So I’ve been playing a lot of Sonic Generations lately. This is partly because it’s Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th Anniversary in 2016 and while SEGA has announced two special games to commemorate this event, neither will see release until 2017 because SEGA. So I figured I might as well mark the occasion by revisiting the last milestone anniversary Sonic game. Also, I just recently got a somewhat hefty new gaming laptop to replace my aging workhorse with the cracked monitor and failed hard drive I used to write to you all on that was as old as Sonic Generations, and I’ve been putting it through its paces with a collection of PC games I’ve had saved in my Steam library but have been unable to, you know, actually play until now.
For a five year old game, Sonic Generations has held up *exceptionally* well. Even just in terms of sheer visual appeal, this is a gorgeous, gorgeous game, especially if you download and install the optional shader effects to unlock the full lighting range of the Hedgehog Engine. For those of you who might not know, the Hedgehog Engine is a proprietary game engine SEGA’s Sonic Team built for the 2008 game Sonic Unleashed and was used again in Sonic Generations. I’ve been a huge fan and defender of the Hedgehog Engine since I first saw it in action and I always find new ways to be impressed with it. It’s the lighting that really sells it: The art style in Sonic games doesn’t try to be hyper-realistic like a most other games, but is instead bright, colourful, stylized and vivid, and the lush sunshine and cool shadows allowed by the Hedgehog Engine really bring Sonic’s world to life here.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the same age as Sonic Generations and was once a visual tour de force, but, on my new gaming rig, its age is finally beginning to show itself and Skyrim is starting to look a bit plasticky and rough around the edges. Yet another reason we desperately need that Special Edition re-release. Not so with Sonic Generations, which, barring the odd mesh here or there, looks like it could have come out yesterday. It’s not always a good long-term investment to chase the dragon of graphical photorealism.
But it’s the gameplay where Sonic Generations shines the brightest. What made this particular entry special is that there was a genuine attempt made to sum up, hone and refine years of gameplay evolution in the Sonic series. Now believe it or not I’m not talking about the “Classic Sonic” sections: To be honest with you, I’ve always found them the weakest parts of the game, chock-full of tedious platforming and unfair death-traps that demand countless amounts of trial-and-error. In spite of their conceit, they don’t succeed in recreating the feel of the original SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis games, but we shouldn’t ever have expected them to because that’s functionally impossible in the Hedgehog Engine.…