At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Andy Daniel PlayStation 3 SEGA Sonic Team 1-2 November 4th 2011

Sonic Generations preview

Last October we saw an attempt at a return-to-form for our favourite speedy blue hedgehog. This year Sonic the Hedgehog leaves teenager-hood and reaches the big two-zero as he and SEGA celebrate the 20th anniversary with Sonic Generations. We got our hands on the game at Gamescom and love every nostalgic minute of it.

At the start of the game, everyone is attending a picnic in honour of Sonic's 20th, when all of a sudden a mysterious dark force intrudes and sends everyone, including our spiky blue protagonist, back in time. Sonic is finding a way to get himself and everyone else back to the present time and along the way he bumps into many familiar faces including his younger (albeit chubbier) self! The two Sonics team up and work together to save their friends once again.

Cheesy plot aside, the main focus of this game is the ability to play a level as both the pudgy, simplistic Sonic from the Mega Drive era (or Genesis era for our Yankee friends) and the slimmer, action packed Sonic from the modern era. Within the nine confirmed environments, three are from Mega Drive games (Sonic 1-3 & Knuckles), three are from the Dreamcast (Sonic Adventure and sequel) and three are from Sonic's most recent games (Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colours and so on). The game plays through these environments in chronological order and each environment is instantly recognisable, but has been updated with HD graphics and a more modern style. Classic Sonic plays each environment as a 2D side-scrolling platformer while modern Sonic plays through the environment in a speedy 2D and third-person view and can use moves introduced in the more modern games such as the homing attack and grinding. The player gets a chance to play as both versions of Sonic in each environment.

Classic Sonic - feeling nostalgic?

Classic Sonic - feeling nostalgic?

I got to play the classic Green Hill Zone from the original game as both classic and modern Sonic in the demo. Sonic Team have clearly worked hard on invoking nostalgia when playing the side-scrolling version of Sonic and it works really well at bringing back the memories, good and bad, of that game back in 1991. While in the same environment, playing as modern Sonic brings an entirely different game track and a vast amount of speed. Reminiscent of the first stage in Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, I was allowed to whizz around destroying enemies with homing attacks, experience multiple points of view and even avoid the advancing giant teeth of a large aquatic mammal.

Modern Sonic is fast and action-packed

Modern Sonic is fast and action-packed

Sonic Generations is all about a celebration of 20 years of Sonic and does this in a fantastic way via the medium of nostalgia. Side-scrolling sonic has classic badnik enemies, power-up monitors and even the elusive hidden sections. The environments recreate the likeness of aging stages like the Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone with a great degree of accuracy. This game is Sega's way of enjoying the success of Sonic and sharing it with the fans, and their celebration is certainly infectious.

While all of that is happening on the current generation home consoles with high definition visuals, gloriously modelled enemies, rich environments and 3D capabilities, the Nintendo 3DS version offers something a little different. The handheld iteration sports entirely 2D side-scrolling action, even as modern Sonic, though it will angle the camera horizontally towards the direction of movement, and will feature 3 exclusive environments not seen on the home consoles in its 6 total. Another benefit of taking the game portable is that each of the environments taken from classic games are faithful recreations of the originals; everything is in the same place as it was before, but is rendered in modern assets. This is great news for nostalgic fans like myself who get an original game, which we know so well, on a modern handheld console. I got to play Mushroom Hill from Sonic & Knuckles, fully recreated with new visuals but with the same backing track which I knew so well.

Mushroom Hill Zone in an all new light

Mushroom Hill Zone in an all new light

The 3DS version of the game may prove to be most promising for the nostalgia-seekers whereas the home consoles will cater for the lovers of the modern era of Sonic and using different levels across the two versions means some fans will want to own both versions. This may be a true return to form for Sonic and we'll find out for sure when Sonic Generations is released in November.

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