Wot I Think: Sonic Generations

By Adam Smith on November 16th, 2011 at 7:25 pm.

Blue skies, green hills - present and correct

In Sonic Generations, the unnatural hedgehog meets his younger, pot-bellied self as Sega attempts to show that it can recapture its old magic, while proving that there’s a place for its blue mascot in the modern world. As the slowest creature on two legs, who dreams nightly of great athletic feats, I am the ideal choice to tell you wot I think of the blue speedster’s latest.

The many failures of Sonic’s 3D adventures have a well-documented history, which culminated in the open and violent message board mockery of anyone daring to anticipate a new release. All of the internet had decreed that if a man were to state that the new Sonic game looked like “a return to form” or “a passably entertaining experience”, he could legally be duffed around the head with shovels made out of words and animated gifs of the Sega logo dry humping his wallet and weeing on his childhood. For the good of all, those times are over.

Sonic Colours helped make reparations. I haven’t played it so I don’t know if the warm reception was deserved or not but the modern sections of Sonic Generations have a lot in common with Colours, so I feel comfortable in saying at least some degree of warmth was deserved. You see, Sonic Generations really is rather good. The modern bits and the not-so modern bits alike, even if the not-so modern bits are more modern than I was expecting, with their snazzy graphics and hyperactive camera.

Sonic can be a dick

But enough of this! To explain all this talk of modernity I’m going to have to talk about the plot, which is absolutely the worst part of the game. It shouldn’t have a plot, it doesn’t need a plot. It doesn’t need stupid dialogue and horribly cloying voices, it doesn’t need loads of characters that look like they come from the mind of a child from the early nineties who thought that a crocodile in a leather jacket on a skateboard would be totally the most awesome thing. In fact, Generations was the perfect chance to jettison all sense of narrative and instead have a front-end that is unashamedly a collection of levels with no reason to throw them together other than the fact they’re all part of Sonic’s past.

That would work. Make it a multimedia interactive museum, which is what it comes down to in the end, but please don’t string it together with a silly story. Except my pleas and commands are pointless because they already have and I’ve already experienced it so I’ll make the summary short. A horrid shadow creature smashes a picnic that Sonic and his friends are about to enjoy and two timelines become intertwined. One is the time of 2D sidescrolling, which was Sonic’s classical age, the other is the time of 3D running-into-the-screen, which has threatened to be Sonic’s Great Depression.

The world is cleansed of colour, though only in the hub, and the Sonics must travel through, restoring it to life by running really really fast, grinding on rails and bouncing off badniks. Completing each Act with both Sonics, which means in both playstyles, restores a character to life. It’s a shame, because it feels like being punished as soon as they open their anthropomorphic faces and start complimenting Sonic’s radicalitude or, in the darkest moments, flirting with him.

I am supposed to be sliding on my backside, it is part of the plan

Bugger all that though because everything in between is brilliantly entertaining and I do mean brilliantly. It’s not just a shock of rainbows, with Sonic travelling through sky, sea and fire in time-honoured platforming tradition. Visually, it’s one of the most appealing games I’ve played in a while, not just in its multihued aesthetic but in the variety of environments on show. Green hills and blue skies feature largely, of course, as do killer whales that miss no opportunity to arch overhead, but there are ruins and post-apocalyptic cities to dash through as well.

The most memorable moments are the quieter ones, when the strange juxtaposition of a bouncing, beeping blue hedgehog in a realistic setting hammer home Sega’s inventive streak. The Rooftop Run zone is a place I’d like to spend more time, with its European-styled city backdrop evoking Assassin’s Creed of all things, as Sonic speeds through narrow streets, and across towers and spires. Coming to a screeching halt by a beautifully realised roadside café, with pigeons pecking around in the street, is a delight.

It’s not all zipping about at a staggering rate of knots, you see. There’s time to slow down and perform more careful jumping and even some exploration. The sense of discovery is boosted by the impressive number of alternate routes through each act, in both the traditional and modern modes. When I first played those modern levels, which are often more akin to racing than platforming, I was ready to dismiss them harshly as little more than barely interactive cutscenes. There’s so much happening, with entire cities collapsing behind the scampering red shoes and bumpers directing him through the air that it starts to feel like a non-interactive spectacle.

Little pudgy Sonic is looking at his older self and thinking, 'man, I turn into an asshole'

But I retract my harsh dismissal before it is made. The more I played, the more obvious it became that while bouncing from bumpers around may leave Sonic in the hands of physics and fate, the path he takes in between those directed sections is entirely down to the player’s skill. Miss a fast-approaching jump and you’ll fall to another track, from which you can often fall again to a new path, each slower or more hazardous than the last.

All of these multi-route shenanigans become more impressive when they reveal the connected nature of the zones. They often play like a series of set pieces in environments that are more eye candy than physical space, but fall off the beaten path and you’ll often see the route you could be taking as it snakes overhead, corkscrewing tauntingly into the blue yonder. Manage to stick to that route on another attempt and you might just glimpse the dingy undergrowth you were dragging yourself through below, a fleeting glimpse as you sprint, upside-down, defying gravity and previous high scores with high-flying abandon.

When the game hits its stride and you feel its flow, it’s a hugely rewarding experience. And that’s most of the time. But it sure does know how to frustrate. Modern Sonic’s attack, activated by hitting the ‘A’ button (I played with a 360 controller, can’t imagine it working too well without some form of pad), homes in on the nearest enemy and uses them as a springboard. When it works, it’s great, allowing him to pop enemies, skipping across enormous gaps all the while. Unfortunately, the same button also triggers a mid-air dash, which can be used to redirect mid-flight or to make up for a failed jump and reach a platform otherwise out of reach. Attempt that when there’s an enemy nearby and Sonic might head for that instead, often taking him backwards, into the void, leading to a life lost.

If you slip, Sonic is smeared across the rooftops like blueberry jam

It’s a failing of the lock-on system in general rather than Generations and it’s one of the ‘advances’ that has annoyed in 3D Sonic games before. It’s probably better here than it ever has been and those unfair deaths are few, although they happened to me repeatedly in a few places, which either means I don’t learn from my mistakes and was effectively walking into the same glass patio door repeatedly, or there are a few poorly designed sections.

I could also do without the upgrades that can be purchased. I’d rather my ability to achieve impressive times relied on my improving skills rather than purchased perks. Some are designed to allow different kinds of navigation, which I can understand, but on the whole I ignored them. Maybe if I was trying to unlock everything and beat every time, I’d delve into them and find them more useful, but it seems an unnecessary distraction. I could be wrong.

But, yes, modern Sonic has won me over, though I find old Sonic much more fun and he doesn’t lose much of the flashiness of his leaner counterpart. The camera still pans around to show the action to its best advantage and there’s plenty of stuff to smash, as well as devices to propel and pummel tubby Sonic. The game actually claims that the old-style levels are easier but I would describe them as more contemplative. They slow down more often and alternate routes are easier to spot – mainly because they don’t flash by in the blink of an eye.

I really like the design of these boss gates. Pleasing.

The most important that Generations offers is an intelligent understanding of how to make Sonic move. It might seem obvious – he moves fast and to the right, or into the screen depending which time he’s from – but momentum is far more important to Sonic than speed. Yes, he goes fast, that’s kind of his thing, just like murdering animals and wearing their butchered hides is Mario’s thing. But despite his spindash, which allows him to build speed on the spot, Sonic relies on clever use of physics to traverse levels smoothly. Inclines can be used to perform angled jumps, steep hills grant a speed boost or bring him grinding to a halt, and the people with the best times will be those who master the intricacies of the physics, not just those who learn the levels by heart.

In terms of content, there are nine zones from across Sonic’s history, each of which provides the Sonics with an Act each. Once those are done, there are challenges, ranging from time trials to races and treasure hunts, which further explore the zones. Most of these unlock artwork and music, but some need to be completed in order to collect boss keys, which lead to impressive fights that allow progression to the next set of zones.

There’s plenty to do. I rushed through but it would be easy, if somewhat contrary, to take things slow and explore each zone fully. The incentive to repeat areas is aided by times flashing up on screen at each checkpoint, letting you know how far off your best you are and urging you to improve. It’d be great if this could track friends’ times through Steam as well, but sadly that’s not the case. There is an online ranking mode but it’s accessed from the root menu, rather than being integrated with the game proper. Shame.

In this level, Sonic goes door-to-door selling insurance

Other than that, there’s little to complain about in the PC version as I experienced it. No slowdown, no skipping and beautiful graphics. There’s an unfortunate lack of graphical options but the game looks lovely and I never felt the need to fiddle around.

I haven’t followed Sonic closely over the years, but for anyone who has there’s an embarrassment of riches here. The reimagined stages are no doubt full of references and allusions, and the quantity of unlockable bits and pieces is impressive. It has indeed taken them ages, but Sega have delivered a game worthy of their mascot, who has endured thin times and his share of sickness.

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82 Comments »

  1. Bobsy says:

    Are there any Sonic Sez easter eggs where Sonic tells young reprobates not to climb into fridges or let uncles touch them all wrong?

  2. Flint says:

    As a long-time Sonic fan, it is indeed an incredibly heartwarming game. Not just the reimagined zones and songs but the countless little references (musical or visual) to the series’ long past and the general celebratory feel of it all… amazing.

    It’s a brilliant game, definitely the second best of the year for me (after Deus Ex). I’m a person who’s loved Sonic even in the 3D era (and these days prefer a big chunk those games to the old 2D ones) so in my books there’s no return to form here or anything like that. Instead it takes everything that the series has recently done brilliantly, everything the series used to do brilliantly and mixes it all together into one glorious rollercoaster of fun, colourful and often incredibly epic and awesome action. It’s the sort of game I could gush over for ages. The sort of game that makes a longtime Sonic follower to genuinely feel happy and nostalgic about the series and makes him want to wish happy birthday to the hedgehog himself.

    Shame then that the last boss is the game’s main flaw: a game like this would deserve a great, epic final battle and the basic premise for it gives it the perfect opportunity to be one, but instead it’s just a massive anticlimax of awkward time limits and even more awkward ‘combat’. The credits sequence (and especially the little message at the very end before the final cutscene) makes up for it somewhat and leaves the player with a good feel, but it’s still a terrible blot on an otherwise wonderful game.

    But yeah, love it. Here’s hoping the generally positive reception it’s got helps to lift the rather annoying auto-cynicism towards Sonic games.

    • Enso says:

      Oh god what an amazing idea for the final boss. I was so excited when I realised what was about to happen. Then it happened. Unbelievable missed opportunity which still shows itself throughout.

      When the game works and you get into the swing it really is brilliant. But when button presses don’t seem to respond, I fall through floors or get stuck in them, or feel cheated by strange hit detection it really brings me down and reminds me why sonic games have been so bad. It feels so sloppy in places, a massive improvement that I actually enjoyed but just cause it’s not wank we shouldn’t give it too much praise. We need to encourage them to further improvement, then maybe they’ll get the hang of this programming bidnez.

      Edit: Forgot to say, was pretty disappointed with the amount of classic levels. I kept going and going, hoping for the next one to pop up but after the first 3, that’s it. Would have loved some Sonic 3 & Knuckles stages.

    • Groove says:

      You’re not wrong about the final boss….

      It was unbelievable, especially since all of the other boss fights were handled so well (for a boss fight). I’m trying to think what part of the fight is worst, but every single part is an abomination. If they’d had a cut scene and the titles had rolled then that would have been greatly superior.

      Also, yeah, the game is awesome. Everyone buy it.

  3. westyfield says:

    I like pc games, what’s a sonic hedgehog? Is it an attack formation?

    • Enso says:

      “Some clinicians and scientists criticize giving genes frivolous, whimsical, or quirky names, calling it inappropriate that patients with “a serious illness or disability are told that they or their child have a mutation in a gene such as Sonic hedgehog.”"
      I laughed so hard.

    • SquareWheel says:

      It is actually a protein.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_hedgehog

      edit: Well you guys are just faster than me.

    • Skabooga says:

      @Enso: On the flipside on the naming controversy, there are those scientists who support giving proteins silly names because it makes no presumption about the function of the gene. This would prevent such instances as the cold shock binding factor CBF, which, while indeed expressed during cold treatments in plants, is now thought to be more closely involved with responses to drought.

      Plus, how can you not love a protein called SONIC Hedgehog?

    • westyfield says:

      @Risingson
      Yes, because I was four.

    • Nim says:

      We should just call those proteins: Protein + the number the Protein has in the order of discovery. Example: Protein 235, Protein 4700. To make them a bit fancier we could use hexadecimal instead of decimal. Example: Protein eb, Protein 125c. Problem solved.


      What?

    • Matt says:

      Sonic CD sucked – it had horrid maze-like level design mostly not conducive to speed. (The Windows release, anyway; never played the console version)

    • FionaSarah says:

      It’s a weird Jazz Jackrabbit rip-off.

    • Fumarole says:

      Sonic CD came out one year after I started working for my current employer. Now I feel old, thanks.

    • Milky1985 says:

      “A potential inhibitor of the Hedgehog signaling pathway has been found and dubbed ‘Robotnikinin’, in honor of Sonic the Hedgehog’s nemesis, Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik.[”

      I’m hopnig thats a troll wiki edit really, but still quite impressive :P

      Wonder if they have had to name it “eggmannikinin” cause no-one calls it by the proper name any more

  4. SnakeLinkSonic says:

    Still waiting on NVIDIA to update my GPU drivers so I can play my Steam version (Optimus). :(

    • fyro11 says:

      Uhm, you can just add it to your NV whitelist manually? Takes about 15 seconds.

    • nero2z says:

      There’s a roundabout hack to get it to work on an optimus laptop (I’m on an m11x). I don’t remember which forum I got this from, but these are the steps I take when I’m going to play:

      Go to Resolution settings (Control Panel > Adjust Screen Resolution), and click on Detect. This will pop up a blank output device for the nVidia card. Click on the 2nd monitor and under Multiple Displays select “Try to connect anyway on: VGA”, apply. Click the 2nd monitor again and under Multiple Displays select “Extend These Displays”, apply. This forces the gpu to become active.

      Now run the Sonic Generations config utility, select the screen you want to play on. It will still say Intel, but pick it anyway. Also add the game executable to the nVidia control panel to run in high performance mode. Now the game will run off the dedicated gpu.

      Make sure to revert the display settings when you finish to turn the gpu off. Under the Screen Resolution page, change Multiple Displays to “Show desktop only on 1″, apply. Then change that option to “Remove this display”, apply.

    • something says:

      Or you could get a console and it will just work…

      *spins on spot for a second then disappears in blue haze*

  5. Highstorm says:

    Oh PITA…

  6. Radiant says:

    RIP UK:R

  7. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    Not dabbled in it with Keyboard and Mouse at all?

    I like a good jump n run, I like the promise of old Sonic this beautiful on my PC, but I’m not going to get a controller :/

    • Memph says:

      do you also like golf, but refuse to buy a putter?

    • Enso says:

      If you can pick one up cheap you should grab yourself a 360 pad for PC. One of the best controllers ever made (after the Gamecube controller in design but not useage) and possibly the best multipurpose controller for PC. Great feel, great buttons, shame about the d-pad. Lots of indie games support gamepad and a lot are like old console games. Plus, definitely not those things wot run old console games fru magicks on your computerator.

    • sassy says:

      Finally some gamecube controller love, it gets so much hate but I’ve always felt it was one of the best designed controllers made, just needed a few refinements.

      Personally I would go for a playstation controller, it’s more comfortable in my hands and has a much better D-Pad. Plus you can find a lot of cheap knockoff ps controllers that work really well, such as those by Power Wave (which I’ve been using one of theirs for the last 5 years and it’s still going strong).

    • InternetBatman says:

      I loathe playing games on dual-analog, as do many PC gamers. It’s not a question of which controller to get, because I don’t want any of them. I would like to know how it works with the default input device for computers.

    • Snakejuice says:

      I guess with mouse and/or keyboard it works as good as any platform/racing/sports game, badly.

    • Enso says:

      @internetbatman Ouch, alright, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend. I was only 10/12 when Croc and Ape escape came out and I thought they were super neato so I’ve never had a problem with analogue sticks. I usually play the older stuff with the main section of a Mad Catz portable drum kit, which makes a nifty NES style pad when all the drums are unplugged. I found it for a tenner in a TK Max, bargain. http://www.quickerbuy.com/assets/photo/avatar/150459/mad-catz-rock-band-portable-drum-kit-xbox-360.jpg

      Given the choice, I would rather use something with a much better D-Pad, but Generations requires shoulder buttons. So 360 pad it is. It’s all about using your thumbs.

      @Sassy I used to love the playstation pad but the d-pad nub things would rub on my thumbs uncomfortably for more intense platformers and the like. I also found that they began to deteriorate and become less responsive pretty rapidly. Although I definitely prefer their shoulder buttons. It’s easier to use both of them, using two fingers per hand, simultaneously than the 360 pad, which feels like it might slip when you take your fingers out from under the little hooks. The most important factor for me though was that my Playstation to USB socket was incompatible with Windows 7. Sad face.

      The GC controller was a lovely piece of design. You’re right about a few little tweaks. The shoulder buttons, along with the Z, were pretty apalling, as was the d-pad (Although they knew it would work only for minor functions). The face buttons and it’s shape were it’s amazing qualities. Never held a more comfortable controller, in shape and weight.

      And to finish my ramblings on ergonomics. This might anger some people but I’ve always wanted to see a sort of half pad controller for PC. Something with enough buttons to play something like skyrim or battlefield but had a stick. I prefer sticks for 3D movement but not for look so i’d like it to work with a mouse. If I were able at things like that, like Mr Ben Heck, I’d give it a go.

      PS – I’m aware of those monstrosities such as the Razer Nostromo.

    • sassy says:

      The Z button was my major problem with the GC controller, why they would make it harder to press is beyond me. The layout was fantastic and little touches such as the octagon shaped boundaries to the analogue sticks (making consistently going the same direction easy). We will probably never see another controller like it, people judged it harshly without trying it.

      All D-Pads seem to be an after thought nowadays (see the psp for proof, that damn thing you couldn’t do all the diagonals without shifting your grip). That’s why I don’t tend to use official controllers, third party controllers so often base the design on the official controller but then improve on the small issues.

      I don’t see why PC gamers hate controllers, it just seems to be blind hate for anything from consoles. The mouse and keyboard are a fantastic control method but they are not perfect, for many games they are just inferior to a controller. Games don’t have a one size fits all control scheme and sometimes the right may be a controller and other times it may be a M&KB and then it may be something completely different.

    • Urthman says:

      I don’t see why PC gamers hate controllers, it just seems to be blind hate for anything from consoles.

      I’m proficient with a mouse+keyboard but awkward and clumsy with a controller. I feel much more comfortable using my fingers instead of my thumbs.

    • Tams80 says:

      @ Enso

      I have a Razer Nostromo sitting on the desk next to me now. I’m surprised I haven’t thrown out the window yet. The digital stick is useless. ¬.¬

    • Leandro says:

      That’s what controllers are for: racing games, platformers, FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. Also mandatory for same PC co-op Trine and Magicka, so you have no excuse not to have one! :P

      I like to have the choice of how I play a game. I would recommend the Xbox 360 controller too, it’s good and many multiplatform games work better with it. It’s lousy, but it’s a new trend to make PC ports assuming everybody has a 360 controller.

  8. Wulf says:

    I’m a long time Sonic fan, and I always felt that the Sonic games culminated in the two Sonic Adventure games, before taking a nosedive from there. It’s a sad thing, really. The Dreamcast was a beautiful thing, it had Skies of Arcadia, Sonic Adventure, PowerStone II, Ecco, and so many other brilliant games. Unfortunately, the far more everyday and ultimately normal mainstream entries like the Lara Crofts and the Grand Theft Autos won out. The new mainstream gaming era killed the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was dead.

    I think Sega kind of lost the plot from there, really. And that’s a crying shame because their lot was always some of my most valued when it came to gaming. I’ve mentioned my love of Sega before, and memories of the likes of Shining Force, Landstalker, and how of the 16-bit era I think the Mega Drive had the most identity, bar no other platform. This was true of the Dreamcast as well, but brilliance doesn’t equal popularity, does it? More is the pity, more is the pity. (If that was true, then the Titanic is the most brilliant, magnificent thing ever, and Twilight is the greatest written work known to man.)

    But this tends to be a world that’s all about what sells, rather than what’s good. See, I look at games I recently thought were really brilliant, like Gemini Rue, and To the Moon, and I wonder just how much they suffered in sales just because they weren’t doing what’s popular, but instead pursuing their own identity, and being more amazing in the process. It’s a strange thing, that is. The more you homogenise, the more you remove identity, the more popular something becomes. There is a direct correlation there between these two things.

    I mean, back in the day, people felt that Oblivion was a far, far more impressive game than Mask of the Betrayer, despite never having gotten into the latter. The latter had its own identity, something truly exotic and usual, and so full of heart. Sure, the opinions these days are different, and there are people who now understand my point of view, but the utterly homogenised and mostly identity-less Oblivion was more popular back then. I’m sure I’d get the same thing if I asked about Skyrim vs. New Vegas today.

    Here is a realisation: Most people love homogenisation and a lack of identity.

    Now, Sega’s problem? They always had too much identity. They weren’t harmless in the way Nintendo and Sony were, they were always backing experimental crap, not gimmicky crap either, but just odd games in general. Shenmue, for example, was a very, very experimental game. Even to this day there is nothing, nothing that’s even remotely like Shenmue. Sega had too much identity. What happened after the Dreamcast is that they lost that, they strated homogenising, they started trying to work mainstream tricks into their games to make them sell.

    But that was never Sega’s strength. Sega’s strength was in their identity.

    And Generations? Generations is a return to form. Sega has the plot again, and I hope they keep it.

    • CDTJ says:

      What do you do all day?

    • Brun says:

      “Here is a realisation: Most people love homogenisation and a lack of identity.”

      I’d argue that this statement is a bit harsh. You really have zero faith in the gaming community, don’t you Wulf?

      I don’t think people love homogenisation – people play what they are given and for some reason developers think that people want to play the same kind of game over and over (this is readily evident in the shooter genre – seen the new Syndicate? LOL). The gaming industry – at least as far as major publishers are concerned – has shoehorned itself into a Hollywood-esque, blockbuster-based business model that does not support a great deal of experimentation. We all know that model is not sustainable and the hope is that it will (rather spectacularly) sort itself out. But that is another discussion.

      That said, it is patently impossible for every game to be its own unique little snowflake, and to have its own completely unique identity. To expect or demand such is absolutely unreasonable. Developers will, out of necessity, draw from what they know in creating any title. The bigger point to be made here, though, is that a unique identity is not a requirement for a game to be good. Just because a game draws all or part of its identity from outside sources doesn’t mean it can’t be a good game.

    • cjlr says:

      Wulf, when you blithely insult the population at large, it comes across as wildly arrogant and presumptive. We know you’re just so much more special and intelligent, looking down on we poor, foolish, intellectual peasants, but it’s rude to say so.

      People thought Oblivion was better than Mast of the Betrayer because it was at least somewhat functional when it was released. There are valid reasons why the Dreamcast failed (and a strong element of dumb bad luck), and it wasn’t because the games were too hip for the mainstream. Shenmue sold millions. For that matter, though it wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as today, multiplatform was still very much the order of the day…

      What’s good and/or unique is not necessarily popular. What’s popular is not necessarily good. But popularity in no way precludes quality, and a lack of popularity alone has absolutely no correlation with originality.

    • Wulf says:

      Hrm, the only person to try and work up a substantiated response was Brun, the rest of it tended to be veiled insults. And since all I offered was a long term observation, one that’s been borne out by far too much proof for me to even need to dwell on any more, that it was met by base insults bears me out a bit, don’t you think?

      What the gaming community does best is substantiate my low opinion of it. On a daily basis. It does nothing better than that. It’s very rare that someone makes me sit up and think that they may actually be speaking in an impassioned way, about something they have a stake in, rather than an angry one about their guilty pleasures.

      Anyway, Brun, no… I don’t think it’s that harsh.

      The point of my post was basically what you said: The gaming community as a whole has depressingly low standards, compared to every other medium out there, to books, or films, or music, our standards just tend to bottom out. We don’t really have notable critics like the other mediums do, we don’t have people standing up and wanting something more than the usual overly homogenised crap, and therein you have the reason why we just accept what we’re given, or why most of us do.

      The sorts of games that we accept as popular would make horrible films or books.

      And the sorts of games that are popular have become homogenised. Syndicate becoming a shooter, X-Com becoming a shooter, Bethesda games leaning toward increasingly more average and ‘relateable’ settings, you can’t look at all this and tell me that you don’t see the burgeoning homogenisation. I do, and it makes me a little sad, because there are very few people who would actually point out that this isn’t a good thing. And if they do, they’re mocked. Hence my opinion.

      My opinion of us, because of that, scraped the barrel long ago. It’s gone through the barrel now, dug through the floor, and found itself in the barrel factory that rests below.

      I’m not asking for every game to be unique. You’ll notice that. I ask you to read it again because that’s not what I said. I’m asking for games to have their own identity. What I want is for games to look like they came from the imagination of a person, rather than they were made in such a way that’s homogenised enough to be popular. Just so it’ll sell. That’s what bugs me about Skyrim: Vikings are popular now, right? Dragons are popular, yeah? Let’s do dragons vs. vikings and call it a day.

      You can see that there were good ideas in Skyrim, but they’re so completely half-arsed or incomplete that it’s obvious that Bethesda tossed those aside in favour of the ideas that will sell, and I find that depressing. It’s the reality of things, it’s how identity is suffering vs. making a sale.

      Sega did the same thing for the longest time, they tried to sacrifice the identity of their IP in order to try to make a sale. They tried so many ways to do this, but their IP was already too out there to begin with, so by homogenising it and bringing in elements which are more mainstream (Knights are cool!), they actually ended up making games that no one really enjoyed. What I was saying in my post is that whilst it may work for Bethesda, it can’t work for Sega, they were just too out of left field to begin with.

      I’m glad Sega are back on the right track, and I’m hoping other developers will learn from that, because I feel that there are lessons to be learned, here. The sad part of it all though is that Generations is probably not going to sell well. I think we all know that.

      Anyway, cjr… wow.

      You completely misunderstood me, and you just felt like using me as a pinata for your insults and to soothe your own feelings of intellectual superiority, so I think you’re projecting a bit, there. I just have the opinion that gaming is becoming homogenised, and that people are buying too much into that. You don’t need to feel so personally insulted by my opinions. But that was quite kneejerk reaction.

      Also, I can’t help but pick up Mast of the Betrayer. A tale of pirates and subterfuge!

      Anyway…

      As for Mask of the Betrayer, it was perfectly functional when it was released. So was New Vegas. But there were myths to the contrary, just like there were about New Vegas. If you asked people about New Vegas, you’d get stories of bugs that didn’t exist, whereas people who’ve played both Fallout 3 and New Vegas would be incredulous, knowing Fallout 3 to be the far buggier game. Skyrim, another example, tends to crash so often that it’s ridiculous, it crashes on every third alt+tab, I’ve had people come back from the dead, I’ve had quests break due to using certain spells, it’s a buggy mess.

      But if it’s homogenised enough then people can overlook the bugs, that’s what I’ve learned. Make it go down easier in other respects, and the bugs can be overlooked. Games like Mask of the Betrayer and New Vegas had a few bugs, but they also challenged people on various levels. I can only surmise that people felt insulted by this and chose to go after them for the few bugs they did have.

      This is a truth, we both bloody know it, and let’s not beat around the bush.

      You know about New Vegas, you know this is all true.

      And again, I didn’t mention originality, this is something that you’re just pulling out of thin air. The word I used was IDENTITY, and with good reason.

      —EDIT—

      Just to ad to that, Wired (or was it Ars… no, I think it was Wired) calling RAGE completely creatively bankrupt and decript was something I’ll remember. We need more of that. We need more people with balls who’re willing to call developers on their homogenisation when they see it.

      I’d have called Sega on this with many games of the past, but it was failed homogenisation. It’s what they tried though, you can tell. Ever since the Dreamcast fell they’ve been attempting to tap into the magical homogenisation juice that mainstream developers have been using to sell ultimately boring games. And they failed. They realised it was there, though, which is more than can be said for most of us.

      And Wired realised it was there, too. RAGE suffers from homogenisation. It’s creatively bankrupt, just like Wired said it was. It may be fun, I won’t deny that and please don’t misunderstand me, here. But it forsook its own identity in favour of making a sale. It has no identity of its own, it’s just a bit of air-headed fun.

      This is my problem with a lot of mainstream games, and this is what I’m glad Sega are moving away from, if they are.

      (Though I doubt that all but a few will actually understand where I’m coming from here, so I’ll leave it at that. Have at it with the anger and misunderstanding. :P)

    • Snids says:

      Great post!

    • Brun says:

      “The gaming community as a whole has depressingly low standards, compared to every other medium out there, to books, or films, or music, our standards just tend to bottom out. ”

      This is really kind of laughable. Film is arguably the most analogous medium to video games, particularly by consumer taste. It’s just as bad as you say games are, if not worse.

      “That’s what bugs me about Skyrim: Vikings are popular now, right? Dragons are popular, yeah? Let’s do dragons vs. vikings and call it a day.”

      I don’t mean to focus on Skyrim in a Sonic thread, but this is a good example of what I mean. I really think you’re oversimplifying it. A lot. Skyrim is much more than Vikings vs. Dragons. Just on the plot side it’s also Vikings vs. Vikings, Vikings vs. Romans, Vikings being Racist against Dark Elves. My character is not a Viking and he doesn’t go out of his way to kill Dragons.

      I guess what I’m trying to say here, and what I’ve been trying to say, is that just because it isn’t completely out of left-field doesn’t mean it lacks an identity.

      “If you asked people about New Vegas, you’d get stories of bugs that didn’t exist, whereas people who’ve played both Fallout 3 and New Vegas would be incredulous, knowing Fallout 3 to be the far buggier game. Skyrim, another example, tends to crash so often that it’s ridiculous, it crashes on every third alt+tab, I’ve had people come back from the dead, I’ve had quests break due to using certain spells, it’s a buggy mess.”

      There were plenty of well-documented bugs with NV that were independent of individual user configuration (Steam Cloud eating save games was the most notorious). It didn’t (and shouldn’t) kill the game, in this I think we agree.

      I agree with you that what you call “homogenisation” is a problem. I do not, however, think it is necessary to take the whole “identity” thing to the extreme you suggest. As I said before, it’s possible to make a very good game that doesn’t wildly differentiate itself.

    • Soon says:

      The cubicles of Sega’s office reflect the homogeneity of their soul…

    • CDTJ says:

      Sorry, Wulf, I don’t mean to be slinging veiled insults. I’m just surprised at how much thought and time you can put in to your posts.
      You seem quite serious. Drink beer. It’s good for your health.

    • Joof says:

      Here is a realisation: Most people love homogenisation and a lack of identity.

      Now, Sega’s problem? They always had too much identity. They weren’t harmless in the way Nintendo and Sony were, they were always backing experimental crap, not gimmicky crap either, but just odd games in general.

      I’m not sure you can accuse either Sony or Nintendo for being too homogonized or whatever.

      Sony and it’s owned studios funded games like ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Patapon, Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Dexter, and Little Big Planet, among others. None of those are exactly homogenized or normal, especially at their respective series first release.

      Likewise, for Nintendo, they owned studios that put together games like Pikmin, Kid Icarus, Paper Mario, Kirby, Earthbound, Banjo Kazooie, Luigi’s Mansion, all games that aren’t exactly what one thinks of when you think of homogenized main stream stuff. Even their big games like Mario and Zelda do things like Super Mario Sunshine, Majora’s Mask, and Windwaker, which all are departures from their previous incarnations, either using unconventional art styles or through new game mechanics. They also were the only people willing to publish Pokemon however many years back, a concept that hadn’t really been tapped before. They even threw out normal console design for both the Wii and 3DS.

    • cjlr says:

      It’s your unshakeable conviction that originality cannot sell and that it has no mainstream appeal which tends to wrankle, Wulf. Because I don’t think that’s true. To say that gaming has scraped right past the bottom of the barrel and into the lithosphere may be going too far. To say that people are insulted by being challenged is itself insulting. And when you say something about gaming or gamers in general, I do feel that it’s in some part directed towards the rest of us here in the hivemind. If that’s not so, please clarify, but either way it smacks of elitism.

      And, seriously now, I am not taking anything personally here. I am not projecting, I am not trying to feel superior – though if I were I should surely deny it anyway, but were I truly petty I would accuse you of same, and we could descend into a circlejerk of NO U R ANGRY.

      “You know about New Vegas, you know this is all true.”
      Well that’s just the thing. If we disagree – and I largely don’t, even given what I said and your response – then it does not make me wrong, and it does not make you wrong, and neither of us has a superior opinion. They are opinions. That New Vegas was rather unstable is not a controversial claim, I would have thought, but then, I’m sure we all remember the shitshow of the WiT responses. But that is independent of whether it was worse than Fallout 3 or not. You may have had a luckier experience with it, but a sample size of one is not statistically significant. Lord knows people complained about Alpha Protocol being unstable, and while I didn’t personally encounter any issues with that game I’m not claiming people who did are somehow wrong.

      I don’t think I did misunderstand you. I may have taken a less that strictly serious tone in response, but that is just a (bad?) habit of mine. I disagreed with some of your examples, sure. You mentioned Shenmue as an example of Sega doing something different. Well, yeah. It was. And people liked it. It sold by the truckload. The sequels did very well. Them’s the facts. You can’t claim that homogenisation and derivate creative sterility are the only path to success and then ignore something like that – your own example of a counterexample was, in fact, commercially successful. Their own runaway development costs were what sunk that franchise, and that had nothing to do with whether it was successful (because it was) or whether it was acclaimed (it was) or whether it was experimental (it was).

      You didn’t say the word originality but what else could you have been talking about? Homogenisation means (literally!) to make the same. To be different, then, is the opposite; you used the word identity. Presumably that must be distinct identity, because nondistinct identities are, er, homogeneous. I don’t think it’s a stretch to use the word original in that context, but I accept and regret that it may have been less than 100% clear (?).

      Just let me know where you stand on the following statements:
      A good work can still sell well or even very well.
      A work that does sell well is not necessarily bad or bland.

      “…I doubt that all but a few will actually understand where I’m coming from here”
      Aaaand that’s what I was talking about. I had some snarkier commentary but I’ll refrain and just leave it be.

      You ARE the one who said that blizzard were secret racists for not allowing cross-region play in Diablo 3. Forgive me for thinking you may be a little off-base sometimes.

      EDIT: God, you’ve made ME post an essay’s worth (insert smiley here).

      Joof – I was going to say something like that but I figured mine was long enough already!

      DOUBLE EDIT: Couldn’t you have worked Guild Wars 2 into there somewhere? ;)

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Nintendo had Mario? Sega had Sonic? PC had Jazz Jack Rabbit! Just as much character and identity.

    • sassy says:

      Skyrim was not Vikings vs Dragons because both are popular (and did I miss the memo? Vikings are in now?) but rather because it is fitting with the elder scrolls lore. The Nords were always based on Vikings, as other races in the game clearly based on older real world cultures. The fact the game was set in the home of the Nords just meant it was going to have a viking feel to it, just like Oblivion had the feeling of its base culture (can’t include Morrowind here, It borrowed from cultures but it was clearly based in fantasy).

      Dragons have always been popular in fantasy, this has been the case since long before Arena came out. Sure they have taken a long time to appear in Elder Scrolls but did anyone ever doubt they would continue to be a no show? Dragons are liked, they were clearly wanted in elder scrolls (see how many dragons have been modded into the series already), they are an excellent enemy and they fit nicely into the lore, so why not add them? It’s not a case of they are popular so add them, it is a case of they are popular, fitting and will add to the gameplay.

      I’m not trying to blindly defend Skyrim, it is far from perfect and it does pander to what is popular (as has the whole series) but all you’ve done is over simplified it and then presented a bunch of assumptions as fact.

      This is not meant as an insult Wulf, cause I do respect your passion and you do make some good points but you let your passion blind you. The things you say have clearly been thought out but they are often based on strong (not necessarily misplaced) bias and often certain factors are overlooked or ignored. You then have a tendency to defend your points even as evidence piles up that my not negate it but shows that more consideration needs to be made.

      I also disagree with saying this game isn’t going to sell. I believe it will do quite well. Sonic games have been rubbish for a while and people have lost faith in the franchise but people still want to like it. Sonic still has the power to draw people in and people are already making a fuss about Sonics return to form, this will certainly help it’s selling power. It will still be hurt by the ill will the old games generated but I’m quite confident it will sell and we will see a sequel (which will probably do better as it will have proper hype leading up to its release).

    • Gundrea says:

      The problem with the world is that everyone insists on breathing oxygen. No one tries nitrogen or carbon monoxide anymore.

    • thecat17 says:

      Wulf,

      The Rage “review” you referred to is from Ars Technica, not Wired. I remember because it stands out as one of the worst “gaming reviews” I’ve ever read.

      Yes, I’m putting quotes around the word “review” in this case. Because I thought gaming reviews were supposed to be about what a game is, and judging on those merits, rather than completely writing it off for not being the Fallout 3 and Borderlands hybrid that somehow the reviewer was expecting.

      “Creatively and mechanically bankrupt”? It’s laughable when you read the same reviewer’s glowing opinion of Modern Warfare 3. Especially the last 3 paragraphs, praising the game’s “simple goals”, how “neat” it was “to fire all those interesting guns and watch blood spray across the virtual asphalt”, and how it’s “OK to lose yourself in a world where every situation can be solved with a bullet or a knife”.

      But when it comes to Rage, it’s apparently not okay to lose yourself in that game in spite of its every situation being solved with weapons. Or for it to have simple goals. Or to find entertainment in firing all its interesting guns.

      Sorry, but being “creatively and mechanically bankrupt” applies way more to MW3 than it does to Rage, silly reviewer. You’re basically playing the same single-player experience as in MW2, and it looks pretty much the same as it did 2 years ago. Talk about homogenization.

      Anyway.

      Wulf, you may have a point in Rage’s “homogeny”. Alec himself pointed out in his WiT how “Rage is often guilty of ordinariness and blandness” in its missions. But rather than write off the game there, he goes on to say that “it definitely pulls off being more than just a journey of unthinking destruction”. He met the game on its own merits and actually played it with an open mind, rather than forming an unfair opinion on what it should be and allowing that to color his experience before even playing it.

      That is the kind of reviewer we need more of.

  9. SnakeLinkSonic says:

    @fyro11

    Nope. There’s no way around and it and it forces the intergrated chip no matter what you do, else it won’t boot at all. The only workaround as of right now is tricking the game into thinking it’s displaying on an external monitor (or actually set it up to do so), just so the game will recognize the GPU.

    http://goo.gl/IAzcS

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I don’t really know anything about this… but what happens if you just disable your intel graphics in your hardware settings?

  10. svge says:

    FUCK I LOVE SONIC!

  11. thegooseking says:

    I was thinking about the plot thing myself. It’s a very slender plot, but what it needs is no plot, or rather, to leave room for the plot. One of the great things about Mega Drive Sonic was imagining what the plot that links these zones together might be. Sonic 3 and Knuckles was a little more explicit with its zone linking, but it still mostly referred to the continuity by telegraph rather than long-form cutscenes. And the Doctor’s (let’s not argue about Robotnik vs. Eggman) betrayal of Knuckles in the Sky Sanctuary Zone was still heartbreaking.

    As for the voices, the first thing I did was to switch the voice acting to Japanese. It’s not actually much better, but it’s less noticeable how bad it is if you don’t speak the language fluently.

    Other than that, I’ve found it a lot of fun.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Monchberter says:

    *Obligatory Jet Set Radio was AMAZING and needs a decent PC re-release post*

    • Wulf says:

      It was, wasn’t it?

      But then I could say this about Ecco, Skies of Arcadia, and Shenmue too. All of which could use PC releases.

    • jalf says:

      And NiGHTS!

  13. Skabooga says:

    That second picture and alt-text is the best thing I’ve seen all week. I’m still giggling.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      You’re clearly perpetuating sexism in the industry!

      Though I kinda wanna see the full scene that that picture is from, just the whole “seriously, go away”… any youtube links or something, anyone?

  14. Alextended says:

    Have to say I’m finding it hard to keep playing this even though there’s not much you can point to and say “this is broken” or whatever. I guess it’s just not that fun for someone who isn’t a PC-only gamer and thus has sampled many of the best not-low-budget-indie platformers of recent and not so recent times, from Super Mario Galaxy to Donkey Kong Country Returns. It’ just not on par, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Although modern Sonic hasn’t improved much since Adventure it seems.

  15. Premium User Badge

    lasikbear says:

    On the subject of alligators in leather jackets being a 90′s childrens thing. When I was in preschool, I had a tshirt and matching sweatpants featuring a crocodile in outback clothing (is that a thing) bungee jumping and it was my favorite thing ever.

  16. 1R0N_W00K13 says:

    I really, really liked Generations. Having grown up with Adventure 1 & 2 I am more used to 3D Sonic in all honesty (although in those games I think 3D sonic works) but I’ve subsequently played sections of Sonic 1 and 2. I agree the graphics are astounding – visually striking and I love the design on the whole, and I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on the richness of the music. 90% of the remixed tracks are brilliant, and go with the theme of the game perfectly; and playing through the remastered and honed levels from past Sonic games was satisfying as hell.

    I agree with most people that the final boss was a dud; it seemed rushed and it was very frustrating. Otherwise I can find little else I have issue with, other than perhaps the length (I wish there were even more levels!).

    • Adam Smith says:

      I really should have mentioned the music. I’m an idiot for not mentioning the music. It’s often ridiculous, sometimes sublime, and always fantastic.

      I shall pretend I was assuming people knew the music would be brilliant. Yes.

    • hardboiledgregg says:

      Yeah, I can’t believe they even included the Michael Jackson demos for the Sonic 3 soundtrack.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuXoZgjcqmo
      =p

    • Enso says:

      Only one intsy wincy thing that slightly annoyed me was all the classics were unlocks. I know, I know.

    • Milky1985 says:

      I still hum the Crisis City themes to my self now (i think i prefered the classic version to the modern version, but they are both excelent)

      The one piece of music i didn;t like was hte modern city escape, but thats mainly because the classic escape from teh city song was just epicly birlliant and i can still since it now from when i played it on the gc, the modern version ruined it a bit, the classic version of that song however was actualyl rather hummable.

  17. LGM says:

    Great WIT, I agree 100%.

    They definitely didn’t need the storyline or cutscenes, nor the absolutely ridiculous other characters. You really hit the nail on the head about the characters Adam, they do seem like some kind of wacky 90′s kids drawings or something. Not cool, and really the only negative to the whole game.

    Hopefully SEGA will wake up and cut out all the useless storyline crud for the next game. At least they’re back in top form again. Now they just need to give us some love with a new Virtua Fighter on PC, SEGA Rally, Virtua Cop, and of course Shenmue! :D

  18. Sardaukar says:

    One only needs to look at the second picture of this article to understand why Sonic Generations is so good. Sega finally gets it.

  19. Nidokoenig says:

    I loved it. My first “big” game, after some faffing around with an old Atari 2600 I can barely remember, was Sonic the Hedgehog 1, on the Mega Drive. Generations is a great game, though like all modern Sonics I do have to complain a little about the physics. Especially during the slow platforming bits, it never feels like there’s enough friction on Sonic’s feet, like he was never truly stopped, and it’s unnerving. Basically, it feels noticeably different to the games I played as a kid, so it feels wrong, and the classic level designs are more Sonic Advance era stuff than Mega Drive, since the backtracking aversion and this idea of making just the right jump to get onto the higher, better level with the collectibles started there. But ignore me, I’m one of the grumpy sods who says he hated Fallout 3 and loved Elder Scrolls: Capital Wasteland, and anyway, I still really like this game for what it is, even if it doesn’t meet my obsessively detailed interpretation of what it claims to be.

  20. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Violence against women in the first screenshot! But it’s okay since nobody is called ‘bitch’

  21. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    First Sonic CD’s re-release gets announced, then Generations turns out to be really good? Wow, I feel like 17 again. And slim.

  22. GreatUncleBaal says:

    Crikey, the screenshot (and the trailer on Steam) with both “modern” and “classic” Sonic shows, to me, how much bloody better the old design looked – the lankier Sonic just doesn’t look quite right.

  23. Mooglepies says:

    It’s awfully good, this. I personally reckon that doing all the older levels in 3D was more compelling then doing the newer levels in 2D, if that makes sense. Chemical Plant Zone was a highlight. It is, as Adam says though, a very attractive game in the looks department. I also found that there was just enough in terms of the endgame stuff like the red star rings and the challenges to keep my interest.

    It is a bit short, but at the price I paid for it (just under £15), it feels almost criminal to get as much as you do.

    Also, Pressing A (360 controller) in midair does a homing attack. If you’ve nothing to home in on, then it functions as you described (midair dash forwards in the direction you’re pointing in) but as long as you have that little green target on your screen you’ll home straight in on them.

  24. Rane2k says:

    Great, I was on the fence about getting this or not, looks like I´ll have to. :-)

  25. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Huh. Mandelbrot.

  26. Chizu says:

    “It’d be great if this could track friends’ times through Steam as well, but sadly that’s not the case. There is an online ranking mode but it’s accessed from the root menu, rather than being integrated with the game proper. Shame.”

    It does do this in the online time trials mode.
    But it would be kinda broken in the main singleplayer game thanks to the Skills you can use (which are disabled in online).
    I’m quite happy using my elemental shield skills and such, without being constantly reminded I am slower than my friends, who are all using the speed boosts and stuff. :v

  27. TaroYamada says:

    I grew up a Nintendo fanboy, but by 2005 I was no longer and I went back and got a Dreamcast and a Saturn and quickly realized that Sega, when truly investigated upon, generally made better games than Nintendo and by virtue of that generally made some of the best games of all time. Not to knock Nintendo’s quality as they are an amazing development house and probably the best one currently in the industry (when they aren’t focusing on casuals). Regardless of all that, I have deliberately avoided Sonic with the exception of Rush, since SA 2, I am no getting ready to jump back in with SG.

    I am extremely excited, and given sega’s uptake in quality for the past few years (they really are putting out some good stuff now) I knew eventually Sonic would come along. Here he is! Thanks for the review, this game is bought before Skyrim, which I will probably wait for the GOTY edition on anyways (all the DLC).

  28. mickygor says:

    I wanted to pick this game up anyway because I’d heard good things. This review’s changed it from an “I’ll buy it in the future” to “3 minutes left on download.”