Sonic Generations: Demo Impressions

Classic SonicI’m a fan of Sonic, I really am. I grew up playing his games with my trusty Sega Genesis. That being said, still home to some of my most favorite games such as Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic has dropped off recently. Even though many enjoy the new iterations in Colors and Unleashed, I don’t particularly enjoy them. Seeing videos of Generations I was intrigued, but my hopes weren’t high. The demo came out yesterday for the new game, so I now have some hands on time with it. Here’s what I have to say…

Well first thing is first, the demo is short, really short. You get only Classic Sonic on one act of Green Hill Zone. I was hoping to get Modern Sonic as well to compare them, but perhaps we can test that later before the game comes out. I suppose Classic Sonic is what everyone is hyped about, so this is what’s important to play. So how does it feel? Not like the Sonic we know…

First thing you notice right away, this game really falls under one of the problems Sonic 4 had to me (not saying it’s not a good game, because I really enjoyed 4), is that it tries too much to be the FIRST Sonic, and not an evolution of the 2D ones. It’s Sonic 1-2, not like a Sonic 4, or well… 5 in this case now. I enjoy the throwback to stages like Green Hill and City Escape, but be real here, this is Sonic from the old days, with a spindash though. The jumping sound effect from Sonic CD really irks me, not sure why. The sound of it feels out of place and no Genesis title to my knowledge used it. I don’t know why this sound of all of them was borrowed from the CD version of Sonic.

As for controlling Sonic, I just spent a week of playing Adventure 2 Battle with my friends, and after playing a lot of Sonic 4 prior to that, the game feels awkward without a homing attack. I’ve grown accustom to the addition of a homing attack in Sonic games, and I think it works really well (assuming that it’s programmed correctly and doesn’t become a glitchy mess). I understand this is CLASSIC Sonic, but perhaps they should go for more of a classic gameplay Sonic, and not Classic Sonic per se. They might as well just go for that vision like Sonic 4 and just drop Modern Sonic all together.

The level you get to play in the demo is absolutely gorgeous. It makes you think wow, it’s trying to play like the old Genesis (a formula that works), while bumping the graphics to 11. I’m shocked to see 3D be a feature, even on the 360 version. This really makes me wish I had a 3D TV, and with more games offering it and finally owning some games on my 3DS, I want to buy a new TV that is 3D enabled. But there is a HUGE problem with such involved backgrounds and graphics… it’s hard to see a lot of things. Old Sonic titles had a distinct difference in depth between the foreground and background, and Sonic Generation blends the two to the point where you might mistake some things for platforms, and most importantly, not see an enemy or group of rings that should otherwise be obvious. The camera for Sonic Generations is fairly far out from Sonic most of the time, so the smaller these objects are in comparison to the huge environment makes it harder to see. Sonic 4 on the other hand stayed a bit more zoomed in, and with very bright and distinct graphics, Sonic 4 didn’t suffer from this problem like Generations.

Another point I briefly touched on in the last paragraph, is that this doesn’t feel like a typical level. The Green Hill Zone found in this demo feels like Sonic got sucked into the giant world from Super Mario Bros. 3. It’s not that the proportions of Sonic’s jump height to his model height is wrong, it’s that the level around him is GIGANTIC, in a bad way. I remember one specific part that stands out early in the stage, I believe it’s the first swinging platform you encounter. There’s a platform so you can jump onto the swing, but if you stand directly under the swing, it’s positioned so high up that Sonic can not jump onto it, when it clearly looks like you should. It’s tough to explain, but I think you will understand what I mean when you play the demo. Sonic won’t land on most platforms in the level until the peak of his jump, leaving no extra room going onto the platform, which makes killing enemies on platforms more like a chore than just a challenge. The entire level needs to be scaled down in size.

Something about the physics really does not feel right in this new title. One big problem I noticed is that while running up a slope, or perhaps spin-dashing up it or being propelled from a spring, you can not jump off of that vertical wall to ricochet yourself in the opposite direction, which in my opinion was a staple control option in any past 2D title. Other than that, things feel inconsistent. There is one instance near the start of the level where you run up a wall and at the top as it goes back to a flat surface is a pile of spikes. Doing the same thing of just holding right, I’ve seen Sonic fly up the wall and into the air (which should happen), get semi-stuck and auto land standing on the tiny part before the spikes, and also bounce off the tiny part of land and get flown in the wrong direction for absolutely no reason.

I feel really bad just pointing out problem after problem, and I do have some good to say about the game, but it doesn’t end there. This game is fast, like really really fast. Sonic fast? Yea I would say so, but it’s too fast. A full spin dash in this game puts you moving at a speed where it is humanly impossible to react to anything coming on the screen, so if you’re spin dashing through the level to get through it fast, you better have it all memorized. Compare the speed to any other Genesis Sonic title, Rush, or even Sonic 4. All of those games are significantly slower in terms of max speed, and it makes them all control better.

I wonder if anyone else feels the awkward mechanics of the spin dash like me… What I find incredibly awkward about the spin dash in this game however, is that at the start of the dash if you don’t charge it and quickly press it, Sonic moves forward in his ball at an incredibly slow speed, like a failed spin dash or some sort of useless somersault from Sonic Adventure. In the Genesis titles you could pop out a quick spin dash whenever you wanted, but requiring that second of charge to be able to move really slows the game down when you’re trying to get a speed boost from zero.

Last but not least, control. I really enjoy the use of the X button to spin dash, especially out of running. This feels like the control of spin dashing from Sonic Adventure, though what Generations doesn’t do is allow you to press X in a ball state to return to running, which I really wish it did. The B button is mapped to crouch, which makes absolutely no sense. The B button doesn’t act as “down,” as it can’t be used to turn into a ball while running. The only use for it is when you are stopped dead cold, you can use it to crouch, and do a spin dash awkwardly by holding B and mashing A, likely with the same finger. More control issues with Sonic’s ball form, the analog stick really is not treated properly, almost feeling like it’s programmed as a digital pad, with only 4 “buttons,” up down left and right. In order to reach the ball form while running, your analog stick has to be 100% down, and none of the space between right and down is utilized, which feels incredibly awkward. The game should recognize the down input about 75% of the way between right and down for a smooth transition.

So what is good about this game? I already mentioned the graphics are really nice, and 3D is a great addition (that I want to try out badly). The idea of throwback is great with classic stages, but I wish Classic Sonic was an evolution to the 2D style, and not an attempted carbon copy of Sonic 1 with spin dash. The level design feels pretty legit, as Green Hill Zone had a mix of elements from the original title, combined with new ideas and ways to let the player explore different paths, and ground formations that allowed for different camera angles.

The demo for Sonic Generation is out now for both 360 and PS3, and includes one act of Green Hill Zone for Classic Sonic. Included with the demo is the 3D functionality for both systems if your TV supports it. This demo is a timed exclusive, and will only be available for 18 more days. Even previously downloaded copies will expire at that time, so get your Sonic action in as soon as you can!

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One Response to Sonic Generations: Demo Impressions

  1. Mark says:

    I agree with everything. I thought the background was too lively and I couldn’t tell the difference from what I was running on and what was supposed to be in the background. I also thought sonic was wayyyy too fast and I thought the constant changes in perspective was very strange. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of sonic 4 I thought it controlled a lot better. I will not be buying it for xbox or 3ds

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