If you've read Brendan's Sonic Generations console review, then you'll know that this celebration of twenty years of Sonic sees Dr. Eggman and the nefarious Time Eater diddling with dimensions so engineer a situation where 'classic' Sonic bumps into his modern counterpart. Once again we see an array of old and new levels rendered in classic 2D form - although now with impressive stereoscopic 3D visuals.
Things are pleasantly distinct at first, with classic Sonic restricted to just his trusty spin dash, while modern Sonic enjoys the benefits of the speed boost, enemy-felling skids and, of course, his characteristic homing attack. It's also worth noting that this is the first game for the 3DS that I've played where the game looks significantly better with the 3D slider set to 'Ultimate Migraine'. Not only is it bearable, but the stages come to life like never before, the sub-standard graphics plainly visible in 2D, suddenly look far more striking once they have an extra dimension.
I played the console version and loved it, but those looking for a replication of that game on the 3DS may well be disappointed. In spite of sharing the same title, this version plays quite a bit differently than its larger counterpart and that's actually something of a shame. You see, some of the best levels are missing. Yes, we get Casino Night from Sonic 2, but there's no City Escape. Emerald Coast is a welcome addition, but there are two fewer levels in this portable iteration, and the first three are identical replicas of their respective Mega Drive originals. Given free rein to 'classicise' the Dreamcast and modern HD levels, though, Dimps have opted to insert a whole bunch of cheap insta-fail pits and death traps that Sonic will quite merrily plunge headfirst into with very little warning. Sometimes it's challenging, often it's simply cheap.
Sadly modern Sonic fares little better. Those expecting an inventive mashup of 2D and 3D sections like the console version of the game should look away now...because there aren't any. Occasionally the camera will swing around into an isometric 2.5D view, and there are some relatively pleasing Donkey Kong Country Returns moments where Sonic gets catapulted into the background vistas and back out again (an effect made all the better with the 3D slider at maximum), but there's a paucity of actual imaginative design. There are 3D levels, of sorts, but they're Chaos Emerald tunnel chases that see you grabbing balloons and dodging bombs.
Then there's the seemingly inexplicable move of having classic Sonic learn modern Sonic's homing attack after a smattering of levels, which rather negates the point of having two different Sonics. With level design and reimagination showing a distinct lack of the latter, it makes for something of a rather muted experience. It's difficult to say whether or not it's bullish conservatism or simply a complete lack of fresh ideas that's to blame, but there's something missing here. The absence of pleasing new material, particularly in a game this short (you'll bust through it in fewer hours than you have fingers on one hand), borders on the unforgivable.
Even the bosses manage to be, somehow, disappointing. This is a series, after all, that's seen the ginger, mosutachioed madman Robotnik create some utterly brilliant anarchic contraptions. But, for some bizarre reason, half of the boss fights are dull and uninspired races with various Sonic clones (Metal, Shadow and Silver) - the game does a good job of reminding you of some cracking boss encounters...it's just that this comes in the form of wishful thinking rather than in-game enjoyment, which isn't ideal.
There are some good points. The game, whilst only four hours long, offers much by way of replayability. This is a far more challenging title than its console counterpart and chasing down those perfect S ratings will require diligence, exploration and practice. Let us not forget the bundle of Missions (the portable equivalent of the console version's Challenges) included here too - unlockable via Play coins or
wireless 3DS orgies Streetpassing - that serve to augment the frenzied dashes through the levels. Some of these are simple tasks such as collecting a set number of rings or laying the smackdown on a certain number of robots and badniks. But others are a bit more fiendish, like finishing a level without hitting anything, or completing a tricky platforming section while enemies spam you with projectiles. The rewards are fairly paltry - artwork, the odd music track, a few character models - but the satisfaction for the hardcore crowds may well be enough. And there's always a Versus mode and the online leaderboards of Time Attack to keep you grinding.
Is Sonic Generations a good way to mark the 25th anniversary of the speedy blue hedgehog? Well, yes and no. On console it's a fantastic-yet-flawed burst of fun (although even there you'll encounter issues), but here it's hard not to feel a little disappointed. It feels like the best has been held back and left out and the level to which the levels have been redesigned (if at all) is lacklustre. It's hard not to judge a game such as this on what you want it to be, but the fact is that the repetition and frustration creeps in early and there's little reward when it comes to perseverance. Unfortunately, the timing means that Dimps' effort is up against an offering from Nintendo EAD themselves, one that also relies heavily on nostalgia, but serves up a feast of fantastic level design too.
- Stereoscopic 3D really adds something to the experience
- Missions and S-ranks will keep hardcore players coming back
- Music is, as usual, excellent
- Some terribly cheap deaths
- 'Reimagined' levels are underwhelming
- Online lag is pretty bad
The Short Version: Sonic Generations 3DS is not without some allure. The physics are spot-on, the classic tunes endearing and the game looks splendid in stereoscopic 3D. But, considering all of that, it's made all the more galling when the reimagined level design shrieks of an uninspired missed opportunity, and the lack of new content may well prove offputting for some. Even the Saturn managed free-roaming 3D...we have a circle pad, Dimps. Why can't we have nice things too?!