Sonic Generations is fast, smooth, and it's the best Sonic game released this generation.

User Rating: 8 | Sonic Generations X360
Sonic the Hedgehog's legacy as a platforming icon is finally on the rise again. After surreal installments including weaponry, werehogs, and time travel, Sonic began to slip into a career based on gimmicks instead of the fantastic speed-based platforming that built his 16-bit legacy. 2010's Sonic Colors invoked new faith in the blue hedgehog's skills. A mix of perspectives and tight controls breathed new life in Sonic's struggling career and he doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon. Sonic Generations refines what made Sonic Colors so accessible and enjoyable, while bringing in just enough nostalgic charm to keep the interest of longtime Sonic fans and giving it a clean high-definition shine.

Sonic Generations begins with Sonic arriving at his own birthday party, eager to celebrate the day with his many, many friends (and eat chili dogs). However, the day (as expected) doesn't go as planned when at inter-dimensional monster appears from nowhere, kidnapping Sonic's friends and leaving Sonic in an empty white void. Sonic then encounters a strange guest in the void: his past self. Together, the Sonics find and revitalize their friend Tails, who is also joined by his past self. As both Sonics travel through stages from their history, they discover that the worlds are brought back to life after explored, while also awakening Sonic's friends, who are immobilized in the white void. It's up to both Sonics to rescue their friends, explore their history, and find out the truth behind the monster that captured them. Very much like Sonic Colors for Wii, Sonic Generations transcends its aesthetic, cracking jokes at past games and even adding some wit into the dialogue. Even more so is a sense of reverence and respect for the older Sonic themes. The fact that Classic Sonic doesn't speak is actually quite clever and adds some humor to the overall game. Sonic Generations is much more playful with its storyline than past games, which felt awkward mixing Sonic's wise-cracks with the overused melodrama. Sonic Generations feels tuned, but flexible, making it a funny, but respectful title that has a little for everyone.

With two Sonics to play as, it's to be expected that the game is divided into two gameplay types. Unlike other games in the series that tried this out like Sonic Unleashed, the gameplay in both Sonics' stages match up enough and neither are massive departures from their platforming design. Classic Sonic's stages are side-scrolling goodness, ripped right from the gameplay template of retro hits like Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Though Classic Sonic doesn't have the modern amenities of his future self like the Homing Attack or Boosts, the inclusion of his trademark Spin Dash shows that he's still well-equipped for the game. The perspective is normally a typical 2D view, with the occasional shift for cinematic purposes. Classic Sonic's levels aren't as fast as his future self's levels, but they feel nostalgic in all the right ways. Multiple paths are everywhere, so there are plenty of reasons to replay a stage for better times and secrets. To be fair, the surprise enemy or bottomless pits of Sonic-related criticism appear on occasion, but Classic Sonic is a prime example of 2D side-scrolling done right. Leave it to one of the kings of the 16-bit era to set the bar once again.

Modern Sonic's stages, in stark contrast, are reflex-testing, multi-perspective rushes of speed, not unlike the levels seen in Sonic Colors for Wii. Modern Sonic's ability count is much more plentiful than Classic Sonic. Modern Sonic can use Homing Attacks to attack enemies in sequence, all accompanied by lock-on aiming sights. Modern Sonic can also perform aerial tricks and grind on rails, but his most powerful skill is Boosting, which increases his speed immediately and bulldozes any enemies in the path. However, Boosting requires rings or points earned from homing attacks, grinds, and tricks. These levels occasionally shift perspective, moving into a 2D view similar to Sonic Rush. The combination of perspectives can disorient at times and the camera can get confused itself on occasion, but for the most part, it's a smooth transition. Modern Sonic's levels are much more intricate than Classic Sonic and they offer some extremely dynamic level design that takes advantage of the hedgehog's skillset very well. There are some rough spots, but it's safe to say that Sonic Team has finally hit the sweet spot when it comes to a 3D Sonic game.

When arriving in the empty void, Sonic and his Classic self encounter stages based on their history. The first stage, for example, is the quintessential Sonic the Hedgehog level, the fan favorite Green Hill Zone. Other retro picks include Chemical Plant Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sky Sanctuary Zone from Sonic and Knuckles. Later stages dive into the more recent Sonic titles like Sonic Adventure, Sonic Heroes, and even the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog title for 360 and PS3. The inclusion of the retro levels is fantastic; that nostalgic sense of seeing Green Hill Zone in a new perspective is unlike anything seen in the Sonic series yet. Even seeing the more recent Sonic levels, ones that were less successful in their execution of the 3D perspective, move so fluidly in the 3D gameplay is a sight to behold. The transition from modern levels to Classic Sonic also has some charm, as the creative dynamics behind the levels is still shown so dynamically. Whether in 2D or 3D, there will always be a pleasant surprise in the fantastic level design.

Sonic Generations is a very brief game, with only nine stages, each with a Classic and a Modern act. Also, the lack of more retro levels from games like Sonic CD or Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is disappointing. However, each level has its share of Challenges, which range from racing a doppelgänger to completing the stage with only one ring. As the Sonics rescue their friends, more Challenges are opened up, but many of these don't have the straightforward charm of the more simple objectives. Still, the high amount of Challenges will keep players going, even if some are a bit dry. Collectible Red Rings and working towards S rankings will keep lone wolves on their feet, while Xbox Live support with leaderboard rankings and 30-second time trials (a way to see how far you can get in a level in 30 seconds) are also available for those looking for a little competitive edge. Though it does feel a bit artificial in its replay value at times, Sonic Generations has a lot to offer overall.

Thanks to a wondrous use of perspective and the archetypal HD update, the stages in Sonic Generations are a sight to behold. From the humble beginnings of Green Hill Zone to the brilliant vistas of Sky Sanctuary Zone, each stage looks incredible in motion. Fluid animations and an intense sense of speed contribute to the game's smoothness. Both Classic and Modern Sonic have their unique level designs, but it's the way each level is translated from its original form that makes Sonic Generations so successful. The familiar initial run through Green Hill Zone is represented nostalgically for Classic Sonic, while Modern Sonic settles for breakneck speeds and motion blur effects. The sound design is also shockingly authentic. The new renditions of famed Sonic themes are performed excellently; from the techno dance beat of Chemical Plant Zone to the catchy vocal themes from the Sonic Adventure games, each level feels familiar and the music does so much to contribute to that feeling. Aside from a few cheesy lines, the voice acting is good as well, mostly because of its scarcity. Sonic and Tails' lines are decent and the surreal scenes of Sonic talking to his past self are entertaining. The presentation in Sonic Generations mixes nostalgia and technical advances to make what could only be the best looking Sonic title ever made.

Sonic Generations is Sonic's best adventure in this gaming generation yet. The mix of 2D side-scrolling as Classic Sonic and the high-octane adrenaline rush of Modern Sonic both contribute to a cohesive and cleverly designed world that has just as much familiarity as it has surprises. The stages are constructed with the gameplay in mind above all else; there aren't any obscure tricks holding back this collection of solid and accessible platforming. The presentation, like the gameplay, is a near-perfect mix of HD graphics and remixed themes, one that will be remembered for a good long time. The level count is a bit short and there is some uninventiveness in the Challenge design, but there are many reasons to experience Sonic's legacy again and again. Sonic's adventure through his past has shown, above all else, that Sonic Team has the skills and ingenuity to make a new Sonic game without saturating it with gimmicks. If Sonic's spotty record this generation has discouraged you from collecting rings and smashing badniks, swallow your pride and play Sonic Generations, because it's one of the best Sonic games in years.