E3 2011: Sonic Generations

QUICKTAKE: Sonic Generations brings the titular blue hedgehog back in a fan service-filled, high-definition adventure chock full of re-imagined content from the past twenty years worth of Sonic titles. Seeing the classic levels get a glossy coat of visual polish is sure to please die-hard Sonic fans, and the ability to play each level from classic (2D) or modern (3D) perspectives is a welcome addition. BOOM video 8830 THE DEMO: At E3 2011, I stopped by the Sega booth to play through the first level of the famous "Green Hill Zone" in Sonic Generations, one of the most instantly recognizable landscapes from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. I played through the level twice, using the classic 2D approach first, followed by the over-the-shoulder perspective used in more recent Sonic titles.

Sonic Generations lets you choose from one of two perspectives for each level.

DETAILS: The first thing most folks will notice about Sonic Generations is how gorgeous is looks. If you're among the multitudes who played (and enjoyed) Sonic's original outings, seeing those environments rendered in bright, crisp, and colorful high-definition is very cool. Sonic's trademark enemies and its formula of collecting rings at a breakneck pace is also there in full-effect. The game's overarching narrative tells a tale of Sonic's universe being thrown into chaos, and the appearance of "time holes" that pull Sonic and his friends back in time. Playing the same level from the alternate perspective actually changes the flow of each level quite a bit. You're still navigating what is ostensibly the same course, but the shift in perspective makes everything from ring placement to combat feel a bit different. For example, Classic Sonic is able to use his Spin Dash and Spin Attack, whereas Modern Sonic has a homing attack and Sonic Boost. Other than a few rare brief hitches in the frame-rate, the early build of Sonic Generations played as I expected. The game is very fast, and the momentum-based locomotion is as it ever was. It's clearly more of a tribute for fans of the series than a fresh take, though it might bring some first-time ring-collectors into the fold. That said, I was mildly disappointed that the Sonic Generations demo didn't show me much new, save for being able to run through classic levels from a different perspective. Overall, the game gives players what they've come to expect from Sonic the Hedgehog, through and through. That's not necessarily a bad thing, for fans. It's also worth noting that the 3DS version of Sonic Generations will feature entirely different levels than the console versions (save for Green Hill Zone), and will be the only platform to feature re-imagined levels from older handheld Sonic titles. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions will feature revamped levels pulled from the entirety of Sonic's history on consoles. Sonic Generations is rolling out for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the 3DS in "late 2011." Watch the Shacknews E3 2011 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. You can also subscribe to it with your favorite RSS reader.