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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Something Old, Something New...

Something Borrowed, something Blue. That actually sums up Sonic Generations pretty nicely, with the exception of one missing adjective. Something Good... for a change. In fact, Sega seemed to be pull out all the stops for the blue dude with tude's big 20th birthday celebration. Not only did we get the incredible, nostalgia-fest that is Sonic Generations, but also a digital release of the much-vaunted Sonic The Hedgehog CD that's actually a decent port! 2011 was the first year in a long time that core Sonic fans weren't counted amongst the hardcore-retro gamers that only play the classic titles, hords of 8-year-old children, or creepy Anthrocon attendees that are typically associated with the franchise. It seems Sega is finally releasing a product that we retroists want to play. This article isn't so much a review, so much as it's letting the good folks at Sega know that this is a massive step in the right direction, and we appreciate it.

This is the Metal Sonic fight we all wanted when we discovered him floating in a tank in Sonic Adventure.

Sonic Generations has been pleasantly surprising me since its announcement back in June of 2011. First I was stunned to see the classic Hedghog in his full 3D glory running alongside what was gaming's punchline for the past 10 years in the teaser. I was even more surprised when the demo came out in limited release and I didn't automatically hate it like I did when I tried the 2006 Sonic The Hedgehog. Sure Sonic was a bit teensy when compared with the larger than life HD Green Hill Zone, but the controls and the physics were pretty much what we've been looking for over the past decade, and the level design was on par with the classics we love. Playing the game was an even bigger shock when I actually caught myself having fun and wanting to go back to replay stages WITH MODERN SONIC! It took some trial and error, but it seems that Sonic Team has finally found the sweet spot when it comes to playing with Sonic in 3D.

The "story" is nothing to write home about, but that's nothing new. Honestly, this game feels more like a fan-service compilation alla Sonic Jam, than a stand-alone adventure. It might have been better without any kind of convoluted plot at all. Still, as bad as the story is, the writing is far better than past Sonic games, and there are some clever in-jokes that Sonic-faithfuls will pick up immediately that may leave the aforementioned children and perverts scratching their heads.

The Good!
• Wow! A Sonic game that didn't make me want to kill myself.
• Fun, fast-paced gameplay.
• Gorgeous environments that showcase the clever level design.
• Unique challenges both new and old.
• Nostalgic elements: There is seriously music from Sonic Jam & Knuckles Chaotix just casually thrown into the gallery room and menus!

The Bad!
• The "Story" feels more like a formality than anything else; despite the in-jokes and decent writing.
• Too few bosses... Seriously, there are only 4 actual bosses and 3 challenges with rivals.
• Too few stages. Really what I'm saying is the game is so good I wish there was more of it.
• No "Flying Battery Zone", though admittedly, that's a my own gripe.

I never thought I'd catch myself fawning over a re-release. I just never thought they could make this game look that good on an HD-TV set.
As against remakes and rereleases as I am, I found myself both buying, and thoroughly enjoying Sonic CD on my Xbox 360 and iPhone 4S. I'm not certain how they did it, but they somehow managed to get a pixel-perfect port to span my entire 47" LCD and not look like shit. If Sega keeps this up I might have to start looking forward to Sonic games again. They even introduced us American's to the fabulous Japanese soundtrack! My only issue? The lyrics for the Japanese intro theme are absent. Yes, the vastly superior intro and end-credits tracks have been stripped of their wonderfully bouncy, totally Japanese lyrics. I contacted Sega over twitter and they simply responded that there was a licensing issue. I did feel a pang of regret after my purchase when I powered it up and heard what they'd done to the best songs in the game, but that soon faded when I saw the stellar job they did on the rest of the port.

The Good!
• Wow! A Sonic game that didn't make me want to kill myself.
• Probably because it's one of the last really good Sonic games made.
• Pixel-perfect port that looks gorgeous on my HD-TV.
• The Japanese Soundtrack!...

The Bad!
• Is missing the lyrics that I fell in love with when I first played Sonic Jam.
• The look of the new menus is a bit ugly.
• Sonic is best when he leaves his asshole friends at home, so why was Tails invited to this party?
• Seriously. Fuck Tails...