Sonic Generations Original Stage Review

With less than a week to go ’til Sonic Generations, I thought it would be fun to take a leap back and run through the original stages featured in Generations. What made the original stages so memorable? Are they a fitting choice for representation of the game they originally appeared in? Were there better choices that could have been made? Those questions and more will be explored after the break!

Some fans have bemoaned the inclusion of Green Hill, due to the fact that the stage has reappeared more times than any other Sonic stage. We saw it in the 8-bit version of Sonic 1, Sonic Drift, Sonic Adventure 2, SEGA Superstars Tennis and Super Smash Bros. Brawl to just name a few. But there is a reason for Green Hill’s inclusion: it’s the first ever Sonic stage and a franchise defining location. Sure, a part of me would love to see Marble Zone getting some recognition (dang 3DS version should have included it) but I can’t complain about Green Hill Zone. The stage is pure Sonic and deserves to be the opening stage in a game celebrating 20 years of Sonic.

I was surprised when Chemical Plant was announced to represent Sonic 2. Given the heaps of love given to Casino Night over the years, by way of constant reappearances of the stage and stages like it (Casino Street, Bingo Highway), I was sure we’d see a Casino Night in HD Generations. Thankfully, Casino Night was shifted to the 3DS and Chemical Plant was given the spotlight. While Emerald Hill was a fitting introduction to Sonic 2, Chemical Plant was the point where players really got to experience the increased speed of Sonic 2. Revving up a spin dash lead to insane roller coaster-like moments, while the large variety of new gimmicks revealed that there were more new experiences to come. Because of those elements, and the kick-ass music, Chemical Plant gets my seal of approval and I’m certain the approval of many other Sonic fans.

While I wanted to avoid talking about the gameplay of Generations in this article, I can’t avoid talking about it when mentioning Sky Sanctuary. Initially I was unexcited by the news of the selection of the stage. But as I saw more footage I realized that Sky Sanctuary was finally being given the classic act it deserves. The design and music of the original were fantastic, but it was far too brief. Acting as more of a transitional boss area than a full-on stage, Generations have taken the best bits of Sky Sanctuary, dropped the boss moments and made it what looks to be a great stage. Many other Sonic 3 & Knuckles zones would have been good alternatives, but Sky Sanctuary acts as the ultimate Sonic 3 & Knuckles representation by including both Angel Island and the Death Egg as background elements. The Egg Robos are also bad-ass badniks who needed more screen time.

The selection of Speed Highway was not surprising. At the time of Sonic Adventure’s release, the two stages shown again and again were Emerald Coast and Speed Highway. The images of the killer whale chase and the twisting highway seen above are burned into my brain thanks to SEGA featuring them every time the game was shown on TV and in print. With Green Hill’s inclusion, it would be a poor choice to highlight yet another day time tropical paradise, so Speed Highway was a shoo-in. The original stage was a lot of fun, kicking off with a high-speed run through a city at night and concluding with a race down the inside of a building which brought the player to the ground taking place at dawn. While the first area of the stage is 100% confirmed for Generations, we’ve yet to see any sign of At Dawn. Fingers crossed that the area appears somehow, just so we can hear that tune that strangely sounds like “I Will Survive”.

City Escape is no doubt a stage that defined Sonic Adventure 2, but the selection of the stage has me split. On one hand, its a quality stage that defines the second Adventure game, but on the other hand it just feels too expected. Of course, any first stage of a Sonic game comes to being a game defining stage. But at the same time, would it have killed Sonic Team to mix things up and delve deeper into SA2’s playlist to feature a stage like Pyramid Cave? Pyramid Cave also came to define SA2 during the Dreamcast years, appearing in a number of early screens, and bringing back the Sonic stage cliche of an Egypt-like desert. The music for Pyramid Cave was beyond awesome and I can only imagine the possibilities a classic version of the stage. Perhaps some Sandopolis gimmicks?

Seaside Hill is the third stage in Generations to be the first stage of its original game. However, unlike City Escape, it’s a great choice for a game defining stage. Egg Fleet would have been a nice second choice, but it’s possible Sonic Team wanted to stay away from stages that felt like the epic end of a game. Fans seemed to also want Grand Metropolis, but possibly the similarity to Chemical Plant was too much. The original Seaside Hill was very much a 3D Green Hill with more water and ruins. It wasn’t until the second act of Sonic Heroes that the stage became its own with Ocean Palace. Despite going with the Seaside Hill name, Generations appears to have amped up the palace feel of the stage, stripping it of much of the Green Hill look. The stage appears closer to the water, like the original stage, and there is an abundance of gimmicks by way of cannons, turtle-shaped islands and a go-kart. Sonic Adventure fans even get their killer whale inclusion (and then some). Overall a great, but expected, choice for a Heroes stage. Had Generations leaned towards the checkered hills dominating the stage, it would be a poor choice, but what we’re getting looks excellent.

Uh-oh, it’s the dreaded ’06 stage! Fans knew we’d see something from Sonic ’06, but what was anybody’s guess. Given the poor quality of the game, it was difficult to decide what constituted a “good” Sonic ’06 stage. The prime candidates were Kindgom Valley and Crisis City. Both were shown off quite a bit early in the game’s development and came to define what ’06 would be. The stages themselves are broken, theres no denying that, but they are also the most playable of the stages in the game. Given the importance of Crisis City from a story standpoint, and the fact that it would only be possible to revisit the stage by way of time travel, it’s a good choice for a Sonic ’06 stage. The best thing I can say about the original stage is that it will finally be redeemed and made playable in Generations.

Also known as Orange Roof in Japan (a nod to Green Hill?), Rooftop Run takes place in the city of Spagonia, an important location in Sonic Unleashed. The stage itself was one of the best to appear in the 2008 game, thanks to a lack of death pits and live-or-die QTEs. The original, and the Generations version, feature awesome set pieces including running on the face of a clock, and taking a vertical dive down the side of a clock tower. I can’t say much more than that Rooftop Run is a fitting Unleashed stage that seems to be even better in Generations, thanks to control tweaks and the addition of a world festival going on as Sonic races through the town. My hope is that the nighttime version of the stage returns via a mission, sans the werehog of course.

The latest game to be referenced in Generations is 2010’s Sonic Colors. I’m actually very surprised that Sonic Team were able to choose what is now a fan favorite stage at such short notice. Unless development of Planet Wisp didn’t occur until after the release of Colors, allowing the development team to learn what the fan favorite stages were, Sonic Team very well could have gone with their gut and remade the stage knowing it was one of Colors best. I recall fans citing the stage as a reason an HD version of Colors was needed, and now those fans (sort of) get what they wanted. The strongest aspects of the original stage were the design and music, in my opinion. The idea of a mine set on an alien planet is unique to the Sonic series, and in fact seems very much like something found in Phantasy Star Online (specifically Mines 2). Of all the Generations stages, this one has been given the least show, and as such is the one I’m most looking forward to.

So that covers the stages found in Sonic Generations. Overall, a great line-up. Sonic Team could have thrown us some curve balls, by dropping City Escape and Seaside Hill for later stages from their respective games, but I’m not going to complain about what we’re getting. You can, however, complain to your hearts content in the comments below! Did Sonic Team do a good job in the stage line-up? Do you have favorite moments from the original stages? Sound off!

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15 responses to “Sonic Generations Original Stage Review

  1. Radrappy says:

    I’ve always thought this level selection stank of corner cutting and budget restraints. Speed highway, City Escape, and Crisis city are all city levels that can share assets between them(not to mention borrow from Unleashed’s Empire City). Spagonia and Wisp were practically already made. The only levels built seemingly from the ground up are the first 3 and seaside hill(although they probably reused stuff from allstars racing)

    Plus, there were a lot of really really iconic stages left by the wayside in order to make sure every “era” was represented. Where is Starlight Zone for pity’s sake? Or the Death Egg Zone?

    In terms of choices though,

    Speed Highway could have been swapped out for Lost world. The whole mezzo american theme was a big part of SA’s aesthetics. The team even took a trip to South America!

    Seaside Hill could have been swapped for Hang Castle/egg fleet/Bingo Highway just to get more variety in there.

    Crisis city shouldn’t even be in the game. You could just as easily picked a Secret Rings level to bring the modern level count to three.

    Spagonia could have been swapped for Mazuri.

    It’s kind of weird even having Unleashed and Colors represented. They’re just not old enough to even feel like part of the hog’s “history”.

    Anyway, great article. I’m sure the level selection will turn out feeling fine while I’m playing the game but I can’t help but feel something strangely wrong when I look at the names listed here.

  2. segaismysavior says:

    Green Hill, Chemical Plant, and Speed Highway were great choices, cause they’re either the ones I remember the most (GH & CP), or the most fun (SH) to replay. I’m not a huge fan of City Escape, but I do like what they’ve done with it, having the truck constantly hunt you down.

    The other games… I either didn’t play them enough, or didn’t play them at all to really care what they chose.

  3. Interesting way of looking at the stages, radrappy. Of course, SEGA could have taken the route of trying to fill each stage cliche with stages from previous games, but it’s pretty clear that that isn’t the goal. Instead they’re picking what best represents each game, thus the obvious selections. Your route would no doubt lead to more variety, but less popular picks. In either scenario, Sonic Team can’t win. 😉

    I agree that many city assets can be shared among all the city levels, but I don’t think Sonic Team used assets from Sumo’s SASASR. Would be an interesting question to ask Aaron Webber though.

    True, Unleashed and Colors are very recent, and its pretty crazy playing their stages so soon after their release, but given the 20 year history theme, it makes total sense to include them. Would be odd to stop at the Dreamcast era, as it would ignore the latter half of the series.

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. nuckles87 says:

    It is a pretty good stage selection, but I do think it could have been a bit better. Honestly, I think this game could have gone without any Sonic 06 representation, period. I would have much rather had a level from Sonic 3, like Ice Cap or Launch Base. I also could have lived without Sonic Heroes, ESPECIALLY as part of the “Dreamcast era”. If we needed three Dreamcast levels, give us another one from Sonic Adventure. Or heck, Sonic R even!

    If we really needed a selection from all of these games, this is what I would have gone with

    Sonic 1-Knuckles: No change, and while I was disappointed at the lack of Mushroom Hill, Sky Sanctuary WAS at the top of my list and MH is in the 3DS version anyway.

    Dreamcast era: Having both City Escape AND Speed Highway seems a little gratuitous. I love City Escape, but I would have much preferred Emerald Coast over Speed Highway. Emerald Coast is one of the most definitive Sonic levels ever created, topped only by Green Hill in its relevance. I would have MUCH preferred Emerald Coast over Speed Highway or Generation’s answer to a beach level, Seaside Hill. For me, this era should have been:

    Emerald Coast, City Escape, Bingo Highway (this game needed a kick ass pinball level, and Bingo Highway was great)

    Modern Stages: Again, not much in the way of complaints. Spagonia feels a little unneeded considering we already had a superb version of that stage in HD. Sonic 06’s inclusion is almost insulting giving how utter shit that game way, but if we HAD to have a level, Crisis City was the only stage worth using from the game. Sonic Colors, being an SD game and the best Sonic game in a very long time, NEEDED to be included, but I’m not sure about the Planet Wisp selection. It wasn’t really my favorite stage, and I would have preferred something that would have been much cooler visually, like the space ship level, or maybe the stellar water level. Heck, Meteor Coaster would have been a cooler addition in my opinion.

    I do think Sonic Team made a pretty good selection of stages, and I do agree with you Barry, it’s going to be great playing City Escape in a game that isn’t loaded with problems. Though considering SOnic 06 kind of retconned itself at the end (almost like it knew fans would want it to have never happened), I do wonder how Crisis City is going to work.

  5. Crisp says:

    Wasn’t SADAR using assets off Heroes.

    Let’s recycle what is already recycled…
    hmm…Maybe.

    Though I have to confess Eternal Kingdom and Crisis Zone are my favorite Sonic Stage this generation. So I am glad they were featured, I’m in the minority but I extracted good fun for Sonic 06 (bought it used for 10 bucks a few years back).

  6. Regarding the timeline goof in including Crisis City, perhaps TIme Eater’s time holes (sounds so dirty) are portals though not just time, but also space. So the Crisis City time hole leads to an alternate future, that being the one that existed before being wiped out at the end of ’06. I’m overthinking this, of course. 😛

    Does the name “Dreamcast Era” exist in the game itself? Or is that more of a marketing gimmick? I’m sure Sonic Team thought of it as the “previous generation” or “sixth generation”, but the marketing folks thought “Dreamcast Era” sounded better and tapped into that nostalgia that exists.

  7. crackdude says:

    I know Sonic 06 is shit, but goddamn Crisis City was one of the best Sonic levels ever. No, I’m not joking. It was a bit broken and rubbish at some points, but it was 10 minutes of fun adrenalin. The concept for the environment in the level was excellent, and if it weren’t for the broken gameplay and half-assed design, it would be among the best.

    Still, as a LEVEL it is one of the most exciting to look at and live through.

    Also, no City Escape love Barry? :c

  8. Oh I love City Escape, but I love Pyramid Cave more. When I was a kid I was a nut for the pyramids and mummies. Also, Pyramid Cave has my favorite music track. So to see City Escape take the SA2 slot made my inner fanboy come out. 😉 I do have fond memories of playing the SA2 trial disc over and over. Good times, and classic shoes! No SOAP!

  9. Radrappy says:

    @crackdude

    yeah it’s a great level for a terminator video game, not for a sonic game. Burning photorealistic cities can go away and never come back thanks.

  10. Rumor has it, the classic Sonic stage of Crisis City will have Lava Reef references. Hope it’s true!

  11. CosmicCastaway says:

    Great article Barry! I’m very happy with the levels for Sonic Generations and I am positive I’ll enjoy all of them both classic and modern. As someone who hasn’t played Sonic Colors yet Planet Wisp is one of my most anticipated stages as well.
    If it’s true that Crisis City will have Lava Reef references that will be awesome. I’ve always liked the volcanic levels in the Sonic series. Flame Core is truthfully my favorite stage from Sonic 06. But I still will enjoy the fires of Crisis City!

  12. matty says:

    I’m only familiar with the first three listed here, so I guess Generations is pretty my first impression of the Sonic stages after the Genesis.

  13. Adam Duffield says:

    I loved how Spangonia was a mix of England meets Italy 😛 Would be great to live there :L

  14. Kori-Maru says:

    I’m proud that Sonic Team included City Escape. I love the stage due to the music and getting familiar playing Sonic Adventure 2 the first time on the Dreamcast. I remember my cousins and I use to sing along with the music. I love Pyramid Cave equally but them Boom Boos kinda ruined my experience cuz they’re ugly as ****. Chemical Plant gave me some major nostalgia since Sonic 2 was the first Sonic game I played and having trying to climb up from drowing in the Mega Mack.

    As for the other stages that didn’t make it into the game, hopefully Sonic Team pulls of a MK2011 with DLC. Wouldn’t mind seeing Sky Chase, Stardust Speedway Present, Ice Cap Zone and so many more that are so hard to choose haha.

  15. GrantX360 says:

    Overall slightly disappointed. Not because of the levels that were selected. But one per game. Classics like Marble Zone, starlight Zone and many levels from the second game should be here. I guess I have to pray for DLC.

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