Now, before I go into this review it should be noted that I’ve been a big fan of Dimps works up until late. Sonic Rush was one of my favorite Sonic games and I loved the first two Advance games. But lately, they seem to have been faltering. Sonic Colors on the DS was basically another Rush, but not quite as good as the previous two and incredibly sub-par compared to the Wii version. Sonic 4 I felt had good level design and was decent enough for a downloadable title, but the odd physics turned many people off. Now, they have their hands on their first foray onto the 3DS.
One thing that some more critical fans should be pleased with is that classics physics have been fixed a bit from its HD brother. Sonic now has gravity when he rolls and gains momentum downhill. It feels much more natural than in the console versions. But sadly, once the Genesis era finishes, Modern Sonic butts in and teaches Classic Sonic homing attack. This classic version of the homing attack is a permanent upgrade and cannot be undone. Now, with the game on a 2-D plane, even in the modern levels, it cuts back the differences between classic and modern Sonic greatly.
That seems to be the theme with this game; for every thing it gets right, something else goes wrong. For example, the bosses in this game are a real treat. Most of them have the old Dimps staple of Sonic fighting them on a circular platform but with different tactics. Biolizard is my favorite. You fight his full form instead of his half like in SA2. But on the other hand, you have the rivals. They play out like mini-bosses before the big boss of each era. Sadly, these are not like the rival fights in the console versions. Instead, they’re just simple races. Some of them them, like Silver, are not even in their proper game level. Also, it feels odd having what’s basically two bosses in a row. One is more than necessary. This, right after playing a special stage, piles on a bit too much after playing through the two acts in each zone. Another example of the teeter-totter of quality in this game is the special stages. They are much better than the Heroes stages they are based on, but since you need the seven chaos emeralds to go against the Time Eater, all seven special stages must be completed in order to finish the game. This is the equivalent of having to beat all the stages of Sonic 2 just to beat the game normally instead of getting Super Sonic.
Graphics for the most part, are great. The models have an almost HD look to them, especially in cutscenes. Also, the 3-D is quite well done. Especially in Genesis era levels like Casino Night Zone that have both back, middle and foregrounds scrolling independently. However, the details in the backgrounds tend to vary in quality from the highly detailed Casino Night and Tropical Resort, to areas with poor detail and pop-up like Emerald Coast and Radical Highway.
Now onto the meat of the game, the levels themselves. These tend to vary greatly. The Genesis era is helped greatly by being an almost perfect replica of the original levels in the classic versions. This helps the modern versions as well because they have a blueprint to go by. They’re large and vast with many paths to go through. With Sonic’s roll back to normal, they have more of a classic feeling about them. Sadly, the level quality takes a nose dive in the Dreamcast era. Since Dimps doesn’t have a 2-D Genesis blueprint to go by, they suffer the most in level design in the entire game, feeling flat and bland. Instead of the vast, vertical levels shown in the Genesis era, there’s just an upper and lower path and that’s it. Radical Highway suffers the worst. Not only is it a poor choice of a level (Sonic was never even in this level.), but it’s some of the worst 2-D level design I’ve seen since Sonic Rivals. While playing as classic, there was one stretch of road where Sonic ran straight on a flat plane for over ten seconds with no interaction with anything.
Thankfully, the modern era pushes the quality back up a little. Water Palace is based off Sonic Rush. A game Dimps knows very well and it shows. It’s surprisingly fast-paced for a water-based level and closely designed after it’s original. Sadly, it commits a great crime of Sonic game design. It has no drowning music when you’re running out of air. Just a countdown and some beeping. Why would they omit that?! Tropical Resort is well done with classic based directly off the DS version of Colors. The modern version of Tropical Resort is actually my favorite of the Modern levels. It has a very fast, Rush-based feel to it that’s more in line with Dimps style of games. It’s a good ending since about half the modern levels just felt bland to me. Also, one important thing of note is that S ranks are not pathetically easy to obtain like the console versions. You really have to work at it to get a good grade which helps give the levels some replay.
The soundtrack is decent, but no where near as well done as the HD version. Granted, there are some great new tracks including the Big Arms boss, but many of the old tunes are just very slight remixes where you can barely tell what’s been added. Classic Emerald Coast sounds exactly the same until late into the song and modern Tropical Resort sounds like it’s just been boosted to double speed and that’s it.
One other minor gripe is the controls. They work fine for the most part, especially classic who loses the one button spindash. Modern however, feels off at points. His boost is still over on X, but sliding and stomping are done by holding down and B instead of just using A (the rightmost button), which takes a while to get used to. Also, classic’s jump has that odd Sonic 4 feel to it where you can turn around in mid air easily. It’s supposed to help you aim onto platforms better, but feels off in comparison to the HD version. Another gripe is the length. With only 7 zones with 14 acts, 4 bosses, 3 rivals and seven special stages, the main game can be beaten in 2 hours (about the same time it took me to beat Sonic 4). The big difference is that Sonic 4 is a $15 or less downloadable title where Sonic Generations 3DS is $40.
It’s fortunate that the actual meat of the game is not the main game itself, but rather, the extras. There are 100 missions you can buy with your player coins you get from walking with your 3DS in sleep mode. These range from defeating all enemies in a short time, beating a level without hitting an enemy or collecting 100 rings within a certain amount of time. When you beat these missions, you get a special unlock added to your collection.
These include artworks from common game covers, rarely seen production sketches, music you can play on loop and with the 3DS shut (but not inside levels sadly) and highly detailed models of various Sonic cast members. If you are having too much difficulty defeating a level, you can use your coins to buy the reward you normally get for beating the mission. The missions come with some new music straight from the challenge music in the console versions. Sadly, this music repeats a lot and you don’t get the original music from the levels in these missions. Let’s not forget online multiplayer. You and your opponent in a race on any level of the game you choose. I’ve played a few rounds and outside of some slight framerate stuttering from time to time, I experienced no lag. You can play with strangers or folks on your friends list. There’s also leaderboards for the time attack mode which lets you compare and compete with your friends for the best time when not racing them
Sonic Generations is a mixed bag in terms of quality. On one hand, you have some great levels with designs based straight off their original 2-D sources, some great bosses, fun special stages, 100 missions, cool unlockables and well-done multiplayer. On the other hand, you have a very short main game, some poorly designed levels, pointless rivals, a forced Chaos emerald hunt in order to finish the game and sub-par modern controls. In the end, the game is just average and bland. There’s enough content in there to make die-hard Sonic fans happy but otherwise, it’s poor compared to its HD brethren or other 3DS platformers, such as Super Mario 3D Land. Sonic fans might want to wait for a lower price on this one. For me, it’s Dimps’ most mediocre portable Sonic game yet.