Sonic Generations 3DS Review
Game: Sonic Generations 3DS
Developer: Sonic Team
Available on: Nintendo 3DS only
We were recently lucky enough to whizz through Sonic The Hedgehog’s blistering 20th Anniversary treat for Xbox 360, a fantastic concoction that blurred together, successfully for the most part, loads of juicy bits from the chequered history of our spiny pal, whilst adding spectacular new mechanics to keep things fresh. The excellent level design and clear difference between playing as two alternative versions of Sonic certainly whet our appetites for the forthcoming 3DS version. With Super Mario 3D Land showing us exactly what superb design and correct implementation of stereoscopic 3D can bring to a much loved character, how well have Sonic Team done with the hardware in respect of Sega’s flagship icon?
STORY: Like its grown up counterpart, this handheld adventure is held together by its gameplay and content as opposed to a deep, rich plot. You can look at it as a pared-down version of its big brother. As was the case before, Sonic’s mates have been swallowed up by a mysterious entity during what should have been a whimsical birthday party, and it is up to our hero to save the day. This time around there are no full-on, speech laden cutscenes, which is arguably a good thing, and the only other denizen of Sonic’s friends list who actually appears is Tails.
GRAPHICS: With sublime, multi-layered backdrops and wonderful use of 3D, Sonic Generations looks an absolute treat. There are some excellently re-worked versions of classic Megadrive stages to admire, from the neon light glamour of Casino Night Zone to the fungi-stacked woods of Mushroom Hill, as well as new stages based upon levels from the likes of Sonic Adventure from the Dreamcast; there are some lovely environments for you to run through. As with a lot of 3DS games, the 3D can be a bit demanding if you leave it on full strength for any length of time, but the framerate and overall pace of the game does not suffer at all with the little slider pushed all the way up.
SOUND: Whilst not as sumptuously arranged as the big console versions, this nonetheless features some nice interpretations and remixes of classic Sonic tunes, with two different versions of each stage theme for Classic and Modern Sonic respectively. There is no proper speech this time, just a few exclamations, and the classic Sonic sound effects remain as recognisable and easy on the ear as ever.
GAMEPLAY: Like the console versions, this handheld jaunt provides two different versions of Sonic to play with, each having different gameplay mechanics and levels. The main issue here however is a lack of variety. Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic were chalk and cheese in the Xbox 360 version I reviewed previously, there were standard side-scrolling stages for old-school ‘Hog and insane, rollercoaster levels that switched perspectives for the latter day incarnation of our hero.
Here, both level types are side-scrolling, with the only differences being the different moves available in your arsenal. Modern Sonic begins proceedings with a dash boost and a homing attack, which do significantly change how you run through the levels, but very early on in the game the homing attack is also unlocked for Classic Sonic, meaning that apart from a slight increase in speed, a bit of fancy camera movement, branching levels and some Quick Time Events, there is not as much variation between the two level types as we would have wanted, with nearly all of the gameplay being 2D in nature. There are 3D Special Stages for each zone, and these successfully ape the ones found in Sonic 3, as you rush into the screen, collecting balloons to maintain your boost meter, and attempt to chase down a Chaos Emerald. So it is somewhat baffling as to why there aren’t any levels that position the camera primarily behind the Blue Blur, such as those in the home console release. It is obvious that the 3DS has the clout to pull these off, and it is a travesty that we don’t get to experience some gnarly racing-into-the-screen thrills in glorious stereoscopic 3D. There are also boss battles, these vary between a race against a foe such as Shadow the Hedgehog towards a goal, to proper boss battles against a large opponent, depending on which type of Sonic you are using.
My main gripe with the whole package is the sometimes shoddy level design. The straight up ports of classic levels are fine. But once you start to play some of the later stages, and indeed the Sonic Generations-specific efforts, you notice problems. There are times where you question the placement of obstacles like crates which seem to slow the action down considerably. Sometimes you will completely lose your momentum due to an annoyingly positioned spring. There are lots of frustrating bottomless pits which you won’t see until you have leapt into the abyss. Indeed at times when playing the Modern Sonic levels you are best off not jumping at all.
LONGEVITY: If the level design suffers by comparison with the full console version of this twenty year anniversary extravaganza, 3DS owners can be happy with the amount of bang for their buck, this is a little cartridge positively overflowing with stuff to do. The main game won’t take you very long to run through, I nailed it in just less than three hours. But there are many extras. A versus mode allows you to race an opponent, either locally or online, and has a surprisingly deep, fan service-laden option to create your own “gamer card” which can be customised to the hilt with information on your favourite Sonic foibles. There is the option to play through levels you have completed in order to better your score, and a Time Attack Mode, the latter of which is great fun when you take into account the high speed of the Modern Sonic levels. There are also 100 wildly varied, unlockable challenge Missions, some are opened up by meeting certain gameplay conditions, other sorties are unlocked using 3DS StreetPass or by purchasing them with Play Coins. Defeating the missions will unlock all manner of impressive artwork, music and other goodies.
VERDICT: Sonic Generations 3DS is very much the poor relation to its grown up predecessor. While it has completely different levels to play through and does play extremely well in places, the level design can be a complete pain and the line between the two styles of Sonic is far too blurred to stop the game from becoming repetitive. This is a crying shame given the inherent power of the hardware and the sublime way Sonic Team managed to pull of a dual-Sonic gameplay treat with the console title. There are plenty of extras to play for and this is far from being a complete disaster, but just don’t expect the all conquering handheld ball of spines you were hoping for.