonic over the years. It feels like quite a short game, though I suppose the extra challenges and side missions (about half of which are actually quite clever or fun, the others not so much) do kind of make up for it. I hope future DLC will add some new content (hopefully more remakes of levels from the original trilogy!).
Sonic Generations has done a brilliant job of capturing the classic feeling of Sonic, cutting out the fat that has crept into the series and bringing the graphics (and gameplay elements for modern sonic) up to date. A brilliant game and well worth a play, even after the nostalgia value wears off.
RECOMMENDATION: Buy It!
Sonic 4 on the other hand is a very poor game. It feels very cheap, is buggy and the gameplay is just wrong. It feels like an intern was given the project to work on quietly in the corner of the office and is not worthy of continuing the Sonic series.