You can go two ways with a Sonic game. It’s all or nothing.

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On one hand, you’ve got those games that are outrageously shite, fouled up with Sonic’s sad wanker pals journeying through the most abysmal stories in all of gaming. That’s what I’d call The Bad Way. Step forward, the arse-clenchingly awful likes of Sonic & The Secret Rings, Shadow The Hedgehog and especially Sonic The Hedgehog 2006. Infamous for all the wrong reasons, there’s been too many lousy attempts to recapture Sonic The Hedgehog’s former glory. As well as being identified with disappointment, the lack of quality in these games led SEGA to publicly apologise for how unacceptable they were. Jings!

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That former glory I’ve mentioned there, folk’ll tell you that’s all from the 1990s. That’s the ‘...on the other hand’ here, and that ‘other way you can go with a Sonic game’, that’s what I’d call The Good Way.  We’re all thinking back to the games that we’d like to synonymise with the Blue Blur, games like Sonic The Hedgehog 1, 2, 3 & Knuckles, and Sonic CD. The classics! But by the start of this decade, those games were close to twenty years old, and the Sonic The Hedgehog series was living off of it’s reputation. However, that reputation was no longer built on fast-paced platforming brilliance like in 1994, but instead fast becoming built on piles and piles of critically-panned horseshit.

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But they sold well, and the cries of many journos to retire the franchise fell on deaf ears. Sonic The Hedgehog pressed on. In 2011, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the series, SEGA elected to reboot the Sonic series once again. Surprisingly, they didn’t do their usual and not listen to the fans by lumbering the gameplay with werewolfs, swordplay or the wankiest motion controls going. This time, they based it all on memorable levels from Sonic’s past, right the way from Sonic 1 in 1991 to Sonic Colours in 2010. Believe it or not, while popular opinion was that Sonic has been rubbish since 1994, some folk like tearing through Sonic’s 3D environments, blasting from point to point really, really quickly. And truthfully, there’s still a lot of highlights in amongst that fifteen year long rut, so you needed both generations of Sonic for both these audiences. Two distinct ways to play needed two distinct Sonic The Hedgehogs.

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For sure, Sonic’s shoes are two of the most difficult to fill in the whole gaming industry, and the unenviable task for creating a title that would wow both ends of the Sonic fan spectrum fell to Dimps. They’re the Japanese development studio responsible for a bucketload of Digimon and Dragon Ball Z games...but also all the Sonic Advance games, as well as Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure and the DS version of Sonic Colours. These were all very capable games, reminiscent of the time when Sonic was all flat, all 2D and all good. They were the best Sonic games of the 2000s in my opinion, leaving out the combat and open-world exploration that bogged down some of those games I listed in the second paragraph. Dimps had a recipe book for good Sonic games, and generally folk trusted them to make a game that would do justice to the series heyday. Looking back, I think they did!



Where there’s a Sonic, there’s a story, and this is how we get to these different play styles. Here, Sonic’s universe is thrown into chaos when a mysterious new power comes into force, creating Time Holes which drag Sonic and his mates into another dimension. While there, Sonic runs into some familiar characters from the past, including an older version of himself. As older, chubby, “Classic” Sonic, you bounce, spin and zip along stages stylised like they’re ripped from 1992 itself, behaving very much like he did in those legendary Mega Drive games of that “classic” time. As new, sleek, “Modern” Sonic, you’re taking advantage of the abilities they gave Sonic in later games, with rail-grinding, boosting and Claude Makélélé-esque big tackles.

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The changes extend beyond how tall your talking blue hedgehog is though. With each version of Sonic, you’re getting a different level layout. For example, Classic Sonic’s Green Hill Zone is very faithful to the version that introduced the whole series back on the Mega Drive, whereas Modern Sonic’s Green Hill Zone is reshaped to facilitate the pace and mobility of games like 2005’s Sonic Rush. I guess that it’s designed that way to provide something for everybody, whether they prefer how pure the original games were, or if they enjoyed the freshness and rollercoaster speeds of what came later. However, this isn’t a handheld version of it’s home console relatives, as there’s no way in Greek buggery that Dimps were pulling off the PS3 game on 2011 3DS hardware. Rather, it’s own thing, with it’s own levels and it’s own design choices.

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As a longtime fan of the series, I was keen to see how stages like Radical Highway (from Sonic Adventure 2) and Final Fortress (from Sonic Heroes) would translate to a flat 2D plane. Equally, I was intrigued to see how Dimps would add a new perspective to stages like Mushroom Hill (from Sonic & Knuckles) and Water Palace (from Sonic Rush). In each regard, I think Sonic Generations succeeds, and it’s a game that can make both classic and modern Sonic’s audiences quite happy.

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The assortment of stages is a good reflection of what put Sonic The Hedgehog into millions of homes in the first place - they’re very bright, tight and are backed with the typical catchy Japanese pop. It’s magic! Of particular note was the way it controlled: I felt that this was the most accurate replication of the way the Mega Drive games played. In Generations, moving either Sonic around is a joy, with the physics feeling immediately recognisable. Fair enough, the controversial homing attack from Sonic 4: Episode 1 is still here, but they sorted out the way Sonic cuts about. You’re finding the same angles for your jumps as you were in 1992, and you’re still building up the same momentum for your spin attacks too - it’s really satisfying. This is all about reaching Sonic’s top speed and clearing stages as fast as you can - and that’s what I think Sonic should be all about. Maybe you do too?

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I think the split generations idea is really smart as well. It’s a formula that worked out well for developer and publisher alike, and provided the foundation for 2017’s Sonic Forces, albeit to a diminished return. But while I’m bumming up Sonic Generations to be the Second Coming of Hogs of War, let’s get our feet back on the ground. While a good game in it’s own right, Sonic Generations is no Sonic Mania.

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Sonic Generations has been superseded by Sonic Mania. That proved to be a better celebration of Sonic’s past, and Mania’s redesigned levels, enemies bosses and tunes are better than they are in Generations. Crucially, it was just a bit more fun. The main drawback of Sonic Generations is that it doesn’t twist enough, and it’s all a bit unadventurous. Oftentimes, Modern Sonic’s stages feel too similar to Classic Sonic’s stages, playing it far too safe and failing to distinguish themselves from what’s supposed to be two distinctly different game designs. Mania definitely sticks its neck out more. It’s a short game from beginning to end too. Although I got over fifteen hours out of it’s one hundred missions, competitive Sonic 2-style multiplayer and unlockable audio and art rewards, you could rattle through the main stages in about an hour. That said, I still think Sonic Generations is a very decent game, and a very adequate showcase of classic 2D Sonic platforming. You wouldn’t plant £30 on it, but I seen it for a fiver recently, it can definitely be had for cheap. I think you’ll have fun with it. The good outweighs the bad, and you can’t usually say that for a Sonic game to be honest.

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NGamer thought it was a worthwhile effort, calling it “good-looking and fan-pleasing” in their December 2011 issue, and awarding it with a respectable 79%. That’s a good 13% above the Metacritic average, but that average is slaughtered by some arsehole saying that “it’s not an awful game” and horsing it with a 25% score. Ignore that, that’s complete bollocks.

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All credit to SEGA and Dimps here: with good quality games like this, they began to change the narrative about Sonic games, and people could objectively see that they could still be legitimately all right. And then they followed it up with the dreadful 3DS version of Sonic Lost World, and two utterly redundant Sonic Boom games. For fuck’s sake.