The Weekly Five: I’m Lovin’ Modern Sonic

The second Sonic Generations demo is out, and with it comes the first public demo of modern Sonic! Of course, we’ve had hours of footage and pages and pages of modern Sonic impressions. But none of that compares to actually playing the game. Having finally played the demo, I can happily say that modern Sonic is the best the 3D ‘hog has played in the HD era. Perhaps only being rivaled by the 3D Sonic of the Adventure titles. To celebrate Sonic’s return to form, let’s look at five reasons I’m lovin’ modern Sonic!

The Trick System

I enjoyed Unleashed, at least the day stages, but I hate hate HATED the QTE jumps. They presented such an unnecessary challenge by quickly throwing at you a string of buttons and bumpers that would even scare off Ryo Hazuki. Speaking of Shenmue, that is a series where the QTE makes sense. A right arrow means Ryo will move right, an A button will lead to an attack. But with Sonic? How does rail jump right three times, boost twice and a light speed dash translate to a slightly higher jump? Worse still, failing to pull off QTEs in later levels lead to an instant death.

Thankfully, this gameplay element was done away with in Colors by simplifying things to a rapid A button mash-fest. Still, I found Colors QTE to be a bit too easy. It seems Sonic Team shared that sentiment, as Generations does a complete overhaul to the gimmick by giving us a fun and easy trick system. Go off the ramp, move the stick about, hit both bumpers before landing and you get extra boost. From what we’ve seen, tricking isn’t even necessary, as players will land regardless of tricking or not, so it appears no more trick-or-die moments. What I like the most about this system is that it is very similar to the trick system found in the famous NiGHTS into Dreams.

The Single Jump

One of the biggest head scratchers in Sonic Colors was the inclusion of a double jump. Granted double jumps have existed in games for years and after a few minutes with the game, the move felt like second nature, but that was only because I was so used to it in non-Sonic games. The reason for its inclusion was to be a quick fix for imprecise jumping. Try playing through Colors without the double jump and you’ll find that most platforms are very tricky to reach without that safety net of a second chance to perfect your landing. Had the team behind Colors put a bit more effort into the single jump, I’m certain the double jump would have never happened.

Generations brings it back to the tried and true single jump and from what I experienced, it works quite well. Even when I was close to missing a jump, a mid-air boost helped, as did the homing attack. Perhaps the double jump will make a return via the game’s skill shop, but as for now the double jump is thankfully no more.

The Low Speed Controls

While Unleashed featured some great low speed controls in the world adventure stages, action stages were a completely different thing. Passing the action stage threshold caused Sonic to suddenly become super fast. Holding the stick forward for even a moment caused him to accelerate to high speeds, making exploring small areas difficult. The moment I started up the Generations demo, I screeched to a halt and did a little exploring. Sonic’s controls felt much tighter and exploring small areas was much easier than in Unleashed. I was even able to walk around the first string of motobugs. I can only imagine that the improved low speed controls will make future stages feel much more like the Adventure games, with low speed exploration being not only possible but intended.

The Button Placement

If Colors oddity was the double jump, Unleashed’s oddity (aside from the werehog) was the daytime stage button placement. From 1998 through to 2006, the homing attack shared a button with jump. Enter Unleashed. Now Sonic fans must retrain their brains to press A to jump and quickly move to X for a homing attack. Given Unleashed’s fast pace, this button separation made an already tricky game even trickier. Even worse, with X also operating as the boost, should a player jump and fail to home in on a target, they’d boost off in some deadly direction.

One thing I liked about the Wii/PS2 version of Unleashed was that the homing attack shared a button with jump, and Colors did the same. Generations smartly does so as well, mapping homing and jump to the A button, making the HD version of Unleashed the odd one out. After a few playthroughs of the Generations demo, my brain was back to its pre-2008 settings and I was able to homing attack as god (Iizuka?) intended.

The Spin Dash Returns (sort of)

It’s sad that the spin dash, a move that defined Sonic in the classic era, died with Sonic 2006. The Adventure games featured a faithful 3D representation of the move, which was happily spammed by speed runners. Sonic 2006 featured the move, though the game’s wonky controls and slow speeds made it a weak version of what was seen in the Adventure games. With the release of Unleashed, the spin dash was replaced with the boost and the only time Sonic rolled across the ground in a ball was when he hit a dash pad in the Wii/PS2 version of the game. I actually understand the reasoning for the move being dropped in Unleashed. Considering how much the game relies on the player boosting, had Sonic Team made the spin dash the boost, we would be seeing Sonic as a ball for a majority of the stage. Had the spin dash been available alongside the boost, there would be no reason for the older move (aside from nostalgia) as the boost would completely overpower it.

Generations does carry over a good amount of the Unleashed gameplay and moves, but small changes to the dash pad and drift animations have thankfully brought back the beloved iconic spin dash move. Classic stages just aren’t classic until you get a glimpse of a spin dashing Sonic moving through them. In the first few seconds of the latest demo, Sonic hits a dash pad and the awesome spin dash briefly returns! Later in the stage Sonic traverses a winding path, and while Omochao doesn’t suggest it, use of the triggers cause Sonic to roll into a ball and perform the spin dash drift. Yes! Spin dashing has returned to modern Sonic! And even better, it is a legitimately necessary move that looks awesome in action. Sort of like a high speed Gumby weaving left and right.

These are only five improvements that I found in controlling modern Sonic, but there are more. What were your favorite improvements? What were your least favorite changes? Share your geeky thoughts in the comments below!

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8 responses to “The Weekly Five: I’m Lovin’ Modern Sonic

  1. DCGX says:

    Nice write-up! I agree, and welcome the old school controls being well implemented in the modern stages.

    My favorite improvement was just seeing them continue with the great groundwork of daytime Unleashed gameplay. Sonic Colors just seemed a little…off to me for some reason, but Generations seems to be right on the mark.

  2. teirusu says:

    i think the trick system its coolest thing in this top 5

  3. Sega Uranus says:

    The trick system is from Sonic Riders. The previous games like Colors and Unleashed just did these so awful, like what was the point of not constantly mashing jump when you would probably fall into a hole instead of taking a better path?

    In Sonic Colors the double jump was added to replace the air dash. I thought it was actually pretty good because you could mash jump while falling and you would catch the things you had to use the homing attack on. That is surprisingly clever considering how stupid Sonic Team is.

    I like the low speed controls a lot too personally, but the game has no camera controls, so exploration in 3D is pretty much obviously not going to be in again. =/

    I agree the button placement is better, but Unleashed gameplay was nothing like any previous games so it never bugged me much.

    The spindash thing was a really cool addition, but without boost it does not even hurt enemies or go under platforms… Plus, why does it not do the classic sound? The same with the jumping, why does it make a weird woosh instead?

    Generally though I thought the Modern gameplay kind of sucked. It is just the first level, but it is so basic and bland. The Classic version is barely even worth playing after you have seen it. The later levels seem so far beyond and so much better, they should have advertised those too.

  4. unknown says:

    homing attack an boost didn’t share the same button on wii. it was a motion. did get annoying at times

  5. @unknown:
    The classic controller and gamecube controller have the two sharing a button, but you’re right on the motion controls

  6. Sharky says:

    This is where I out ‘Body PRESS’ as ‘FuzzyMooChicken’ aka ‘Fuzzy’ and assure everyone that it is indeed something personal against the artist.

    Stop being such a bitter little bitch.

  7. Hergen says:

    Word up!

  8. Arc Christelle says:

    I know I may be the odd man out in this discussion, but I can totally understand where Barry’s coming from about the button placement, because surprisingly, even to me, I’ve started to prefer homing attack on the X button, (due to the fact at times I play Sonic Unleashed to do speed runs on Day Stages) it’s quite relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. Now I’m back to mashing A again and it throws me off. Nothing that I can’t adjust to however. Other than that I wish the Trick system was more similar to Sonic Rush, I kinda liked being stylish throughout an entire run (along with the cheers). lol

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