Sonic Generations

Sonic Generations

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It's a decent time. Uninspiring though, when you notew others have passed through the lush fields of Green Hill Zone with two seconds shorn off that. Not a huge gap you'd think, but after twenty years playing the game, you'd think we could manage better.

But then, this isn't the Green Hill Zone of 1991. And it's a 3DS in our hands rather than a Megadrive controller. Although given the number of times the original Sonic has been re-released, that controller could be PS2. Or GameCube, or Xbox 360.

We're blazing through Sonic Generations, a title that celebrates twenty years of the blue speed-freak and rebuilds classic levels from his platforming history using today's tech, and throws together the original paunched 'hog and his post-2k counterpart for a true series' spanning celebration.

It's not the first time we've tried the game, though its the first time playing this particular version. Last month Xbox Live hosted a lightning-quick demo of Sonic Generations to tie in with the day of the hedgehog's 20th Anniversary.

We rushed through a very different Green Hill Zone Act 1 then, one that felt more modern day interpretative remix. Yet in the 3DS version, every twist and turn appears just as we remember them.

We jump seconds before we hit that first platform to burst through the ring-holding container, and straight over the bridge ahead. Reflexes twenty years trained cause us to yank the controller left as we're cannoned out of a series of S-tunnels to plunge directly through a cascade of rings. Come the punch through Act 1's ending signpost, we know we're back on home turf.

Sonic Generations

Only the visuals and Sonic's movements are different. The first shows the best of a tricky job. The last may prove more controversial, but not to the degree that Sonic fans should be cursing the skies.

Visually there's a massive amount of background detail now, but thanks to the 3D there's a better differentiation between that and the foreground where the action is, a problem encountered on the Xbox 360 demo when the dense foliage matched with the speed meant it incredibly overwhelming and confusing to separate the two - causing numerous mistakes.

As for Sonic's physics, they don't feel quite as off as before; the momentum-based velocity is there, but we did find after repeated attempts we still couldn't reach the top rings at the apex of our jump out of the tunnel outlined earlier, a catch that we never missed in the original version.

The second Act is a surprise, as classic Sonic trades places with his modern-day counterpart, and the gameplay switches into Sonic Rush territory. It's a new build on old soil, longer swooping runways, and grind rails to jump between. At a few points the camera swings behind or in front of the action and both are purely cinematic flourishes. The first when hitting a curving runway, the second to track a collapsing structure as Sonic speeds to outrace it.

Modern-day Sonic is outfitted with his lock-on strike for both chaining attacks and reaching higher platforms, while the charged spin-dash is replaced with a sliding tackle that transfers into a charge thrust that can hammer through barriers. They're more showy than his predecessor's choices, but there's still some strategy in the timings, and to those who a Sonic game is about unbroken speed runs, it's a separate, but no less appealing, gameplay mechanic to learn and master.

The demo closes with a third act boss battle, which further proves Sonic Team is mining the hedgehog's best moments to create a "Best Of" collection. We're combating the Metal Arm boss that closed Sonic 3, Dr. Robotnik's craft outfitted with two hulking arms and a set of spikes on top, as the creator swoops past our vantage point.

Sonic Generations

Patterns are slightly different this time round though. Along with soaring in from left and right and forcing you to angle your jump to miss both hand grab and spikes to strike the cockpit, the scientist will fly in from the background and slap the platform you're on - a tactic that threw us initially and had us dropping rings like loose change.

It's a short but intriguing demo, given it raises questions over exactly what the end game experience will be. It's not quite remake, nor straight port, but not exactly 100% new at the same time.

There's no denying its an interesting idea, but we want to know how far-reaching the game is in swiping levels from Sonic's history. We now know that Sonic 2's Chemical Plant Zone is in, as is the Metal Sonic fight from Sonic CD, but is it just the 90s titles being fleeced of their design rather than the 2k games, and is there a two act structure throughout, divided between era of hedgehog?

We're tapping our foot impatiently to find out.

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