I used to be a huge fan of Dimps in the past. Sonic Rush is one of my favorite Sonic games and I loved the Advance series sans number three. However, in recent years, it seems like there’s been a new Sonic Cycle. For every great Sonic console game, there’s a mediocre Dimps adaption on the portable systems. This started with Colors DS which IMO, came up a little short of capturing what made Rush and Rush Adventure fun. Then, we have Sonic 4 which had decent level design, but odd physics which turned some people away. Now, we have Dimps first foray onto the 3DS with Sonic Generations. Does it boost up to the glory days of the Advance and Rush series or does it trip over its own two feet? Grab a chili dog and read on. It’s gonna be a long one.
Sonic Generations 3DS is in a unique position where the main game is not the best part. The main game only features seven worlds from Sonic’s past. These range from Green Hill Zone to Tropical Resort. The worlds are spread out between 3 eras. Classic, Dreamcast (the weakest of the three) and modern. Each world gets two acts and a special stage, and each era gets a rival to race and a boss from said era. Despite what Iizuka said about “Sonic’s portable history”, only Water Palace from Sonic Rush and Tropical Resport from Sonic Colors DS represent any portable Sonic titles. Everything else is from the consoles. With only 7 worlds, the main game can be beaten in under two hours. Even quicker than the console versions and almost as fast as Sonic 4. The only real reason to go back and play the levels from the main game is to improve your score and try to get S ranks. Thankfully, S ranks are much harder to get here than in the console versions and come across as actually deserved. I once did a run through Modern Green Hill. Not getting hit once and not losing any rings, but since I didn’t quite take the fastest path, I could only muster an A. You also get graded on rival races, special stages and boss fights.
But like I said before, the main game is not the best part. If that’s all there was, it would be a huge letdown. No my friends, mission mode and online are the real meat of the game. You get 100 missions to play through. They range from beating a level without taking any damage or collecting a number of rings in a short amount of time to beating a boss with only one ring. Each mission you beat gives you a reward to add to your collection area. These range from artwork and pictures (including rare production artwork from previous Dimps games) to Sonic music (up to 50 that can be played in a row even with the lid shut like an iPod) and 3-D models that look as good as the HD trophies in the console versions. There’s even some music exclusive to the missions, but sadly, it’s only 3 or 4 and they repeat through all 100 missions. This means if you’re going through a full level, you don’t get the level music from the main game, but one of four others. These missions are not exactly free either. It will cost you 5-10 play coins per mission. Also, if you can’t beat a mission, you can buy the unlock with the play coins too. Like with other 3DS games, play coins are acquired through walking with your 3DS in your pocket. This means unless you’ve amassed a lot of coins in the past, you’ll either have to do a lot of walking or shake your 3DS like crazy to open levels. You can also open levels by earning points playing the game normally (I’m afraid I don’t quite understand exactly how it works, but I’m guessing it’s like achievements) or through Streetpass.
Speaking of Streetpass, you can also collect player profile cards for your game. Just look under your options menu and you can edit your own Sonic player profile card. You can select a background image (which only unlock when collecting other players’ cards), how long you’ve been a Sonic fan, your favorite Sonic game and your favorite Sonic character. Your Mii will show up on the upper-left corner of the card and your favorite character will be on the bottom right. The back of the card shows how long you’ve been playing, the amount of rings you’ve collected, how many missions you’ve beaten and what grades you got on the main game. Fortunately, Streetpass is not your only option for collecting these cards. You can also collect them by playing with other people online. These can include people from your friends list or random players. You’ll be able to race them on all the zones from the game. Things are kept competitive by use of these purple orbs that can trap you for a short time if you do not dodge them. I’ve played some matches online and with the exception of one match, was surprised at the lack of lag I experienced. I also realized I needed to get better at these levels. I got beat pretty bad. Of course, when I looked at the other players cards, they have all S’s on the main game. I need to step up my game. Best way to do that is through the time attack mode. In this mode you can do a speed run and then compare your time with your friends and also see your world ranking. Sadly, this mode can only be played while online. Offline, it will record your time, but you cannot upload that time to the servers later.
Graphics and Sound
At E3, the 3DS build of Sonic Generations wasn’t looking too good. Like a weak, 1st Gen PSP game. Since then, it has improved greatly. The environments look great for the most part and the 3-D is done really well, adding a lot of depth. This is especially true in heavily scrolling levels like Casino Night Zone. Models are especially well done. You can see it best when in the Special stages and in the cutscenes, which now have moving 3-D models instead of just still images. Bosses like Biolizard look outright fantastic. There is a downside of course. Some levels have occasional background pop-up almost as bad as a Saturn game. Also, some levels like Radical Highway and Water Palace have bland, boring backgrounds and environments to them with a lack of detail.
As far as Sound goes, it’s decent. Still get the same bells and whistles as the HD consoles in terms of sound effects. The only thing really lacking is talking during the cutscenes. You just get Sonic or Tails with a few phrases and what they are actually saying with word balloons underneath. But you don’t care about that crap! You want the music! In that case, you’ll be a bit disappointed. While some of the remixes (like the Big Arms boss) are really good, the majority of new music is just the old tunes with a slight remix done. In some cases (like Emerald Coast or Water Palace) the differences are so minimal you’d have to listen really closely to hear them. This is too bad since the remixes on the HD console versions were epic. Here’s some samples…
Listen to that! It freakin’ rocks!
Is there any difference from the original?
One glaring omission is any sort of drowning music in the underwater areas of Water Palace. Instead, you just get some sonar-like beeps to inform you you’re getting close to drowning. That’s almost a crime! The drowning music in Sonic games is an absolute staple of the franchise. In short the music’s good, but poor on the remixes.
Gameplay and Design
Here’s what you came to read. Well, I got to say, it’s very much a mixed bag. As I said in my TSS review (which I’ll admit, was a bit harsher on the game than I am now), the gameplay and design is a mixed bag. For everything they do right, something else goes wrong. For instance, Classic Sonic’s physics are almost 100% perfect! His roll downhill makes him gain momentum and he’s bigger than the Badniks again. Playing through the Genesis era, really felt just like playing the classics again. Then they go and @#$* that up by having Modern Sonic teach Classic how to do a homing attack. It’s permanent and cannot be undone. This infuriates me because the whole basis of the game is to have two different Sonics with two different styles of play, but Modern Sonic is already 2.5-D in this game. This makes the differences between Modern and Classic Sonic fairly minimal. One has boost and slide while the other has the spindash.
Then there’s the level design. As I said before, Classic era is great and really feels like the classic games, but for a good reason. Dimps literally stole the exact level layout from those games. I’m okay with it because these levels actually feel the best and most imaginative. Mushroom Hill especially. Sadly, this level of quality dies in the middle of the game. The Dreamcast era is the worst thing about the game. Since Dimps could no longer steal level designs from the Genesis games or their own DS titles, this era’s design is just flat and bland. Now, most of the Modern Sonic levels are not quite as good as Classic’s because they focus more on his boost speed and tend to have flat lands that don’t curve around much outside of the occasional loop. Only having a lower and upper path with no real middle. This is okay for Modern because they make up for it with super-fast boosting speed and cool camera angles and tricks. However, Classic Sonic doesn’t have that to stand on, so when you’re playing as Classic on levels such as Radical Highway (worst level in the game BTW), you are running mainly on flat plains and hopping over the occasional bottomless pits. It’s very basic and bland. There’s literally a ten second stretch where classic Sonic is running in a straight line with absolutely nothing to interact with. Thankfully, the modern era picks things up again. Not quite as good as the Genesis era, but still decent. Water Palace is pretty fast-paced for an under-water zone and Tropical Resort has probably the best Modern Sonic level out of the whole game, making a nice way to end the zones. Still it has to be said that the layouts on the classic versions of these zones were heavily influenced if not copied from their original source again (Sonic Rush/Sonic ColorsDS), but you won’t really notice it much.
The teeter-totter of quality continues with the bosses. For the most part, these are great bosses. Big Arms, Biolizard (my favorite) and The Egg Emperor are all awesome and can be pretty challenging. The final boss is once again, the Time Eater, but this time he’s not nearly as aggravating as he is on the HD Consoles and actually comes off as a proper final boss. That said, the Rivals feel tacked on and unnecessary. They are merely races before the boss of an era and most can be easily beaten. Not only that, but two of them are not even in their proper levels. You race Metal Sonic on Casino Night Zone and Silver at the Tropical Resort. While they were welcome in the HD version, they feel out of place on the 3DS. It’s like having two bosses in a row when only one is really needed. I know it would make the game even shorter than it already is, but from a design point, I would have thrown them out.
The special stages are fun, if not a bit on the easy side. They’re based on the special stages from Sonic Heroes, but with the spike balls from Sonic 2. Just like in Sonic Heroes, you have to collect the balloons to boost in order to chase down the emerald. The later stages can get tough, but usually after 2 or 3 tries, I got the emerald before I even knew I had caught up. While in most Sonic games, the special stages are optional, these ones are required to get to the final boss. A bit of a pain but as I said, they’re fairly easy.
Sonic Generations, while a better game than the DS version of Sonic Colors, is still another watered down port by Dimps. The main game is very short (think Sonic 4 ) and there’s a huge dip in the quality of the levels during the Dreamcast era. That said, if you’re planning to stick around after the main game is done (and at $40 American, you should), there’s plenty more fun to be had in the extras. 100 missions to play giving 100 neat collectibles and a fun online race mode along with Player Profile cards. It’s like having a weak, tiny main course. Followed by a fantastic, giant dessert. At $40, I recommend it only to die-hard Sonic fans. Those looking for a high quality platformer will get a much better value with another new 3DS game starring a mustachioed plumber.
- S Ranks are much tougher to get. Making them worthwhile.
- Classic physics are much closer to the originals than even the HD version. Rolling works!
- Bosses and Special Stages are well done and fun.
- Great 3-D graphics with HD quality models.
- Genesis and Modern era have some well designed levels.
- Mission mode is great and has cool unlockables.
- Music unlocks can be played all in a row like a soundtrack even if the 3DS lid is shut.
- Online racing works well.
- Player profile cards lets you show off what kind of Sonic fan you are and how well you are doing in the game.
- Homing Attack on Classic Sonic means the two Sonic’s are not that different.
- Main game is way too short and can be beaten in under two hours.
- Dreamcast era has very weak level design. Especially Radical Highway.
- Music remixes are not up to the same quality as the HD versions.
- No drowning music while underwater.
- Unlocking missions means finding someone who also owns the game to Streetpass with or a lot of walking.
- Rivals feel out of place and are easy to beat.
- Same 3-4 songs repeat during the missions.