By this time of publishing, Sonic Generations has been released in both HD platforms (360, PS3, PC) and on the portable system, the Nintendo 3DS. Both have the “Sonic Team” stamp of approval on it but the 3DS game is largely designed by DIMPs, who also brought gamers Sonic Rush, Sonic Colors (DS version), and the beloved Advance series. Because Sonic Team’s reputation has been on the rise ever since the rocky (but still well received) new start with Sonic Unleashed on the 360 and PS3, a lot of fans will often have points or counter-points as to which is better at making Sonic video games. Many people have had time to figure out whether or not Sonic Generations is even worth their time and money due to how long ago it released: word of mouth travels fast.
Which one is better? Which one is more worth your money, and more importantly, which one is the better celebration of Sonic’s 20th and thus, more complete as a video game? Well that’s what I aimed to find out when I bought the 360 version on release day, and the 3DS version on December 16th last year.
For those of you reading, I’m going to assume most of you already know the premise and have also read the Sonic Generations review I myself published as my first article here on SEGA HD. Thus, this will be a study; a comparison of both releases. I hope by the end all of your questions will have been answered, as I’ll go over both versions and offer my opinion on both.
Going into this there’s no doubt a tremendous amount of information that any self-respecting Sonic fan should know about this release…so for this I’m going to break the differences of the games down by set pieces (IE: Comparison of selections of levels, kind of boss fights, extras, level design, etc) .
–> The Levels <–
This is where the crux of the fanservice from Sonic Generations stems: level choice. If you’re going to represent the eras of Sonic’s past you’d better hope that the choices are good ones that all fans can enjoy…otherwise it’s just filler. So for this I’m going to run down all of the 3DS levels (showing you, the reader) and then the HD levels found on the 360/PS3/PC platform. It’d be one thing to merely talk about the levels, but I feel SHOWING is better to get an idea of what to expect.
3DS users will also be able to enjoy 3D versions of Green Hill/Casino Night/Mushroom Hill Zone in their ORIGINAL level design as were released on their respective games, while the only other level returning with the exact same level design from its inception is Water Palace from Sonic Rush (Which is also the only level from Sonic’s portable gaming history even on the 3DS version). HD users however can expect 100% original level designs in every single level, with only small bits and pieces of each stage/Act paying tribute to the original levels they hail from. For example, Green Hill Act 1 has the “S” tunnel that leads into a bunch of rings in mid-air while City Escape has a familiar but enhanced street-boarding section.
What separates the way these levels play out (other than simply being on 2 different kinds of releases, one handheld and another console/PC) is how the ‘flow’ is settled.
The HD version of Sonic Generations handles its Classic Sonic with care: knowing that while the rolling physics are not 1/1 with its 1994 self (that) the levels are all built around being able to allow the player for constant and kinectic movement. There are some moments where (likewise Crisis City Act 1) typical ‘block’ platforming is done but it’s always at your own speed and you’re capable of speeding through these sections so long as you can find a way. You are given a plethora of multiple pathways which open up for multiple ways to tackle each stage. Even the much abashed Planet Wisp Act 1 has good paths available to you…you just have to find it. Players who’ve played Sonic CD thoroughly will enjoy how the stage rolls on from start to finish.
Having said that…
You won’t be rolling through the levels in the same way as the Classics: you’ll just be zooming through these levels as Classic Sonic with his abilities. The Spin Dash sends players zooming through at mach speed, and ALL of Classic Sonic’s elemental shields make a return as attachable skills! What is enjoyable too, is that there is nothing here that is limiting your exploration: you don’t need the homing attack or a certain ability or shield to complete all of Classic Sonic’s levels because the game is designed without relying on any of that.
Unfortunately the 3DS Classic Sonic stages are an absolute trainwreck: going all over the place in how they feel, much less how they respect the player. That’s not to say it’s terrible with ZERO merit but it’s a very frustrating endeavor.
After the player has traversed the first 3 levels of the Genesis Era, all decent level design goes right out the window. Levels are no longer interesting or involved with nifty loops, surprises that excite you, or easter eggs by exploring. They are instead frustrating and boring to complete. To compare, when users encounter Emerald Coast Act 1 the user is now forced to use the Homing Attack no matter what: you don’t even have a choice. Because of this, DIMPS immediately relies on all of their tricks: springs that point up to the sky just to lead to more springs (Spring chains), 3 conveniently placed enemies all in a row (Homing Attack ladder), speed boosters RIGHT before loop de loops, and lots of flat land.
The only reason these Classic levels don’t look as bad as described is because there are a lot of things thrown in the middle to make it appear that it’s well-made: things that break the pace such as unnecessarily slow moving platforms, enemies that (quite literally) spawn on top of you as an excuse for “difficulty”, and physics that lock into one set speed so that it appears the physics are better on the 3DS version.
Oh right, there’s also that myth, too: that the physics for Classic Sonic is better on the handheld. I can assure you it’s an outright lie. While it no doubt has many more sections where rolling ‘feels’ better because of the speed, the speed is ALWAYS capped depending on the stage. In Mushroom Hill Zone you’ll spin dash at the very end of the stage EXPECTING to propel yourself like a rocket, but you don’t. Compare this to the strange speed boost you(can) get merely by running in Tropical Resort and you start to notice that the game actually limits your speed more than you think. What’s weird as well is that gravity seems to decide when and -if- it cooperates: trying to pass gaps in one stage may prove problematic thanks to the platforms but in another stage you’ll go into orbit without hardly even trying.
When it comes to Modern Sonic, things become even more glaring and different between the 2 versions of this game.
For one, on the HD version of Sonic Generations the game takes cues from Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors: lots of free space to just RUN with the boost button, multiple pathways of platforming and well-designed 2D sections. Levels like Green Hill Zone (a great beginner stage) and Rooftop Run (one level before the last stage) boast great stretches of land where you can experience the exhilarating speeds of Modern Sonic whereas other levels like Sky Sanctuary Zone, City Escape, and Crisis City all show a good balance between “Speed/Platforming/Speed/Platforming…” to really show how far the “Unleashed” formula has evolved. Levels no longer feel like they’re simply on a track: just one part of the whole piece of a puzzle. While the controls aren’t perfect they allow for more control than what Sonic has had in recent years and what’s more, you have a trick system to add boost to your meter. Playing Modern Sonic in practically any stage gives the feeling of watching Sonic run through the Sonic CD opening: parkour+speed all throughout the whole planet with not a single care in the world.
While it’s attractive to just hold the boost button down and hope for the best, the HD version of Sonic Generations shows you need to stay on your toes to make sure you even keep the speed going (Similar in a way where the theory reigns true for Classic Sonic as well) and hopefully not make any rash decisions: you’re not being showered with hundreds of rings like in Sonic Unleashed anymore, but the game isn’t limiting your ability to boost either like in Sonic Colors.
…and while I go on and on about the exhilarating gameplay on Modern Sonic on the HD version I can’t really feel that way on the 3DS version. It’s not due to the limited technology, it’s just that I feel DIMPs played the game too ‘safe’. For the majority of every single Modern Sonic level you are merely holding down Y (the boost button) and running through flat planes of land. When I mean “flat” I mean “predictable”. The camera will often pan a little off to the side to show Sonic running at an angle but it doesn’t offer much else more than being able to better see what’s up ahead…and really, why ISN’T this game letting me see what’s ahead of Sonic? The 3DS is more than capable of a ‘behind view’ 3D Modern Sonic kind of game, why didn’t DIMPs capitalize on this instead of throwing everything at me that I’ve dealt with before?
Because the level design is predictable, it doesn’t make even playing them enjoyable after many times because the game doesn’t reward you for knowing the level well: all that matters is the “GOTTA GO FAST” ranking system the 3DS version contains. Collecting rings and defeating enemies means so absurdly minimal in the grand scheme of a score: all that matters is getting to the end as fast as possible, and when a game doesn’t even encourage me to enjoy it thoroughly without taking a rank away then I’d say you’re doing it wrong.
If it’s not something you’re worried about, then the same problems from Classic Sonic’s stages come back in full force here: homing attack chains a REQUIREMENT to progress through certain sections, absurdly placed platforming that moves at a snails’ pace, and gaps that give subtle hints that instead of playing it safe to just boost right past it. What’s odd is that the level design is consistent throughout the whole game: the only real reasons any Modern stage feels like it’s any different is because of its name.
I don’t really know how else to describe the way how the Modern Sonic stages for the 3DS version…other than to suggest watching/playing Sonic Rush, and then Sonic Colors (DS) and then see how similar the levels feel even across different games. Sonic Generations (3DS) is very much like that, too.
So it’s no secret that the story for this game is nearly non-existant, yes? Sonic goes through time to team up with his classic self and both of them take on 9 (or 7) levels of their past to go against the Time Eater and make it all right again…effectively writing that Generations “never happened” but not retconning itself like Sonic 2006 did. (Sorry guys but that’s the truth) The HD version tells its events through beautiful in-game models in its cutscenes…though for some reason NONE of the CG videos that were seen in the commercials/advertisements. What the hell was the point of those then? Why were these scrapped from the game IF they were going to be in the game at all? The console versions have some pixelated videos for the intro and final cutscenes in the game…and I have no idea why (though I’ve heard the PC version doesn’t have these issues). There isn’t a whole lot else to say though as far as what goes on: most of what you see are little tidbits of both versions of Sonic and Tails discussing what’s going on and what to do next and enjoying all the little cute quirks Classic Sonic does.
I hate this is the one time we’ll see him animated and so ‘alive’. I’d pay to see a movie with this very same model of Sonic. ;n; Going all the way and beating the game rewards players (HD or 3DS) with a beautiful medley of all of the levels used in the game that’ll bring a nostalgic tear to the hardcore.
It really is a shame though that more, perhaps hidden CG videos weren’t in the game (since I really enjoyed looking at them in the advertisements). Booting up the game gives people the same video that was used in the announcement trailer for Sonic’s 20th but with some different audio. I don’t know if they tried to make the music used here a ‘theme’ for the game but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.
…and SPEAKING of not leaving much of an impression, the way the 3DS game is told is terrible. I have no idea why DIMPS has continued to rely on the same storytelling method since the Game Boy Advance days (similar to JRPGs on the PS2, or visual novel games) since it just looks terribly lazy here. What’s worse is that as GORGEOUS as the 3DS game looks they didn’t even attempt to try to make backgrounds or any sort of visualizations to help tell the story: they just have whatever character is talking stand to the side while (maybe) a picture slideshow appears in the background and…that’s the ‘cutscene’. It’s a bit jarring and disgustingly lazy: if they put in enough time to make Green Hill Zone and other levels pop and sizzle with as much graphical detail as they did why the hell did nobody pay attention to the story elements at all? I can hardly see how any of it is entertaining for even a child who’s a fan of Sonic.
–> Rivals and Bosses
(Note: The 3DS sports the same Rivals)
What’s a celebration of Sonic’s history without having a rematch against some of his greatest rivals in history? Sonic Generations gives players a good chance for a whack at Metal Sonic (Sonic CD), Shadow The Hedgehog (Sonic Adventure 2) and Silver The Hedgehog (Sonic The Hedgehog 2006). On the HD front players take charge of either respective era’s Sonic and engage in a speed-fueld battle. Whereas the original Metal Sonic fight was a race to the finish to rescue Amy Rose, Classic Sonic now dukes it out with him on a collapsing Stardust Speedway (Bad Future) while also avoiding his attacks. Shadow will return to fight players once again in outer space but in a thoroughly enhanced arena (compared to the straight line in the original fight) looking to ‘charge’ himself up before the player. Silver on the other hand, has the most original fight here that is improved in every way possible since in 2006…well…”It’s no use!” is all that comes to mind. To fight Silver you run through Crisis City and dodge his telekinetic attacks while looking for openings.
On the 3DS front these encounters are merely races to the finish…sporting some of the most frustrating rubberband AI ever conceived. Metal Sonic races players in Casino Night Zone (a zone he had nothing to do with at all), Shadow in Radical Highway, and Silver in……..Tropical Resort. Yeah, makes no sense to me as well. If you’ve raced Metal Sonic then the concept is the same but for the unaware it goes like this: If you are ahead, the enemy will catch up quickly. If you’re behind…well you gotta make sure you’re playing better than they are.
For the case of Silver however, disregard ALL of the advice I gave you. When passing Silver he will teleport immediately and appear right behind you (IE: floating) and proceed to throw some crates at you. These WILL hit you 90% of the time so you just have to grit your teeth and take it, or immediately brake once he does this attack so that you can boost past him. Due to how broken Silver is during the fight, the already-apparent rubberband AI is thoroughly more infuriating at this point: the only winning move is to suck throughout the whole race and then beat Silver by boosting through him at the finish line. If DIMPS had merely tried to find a way around this or even taken the Silver race out completely, I’m sure not as many people would have been ticked off. Heck, to me the game would have been better without it.
The 3DS has its own bosses, and depending on what kind of a Sonic fan you are, or what era you grew up on, these will make or break the game for you. There’s Big Arm (the final boss in Sonic 3), Biolizard (Sonic Adventure 2), and Egg Emperor (Sonic Heroes). They play (amazingly) just like they did when they first appeared…the difference being that Sonic NEVER fought Biolizard (Regardless if DIMPS is trying so hard to tell us he did, by the cutscene after defeating him) and Sonic isn’t paired with Knuckles and Tails against the Egg Emperor. I guess this whole game is a lot of “I can do anything you can do better 8D” …but you know what? I’ll let it slide.
Be prepared to crank up the earphones if you have any though, because the bosses here have some of the best remixes I’ve heard. I loved the tunes of Big Arm and Biolizard in their original games and the remixes heard here in Generations only makes their tunes sweeter. I didn’t really have fond memories of Sonic Heroes so going against Egg Emperor was a ‘neutral’ experience for me. Aside from some problematic hit detection against Egg Emperor and the slightly automated “final hit” section for Biolizard, these bosses actually kick a LOT of ass and, unlike the HD version, they don’t die in a mere 4 hits. They all clock in their defeat at 8 hits and once they do you feel like you’ve had a real good battle.
NOT pictured here however is the 3DS Time Eater, which is also better in the 3DS version (though not nearly as cinematic) but also has its own set of issues. If ANY attack hits you, it will repeat. Then there’s also the “clap” attack that the Time Eater does in the Modern Super Sonic sections…that alone kills a lot of the fight for me. But hey, at least it’s not “Watch out Sonic!” “It’s a homing shot!” or the like from the HD Version. Ugh.
In the HD version you go against some other largely infamous enemies of Sonic’s past: the Death Egg Robot (Sonic 2), Perfect Chaos (Sonic Adventure), and Egg Dragoon (Sonic Unleashed)…which in my opinion is the REAL battle that everybody missed out on in Sonic Unleashed. Why? The original fight had you go against Dr.Robotnik as Sonic The Werehog. Here? It feels more like an actual Sonic vs Dr.Robotnik battle: a war of 2 opposing forces going at each other’s throats.
Like the 3DS partner, the HD version does a great job of reproducing the same kind of fight (Egg Dragoon being the exception) that these bosses came from. Death Egg Robot tries to attack Classic Sonic in much the same way/same arena as before but also mixes it up a bit with some explosive crates, while Modern Sonic shows Perfect Chaos he doesn’t even need his ‘Super’ form anymore to take him down. When fighting Perfect Chaos players go through a miniature stage of sorts trying to platform their way to the body of the boss itself: one quick boost into his body later and *bam* he’s reeling in pain!
The -ONLY- problem I have with these fights is that the first 2 bosses (and Time Eater….odd) are KO’d within 4 hits. That’s it! 4! For some odd reason Egg Dragoon requires a large number of hits (I believe it’s 8 or 10, though I’m unsure.) and THAT feels like a real fight…but the others, while thoroughly enjoyable, feel more like a miniature boss fight than a MAJOR one because of how quick the fight is over. What’s weird is that taking on Perfect Chaos in the “Hard” mode is easier than the “Normal” mode. lolwut
Likewise, Time Eater in the HD version is a thoroughly more cinematic and “Final boss” experience but he too suffers from the low number of health that every boss except Egg Dragoon (Again…what?) contain. I can perfectly understand why Sonic Team wanted this game to be a little easier for the idea of selling the most but they didn’t forget who this game was marketed towards did they? Why did they skimp on the quality of the boss fights by making them outrageously easy to defeat?
Out of the two, the 3DS is the only one with an actual “versus” mode, but it’s marred absurdly by one simple feature. See what the arrow is pointing to? It’s technically a “void”. Its only job is to appear at pre-determined (but terribly placed) sections of levels, STOP you completely in your tracks until you mash the B button rapidly until it disappears, and give the other player enough time to catch up. As if the 3DS version didn’t have enough issues, this enraging addition to Versus mode offers absolutely NOTHING positive. Hell, it’s not even mentioned in the manual (which is 1 page table of contents, 1 page of controls, 1 page of legal warnings and then its alternate language printed versions. Pathetic.) and when you first come across it you more than likely didn’t even plan for it! How about some automated sections where you hit a boostpad and run STRAIGHT into said ‘void’ huh? Don’t you just love that you lost the race thanks to that unnecessary cancer?
However once you do learn the locations of all of these ‘voids’ in the multiplayer version of every stage, you can plan around it and thus ONLY THEN is defeating your opponent satisfying.
The only odd thing about the 3DS Versus Mode is depending on the player (or whether or not they have a lot of points/rank) some people are never punished for losing. You can race the same person several times and you’ll only take experience AWAY from them once while continuing to progress your own rank. The only thing keeping you from cementing these points is choosing to quit and then when the game asks “Do you want to record your match rankings?” you say “yes”. Right there it’s 360 points per match and 300 more for simply turning in your ranking! “Levelling” up is easy as heck in the 3DS Versus Mode…just make sure you find a poor shmuck and hope to God he/she is stubborn enough to race you several times in a row and *bam* you have just grinded several thousand points of “experience”.
When going online against others you’ll want to customize your own “Profile Card”, which is your identity to other 3DS players of Sonic Generations. How long have you been a fan of Sonic? What’s your favorite Sonic game? Who’s your favorite character? Once you’ve chosen those you can also select the “Card Pattern”…which is really, the background image your card has. Mine is the title screen to Sonic 1.
Pressing R will flip the Profile Card to its back side and you can see what rankings the player (or yourself) have for each level, how long they’ve been playing the game, how many rings they’ve gotten…etc. The only frustrating (I know I keep saying this word a lot when talking about the 3DS version, but seriously!) part is that in order to get ANY other Card Patterns you have to keep playing Versus Mode (and get experience points that way) or Time Trial (so long as you beat your record and upload it to the rankings, it’s 300 points).
Everything else in the game is locked away at the expense of Play Coins where you can only get 2 Missions per day (unless you already have hundreds of Play Coins, then by all means…). The 3DS version has Missions you can buy for 5 Play Coins apiece (the Nintendo 3DS currency that 3DS owners get for walking with the 3DS as a pedometer) and completing them nets you unlockable rewards. You get unlockable music (some not heard on the HD version), 3D Models of characters to look at, and cool unlockable artwork. You won’t have a skill shop like the HD counterpart but hey, it’s still something to work for.
The HD version combines most of these features but has them handled differently. For example, doing some missions is REQUIRED to progress the story (but only for one-time occurences, and only one mission in each level’s “hub world” is required to pass) and completing Missions will net you unlockable artwork, music, or extra abilities to buy in the Skill Shop. In each level both Sonics can collect Red Rings which also unlock more artwork and once you collect all 5 per Sonic per level you gain free unlockable skills. (Planet Wisp Act 1 rewards Classic Sonic with the Homing Attack, for example) While it has no “versus” mode, there are things you can do against your friends online. You can see who amongst your friends can get the farthest in any level in the 30 Second Trials (as either Sonic), or see who does the level the fastest in the Ranked Trials(as either Sonic): doing this has helped me discover a lot of effective ways to tackle certain areas thanks to my friends. >:)
–> Closing Comments
If there’s anything that both versions have equally is a fantastic soundtrack. While I don’t like some of the remixes on the 3DS version it still has some outright FANTASTIC sounding tracks, much like the HD counterpart. Having the “Sonic Generations Blue Blur” soundtrack is one of the happiest things I could get as a Sonic fan, since this game melts ears with its high levels of musical sex.
Sorry. That was totally called for.
But in the end, both versions are heavily different from each other.
The 3DS is the proposed “casual” version because it’s on a casual system: made for people on the go but is a game that’s targeted for old AND new Sonic fans. But its difficulty spikes, level design that’s all over the place, and ‘empty’ feel of a game doesn’t make you feel as though you bought a full game: just that you bought a product that you have to continuously work hard to even experience the full product. It’s not a BAD game by far: I continue to do Versus Mode online. I’ve nearly done 70% of all Missions, S-Ranked every level/rival race/boss, and done every Time Trial. But I’m doing it because I want to 100% the content in this game and refuse to leave it incomplete as an owner. When it’s done I’m unsure I’ll go back to this version that much as I’ve yet to even bother with Sonic Colors (DS) if that says anything.
The 3DS version is supposedly the ‘easier’ game cuz it’s shorter but it makes absolutely no excuses for forcing the player to just rush straight to the end as fast as possible.
The HD version, however, feels more open minded: the keyword with the release was, as I said before, choice. Players are allowed to tackle the game in a large number of ways they wish to: customizing both Modern and Classic Sonic how they wish and doing missions that don’t repeat themselves (the 3DS Missions are basically 9 or so Mission types that recycle from #1 to #100) and feel like extensions of the regular stages they have played. The level design can be challenging but feels more natural, more open, and more like the game has a better feel of ‘polish’ around it. The extra unlockables are a nice touch and reward you for continuing to play the game, while not making any goal -too- easy but challenging enough to make the payoff feel good. Playing the HD version (on any console) feels like an invested experience of something you’ll enjoy for a long time, and it goes at YOUR pace without discrediting what you put in. It’s a flawed but beautifully flawed experience that never detracts from its true intention: making the player enjoy Sonic.
In conclusion, players must only buy the 3DS version if they want a Sonic game on their 3DS and want to extent/complete their “anniversary” with the other version of Sonic Generations. However if you are very satisfied with the HD version by itself then really the only reason left you’d want to play the portable version is to try the levels that didn’t make it on the HD versions anyways…and for that you could simply buy the game used, couldn’t you?
With this, the HD version reigns supreme over the 3DS version: hands down. Let’s hope in the future we see more of the glorious effort and love that was put into Sonic Generations (HD) and not the 3DS version.
Posted by MrHaru on Feb 08, 2012