Sonic the hedgehog has been through ups and downs over his 20 year history, and his recent years haven't been exactly bountiful. According to the review tracking site, GameRankings.com, the last Sonic game to breach an over 85% review score average was "Sonic Advance 2," which released back in 2003. Recent attempts to reboot the blue rodent have ranged from dismal to mediocre, and a true, 2D sequel, "Sonic The Hedgehog 4," was met with disappointment from fans. It's those same fans that Sega is attempting recapture in "Sonic Generations," a game which blends the old with the new on one disc.
"Sonic Generations" comes in two flavors: 2D and 3D. Every single level of the game can be played from the traditional, Genesis-style 2D perspective (which uses 3D graphics, akin to "Sonic 4") or from a 3D, behind-the-back perspective, similar to the chase levels of "Sonic Adventure" or last year's "Sonic Colors."
It's not just a perspective shift, either. While the theme would say the same in both versions of Green Hill Zone 1, the map layout changes dramatically depending on which you choose. Arguably it's like buying two Sonic games on one disc, 2D traditional and modern 3D.
The 2D Sonic is represented in the screenshot up top, while the 3D Sonic can be seen here:
The 2D Sonic
Playing the 2D version of a level will feel strikingly similar to the Genesis-era "Sonic" games. All the familiar mechanics, like swinging platforms, floating clouds of rings and corkscrew pathways return, just with enhanced graphics. Sonic's own art design even changes, as you'll play as the old school, chubbier hedgehog.
The physics were a concern in "Sonic 4," but they've definitely been improved for "Sonic Generations." It doesn't feel quite as speedy or responsive as the Genesis games, but it's definitely getting closer and there's still half a year of development time left, so there's hope here. At the very least I'm hoping the 2D levels are able to match the quality of the "Sonic Advance" series of games.
The 3D Sonic
When playing the 3D version of a level, the game is mostly played from a behind-the-back perspective, as Sonic shoots through tracks, rings and enemies. Collecting coins fills your boost meter, and hitting X with a full meter allows Sonic to dash ahead, smashing through obstacles like robotic crabs and weakened walls.
There are times, however, when the camera will shift to the traditional 2D perspective on these levels, as well. Generally this is during a more complex platforming sequence.
The Old And The New
The good news about all of this is that Sega is outright ditching the slow-paced, combat-and-exploration-heavy elements that have bogged down recent Sonic games. It's simply about getting from the start to the finish in as little time as possible.
It does beg the question whether that mechanic has enough meat on its bones to justify a $60 price tag, but if anything's able to prove Sonic's worth in this era of video games, it should be "Sonic Generations."