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  • TSS Hands-On Preview: Sonic X Shadow Generations

    To be this good takes generations.

    I still vividly remember my first time playing Sonic Generations at E3. At the time, it felt like a culmination of the previous four years of games, a polished and spectacular realization of the potential of the at-the-time still relatively fresh feeling boost formula. And when I finally got to play the full game later that year, I only felt excitement and anticipation for what was next. Well over a decade later, that same game’s expanded remaster now feels like a fulfillment of what I had taken for granted all those years ago.

    The demo’s got two halves, the Sonic Generations remaster and the brand-new Shadow Generations. Sonic Generations, by and large, feels the same. The game does look brighter and more vibrant, though I suspect that has to do with the OLED screen rather than anything the game itself is doing. The highlight of this part of the demo was easily the drop dash, which has been added to both Sonics and feels like it could significantly alter my strategies in the final product. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time with the drop dash to really figure out how to best make use of it in either stage, but it does feel like something that could do a lot to optimize my runs in the final game.

    The chao you can rescue were also present, though not in the form I was expecting. I figured they would exist in the final game as a new set of missions, something the original game included to pad things out. Instead, they act more like collectibles, with three to find in each of the two stages in the demo. They mostly seem like a harmless addition rather than any sort of major improvement to the game.

    The Shadow Generations side of things is why we’re here, though, and if this demo is any indication, it’s shaping up to be everything I’d ever hoped for in a Sonic Generations follow-up. The level is large and complex. At almost every turn, I could feel the game’s level design enticing me with other places to go, or paths I had clearly missed an earlier opportunity to access. The level feels like it’s constantly branching, sometimes simply offering me slightly alternate ways to take the same path, and other times letting me access entirely different parts of the level.


    To be fair to previous 3D Sonic games, this isn’t exactly new. But what impressed me was giving me these options in what is clearly an opening level. Generally, Sonic 3D levels don’t attain anything close to this level of complexity until much later into the game, so this definitely seems like a good indication of the sort of level design we’re in for in the final product. 

    Despite being packed in with Sonic Generations, Shadow Generations definitely feels like a different game. The gameplay is more complex, with Shadow being given multiple new abilities to use in the level alongside the stock Sonic Generations moves. Chaos Controls slows down time, and can be used to either access new paths by slowing down platforms, or get through obstacles that otherwise block your path. While the demo introduces Chaos Spear in the boss fight, it can also be used in regular play to take down enemies, and can even lock on to multiple enemies at once (though I didn’t have much opportunity to try that), giving you an additional, faster method to take down enemies.


    And this is good, because the demo does contain one combat scenario. Near the end of the level, you need to hit multiple GUN robots spawned by Black Doom into a large glowing orb. I didn’t have an opportunity try chaos spear on them, but it seems like a move that could expedite situations like this. It is sort of reminiscent of the enemy rooms of previous Sonic games, which have been executed with extremely mixed results in the past and can often ground the pacing of a level to a halt.  They were quick and easy to dispatch here, but I can't help but worry that other combat scenarios may be more of a pace killer. There isn’t enough here for me to draw much of a conclusion of how the larger game will handle this, but it being such a minor part of the level does make me hope combat won’t get too much focus. Nevertheless, what was there was fine.

    One thing about the combat that might disappoint some people is the homing attack. Much like in Sonic Frontiers’ cyberspace stages, Shadow will briefly pause after every homing attack on an enemy, though it’s not quite as long as it is in Frontiers. I personally didn’t mind it in Frontiers and I don’t mind it here, as I thought this functioned well with the natural cadence you need to have to do the homing attack properly. You could spam it in previous games, and maybe some people prefer that, but I found that often led me to death or disaster more so than anything else. It does also not give you any forward momentum coming out of an attack, but I found that worked well with SXSG’s level design. Though I didn't get to try it out myself, Shadow's homing attack is actually a teleport move, which allows him to get through certain obstacles unharmed. That should make for some very interesting bits of level design!


    Overall, Shadow as a whole feels great to control. His movement feels very precise, and I didn’t have any issues navigating him across narrow platforms. He turns great at slow speeds too, which is especially handy during the Biolizard boss. Homing attack has good range, and the physics of launching Shadow off ramps and such feel great. This might actually be the best Shadow has felt since SA2.

    That said, it does seem like all of these new moves came at the expense of one thing: drifting. If drifting exists in Shadow Generations, it never came up in the level design. Again, the loss of this move didn't affect my enjoyment of the demo (I don't even notice until after I sat down to write this preview), but I know other people have been wanting it back for awhile, so I thought I'd at least point this out.

    The final thing I played in this demo was the Biolizard bossfight, and while it was definitely on the easy side, it got the same sort of glow-up that the bosses in the original Sonic Generations got. Initially, the boss plays very similarly to the original: it’ll chase you with its head, and if you run too far from that, its tail. After a hit it’ll start shooting large energy orbs at you, and then it’ll start attacking you with its large pink eggs, and that’s when things start to get creative. It forms the eggs into appendages and starts creating shockwaves with them, and eventually uses them to fly, and it’s all really cool to see and fun to fight. I wouldn’t put it on the same league as Generations’ Perfect Chaos, but its definitely a major step up from the SA2 and 3DS iterations of the fight. What’s most surprising is that the boss isn’t centered around boost, unlike the modern bosses in Generations itself.


    The music remixes in the game are solid, very much in the vein of what you’d expect from tracks from SA2. They don’t do any cool orchestrations, but fans of Shadow’s SA2 music should be happy.

    Visually, the Shadow Generations demo the best I’ve seen in a Sonic game, period. It’s got the high fidelity of Sonic Frontiers, but the look of proper Sonic aesthetic. As much as I love Frontiers, I’ll still admit the environments are quite bland and way too focused on realism. So seeing environments from The Ark realized with modern visual fidelity is impressive, reminding me of what it felt like to see those Sonic Generations environments in HD for the first time back in 2011. Shadow’s even got fur texture similar to Sonic’s from Frontiers, and the detail and animation on the Biolizard really help it come to life in a way it hasnt’ before.


    Overall, while my time with Sonic X Shadow Generations was all too brief, and really makes me miss the days of E3 when I could just get back in line for another go, what I experienced has impressed me. There were certain things I didn’t quite get to test in the demo, like how Shadow’s boost works in mid-air and how effective chaos spear is. We also don’t know anything about how the game’s hubworld, White Space, will play. As usual with early Sonic demos, there’s a lot of open questions, and plenty of ways it could become a lesser experience. 

    But I’m not here to fret over how Sonic X Shadow Generations might mess up what feels like a slam dunk. I’m just here to convey my feelings towards this game after this demo. And at the moment, I’m feeling pretty good. Here’s hoping Sonic Team sticks the landing, just like they did with the original version of the game 13 years ago. Since then, I wanted Sonic Generations DLC, then a sequel, and finally an enhanced remaster that adds a few new levels. I’m finally getting that, it looks fun, and I’m excited for it. Just a few more months.

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    Glad to hear you enjoyed it! And the Drop Dash is coming too? I know it's been in every game since Mania but it's still amazing that a move designed by a third party has already become a staple for Sonic since, now even being added to remasters!

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    Both Sonics have a drop dash? That's unexpected. How does that work with Modern Sonic?

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    Devourer of Rings


    “I personally didn’t mind it in Frontiers and I don’t mind it here, as I thought this functioned well with the natural cadence you need to have to do the homing attack properly. You could spam it in previous games, and maybe some people prefer that, but I found that often led me to death or disaster more so than anything else.”

    I don’t understand what this is talking it, you could only die from spamming it quickly in early 3D games but since Unleashed the move had any sort of looseness or danger removed from it by adding recovery frames and the target reticle, Generations did speed it a lot especially with the serial homing skill equipped plus the trick animations he’d do were fun. Frontiers has a heavy amount of recovery frames likely because in open zone it’s meant to transition into melee combat but for whatever reason they didn’t remove this in Cyberspace, the balloons don’t have this problem so they feel fast and smooth to chain. As for this part “natural cadence you need to have to do the homing attack properly” this isn’t true at all there is no special timing in Frontiers to do it properly so all you need to do is mash, it’s possible to to cancel the recovery frames with stomp or boost but the utility of that is limited especially when it’s better just to avoid connecting homing attacks on enemies altogether in Cyberspace when you have the homing dash a move that actually takes cadence and precession to master.

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