The ever persistent Sega decided that it was time to celebrate the fact that Sonic has been kept alive for so long with a special anniversary game. It looked promising in previews but is it a return to form for the blue hedgehog with attitude?
Tails and a variety of awful sidekicks decide to set up a surprise birthday party, congratulating sonic for his 20th birthday and around 15 years of terror. A few seconds later some purple mechanised clock jerk from another dimension suddenly crashes the party and starts abducting all of the sidekicks for no real reason… Actually, I think I’m siding with the mechanised clock jerk, abduct them all!
So the purpose of the game is to free these people that sonic has wrongfully aligned with for the past 20 years. When you start thinking of that as your main objective it’s quite easy to just let silver the hedgehog stay in purgatory. There’s some nonsense about having sonic from the past and sonic from the present complete stages together to unlock some stuff, but it doesn’t really matter. The plots in sonic games have always been garbage; they’ve been a minor distraction and pails in comparison to what you really want to do, run fast.
The physics of a sonic game are a part of its key to success. For example, the downloadable sonic the hedgehog 4 title was in my opinion a bit of a disaster and it just felt wrong, as if I was playing someone’s cheap imitation. Whenever you ran up hills, sonic would just levitate in place if you didn’t have enough speed, where as in sonic generations you’ll be rolling down the hill to start again if you didn’t have the momentum. So, it’s a tick with regards to classic sonic physics.
What about speed? This is a tricky area as some fans believe sonic has just turned into a hold right on the d-pad and then jump occasionally to avoid obstacles game. To a degree, I believe that statement is true. Sonic has always had certain parts in the megadrive series where you could not really make an impact on how sonic was controlled, as early as the green hill stage when you spin through the first tube. Yes, the most recent outings have removed a higher percentage of control from the player, and I’m afraid the new Sonic’s stages seem to do the same thing. There are jumps that you have no control over but they seem to have implemented a combo system that works by you just moving the analogue stick. It’s used to fill up your boost and there’s no real way of mastering it to the degree that it adds to the game. Sure, you can go faster, but why not just let me collect rings in that time?
Classic Sonic the hedgehog takes speed slightly differently, returning back its megadrive roots by slowing things down just a tiny bit. What I used to admire about sonic was that the levels had a memorable feel that allowed you to improve each time you played it. You could rush through the classic sonic levels but you may die a little more often. There’s no boost meter and you are equipped with just the spin dash, but it’s this level of speed and slower paced platform stages that made the original sonic games classics. While playing on your first attempt the game will frequently slow down to warn you of a deadly pit up ahead, some may see this as holding the gamers hands, so that they can see the ending. Personally, I see it as good level design. You are given an opportunity to go fast and make the risks to get a fast time, but of course on your first play through the game is going to want you to take things slow.
While the title is a celebration to the titles of old, that doesn’t mean that it’s just repackaged already existing levels and resold them. While the stages to have certain sections that will jolt your memory, it is not too familiar to say that you have done this all before. The stages taken from sonic adventure 2, redesigned to cater to classic sonic game play is absolutely marvellous. There is something romantic about 2D side scrolling and there are plenty of levels to play through again and again.
If you are looking for a title that will suit you for months, it depends exactly what you are after. Sonics main story could be completed in around 3 hours with an odd few challenges completed on the side. But the game isn’t really meant to be a standalone adventure, it feels as though it’s a celebration of Sonics career with a great assortment of unlockable content ranging from artwork, character bios and music. For a true sonic fan, it’s a dream. But these unlockables mean very little to those who are new to the franchise.
The only negativity that needs to be addressed frequently is that any future sonic games should not run any lower than 60 frames per second. There’s an emphasis on speed and running at 30 frames per second just doesn’t seem to keep up. I’m unsure how the 360 and ps3 version compares but I played it on a PC and having a smooth fluid frame rate at 60 frames per second to catch up with Sonics blistering speed looked beautiful.
This may not be the best sonic game ever, but its a few hundred steps in the right direction to anything released in the last ten years. Sonic colours also came pretty close and it’s satisfying to know that the last two major outings have been received so well. Perhaps this is the start of something special.