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Something old, something new: Sonic Generations

Tuesday, 4 October 2011 06:57 GMT By Alex Donaldson

Very little borrowed, but something very blue – Alex Donaldson goes hands-on out the latest offering from the world’s most rapid rodent.

SONIC GENERATIONS

Like the Star Trek film of the same name, Generations brings together the most popular Captains. I mean, Sonics.

Includes familiar environments from much of the core Sonic catalog.

Aims to please both, traditionally-divided Sonic fanbases – the original 16-bit era type, and the DS-clutching Sonic Rush fan. No comment on the games in between.

Sega has a hell of a task laid out for it with Sonic the Hedgehog. Unlike Mario, Sega’s speedy blue mascot has spanned a bunch of different gameplay styles – there was the momentum-based platforming on the Mega Drive and strange open-world ‘Adventure stages’ on the Dreamcast, and to today’s youth Sonic is most synonymous with action-packed, speed-boost filled stages.

That leaves some – like folks from my generation – grumpy. We miss the times when speed was a reward for skilful play, and when slowing down revealed hidden nooks and crannies in levels – and until now Sega has had to target one audience or the other, leaving one chunk of its fanbase in the cold.

With Sonic Generations, though, it’s trying to please both audiences at once. Classic Sonic will offer that 2D platforming, while Modern Sonic will offer the over-the-top speed-fest similar to recent titles. We dropped in to get some hands-on time and see a demo of the game from its producer, Takeshi Iizuka, during GamesCom 2011.

We’ll get the hard, core facts out of the way first. Sonic Generations is coming in two different configurations – a high definition version will ship on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with nine different environments – each with a Classic and Modern level spanning all the major Sonic releases. Here, Modern Sonic plays as he does in Sonic Colours, the most recent 3D release.

The 3DS version will offer 7 environments, each with Modern and Classic versions. One is the same as the HD version – Green Hill Zone – but the rest are different picks. Here both modes play in 2D, but Modern Sonic handles more as he’s played in the Sonic Rush titles on the DS, with boosts and more speed-focused gameplay.

Iizuka chooses to demo a never-before seen level, Rooftop Run. It’s the most modern level shown so far, from 2008’s Sonic Unleashed.

Dreamcast-era levels gameplay footage.

“The 2D version has been built from the ground up, but the 3D version is closer to the original Unleashed level,” Iizuka explains to us through a translator.

“So the 3D version gives you a very familiar experience while the 2D version gives you a completely different experience that takes place in the same theme.”

As the 2D version of the level begins it’s a weird mixture of old and new. Classic Sonic’s pudgy form and the 2D perspective feel distinctly 90s, but the enemies and realistic-looking environments are of course right out of Sonic Unleashed.

“As you can see in the background, this is basically Rooftop Run as fans will remember it to have been,” Iizuka adds, gesturing to key elements of the design.

“While it looks similar, the level design here is very much in line with the retro, old-school Sonic games – if you slow down there’s hidden areas to find and go in by doing things like going behind walls to find hidden item boxes and things. That really adds to the retro experience and will feel familiar to old fans.”

Another thing new to the Classic Sonic layout of the level is the addition of what Iizuka describes as a ‘Carnival style’ atmosphere to the level. Confetti flies about the level as Sonic speeds through, but this also allows a classic mechanic to return – Sonic can jump into balloons to pop them and get an extra boost to a jump in platforming sections, a mechanic first seen in Sonic 3 in 1994.

According to Iizuka, adding such platform elements is vital to the game’s Classic Sonic levels.

“This level in its original form was very much focused on speed. With classic Sonic, the focus is instead placed more on platforming. Speed is a reward rather than a given with classic Sonic – the whole game is built on this idea with classic Sonic.”

As Iizuka explains, Sonic suddenly dips down into a very different looking area of the level. No longer Rooftop Run in a literal sense, the level actually heads underground to an area with gigantic barrels and enemies aplenty. As it turns out, this level is based off another area of the game this level is pulled from.

“This area with the barrels is a newly added area to Rooftop Run for the classic Sonic section,” Iizuka says.

“In Unleashed this was an area that you were in when you were a werewolf – but we’ve incorporated this section into classic Sonic’s version of Rooftop Run for variety and as a nod to that part of Unleashed.”

In the underground we’re shown another important element of the classic Sonic gameplay – branching pathways. “The idea that there’s multiple routes you can take to get through a level is true to the originals,” Iizuka tells us.

16-bit era environment gameplay footage.

In the section we see Sonic can either go up a higher, slower route and push a giant barrel off a ledge to crush the enemies below or go down below, which is faster, but risk fighting them yourself. Iizuka does the former, so we see the barrel used as a weapon to crush the enemies. This, too, is an example of the type of ideas they’re adding to classic Sonic’s levels.

“There are new gimmicks for the levels – small gameplay elements that were not in the original level but have been built in for the new perspective.” As well as barrels and balloons, there are basket-shaped swings that carry Sonic across large gaps in the level.

The finale of the classic Sonic version of the level sees Sonic involved in a little puzzle at a clock face. By climbing on the hands of the clock, the player has to guide Sonic to the very middle of the clock while avoiding enemies to trigger the finale of the level. Sadly, we never see it – our time is up and we have to see Modern Sonic in action.

If one thing is striking, it’s that the Modern Sonic level is over in around half the time the classic Sonic level is. A good part of that, Iizuka explains, is due to the sheer speed of Modern Sonic. “In Modern Sonic it really is non-stop, high-speed action – the emphasis really is on speed. For this level, it’s much closer to what this original game was, though still different.”

It’s high-speed running from a hybrid 2D-3D perspective that’s constantly moving, and is notably similar to Sonic Colours on the Wii. Quick Step returns, the mechanic that sees Sonic running from a third person perspective with the player using the shoulder buttons to shift him left and right to avoid obstacles rapidly approaching from the horizon.

While the gameplay is similar to Colours, tweaks and changes have been made to the mechanics to make it a bit friendlier than previous 3D Sonic entries. A big complaint, bottomless pits, has been addressed with some interesting signage placed before certain jumps and drops throughout the level which show the blue hedgehog plunging to his doom against a very noticeable red background.

“The level is designed in such a way with Modern Sonic where you can still branch – on top of the roof of buildings, below buildings, even inside buildings. There are places to go.”

“At high speed it’s hard to tell which bits will kill you if you fall or jump down,” Iizuka notes, pointing out a nasty, death-dealing ledge. “We’ve tried to make that clearer to the user immediately as they fly through the levels what will kill them, so we’ve got this hazard symbols which will appear before dangerous jumps or drops.”

Modern Sonic’s journey through Rooftop Run is a blur of grind rails, motion blur and Sonic’s voice actor shouting out happily as he performs various manoeuvres, but Iizuka is keen to point out there is depth to modern Sonic’s levels.

“The level is designed in such a way with Modern Sonic where you can still branch – on top of the roof of buildings, below buildings, even inside buildings. There are places to go,” he says.

At the end of the level the clock tower makes another appearance, but in a very different way now. With Modern Sonic it’s more of a race to the top of the tower and right back down again. The level’s over in a few short minutes, finishing with a short mini-battle with an enemy airship which spits out rings as a reward for defeating it quickly.

With the demo over, Iizuka explains exactly why he thinks Sonic Generations is his team’s most challenging Sonic project to date. “The challenge we faced was that each level had its original that we were taking inspiration from.

“That original may have been a classic level with 2D side scrolling or of course it may have been a 3D level. We’ve had to recreate those levels in both 3D and 2D, and the challenge really was to keep to the original theme without breaking away from it too much while also giving completely original things to the user.”

When we get hands-on time with the game, the similarities in Sonic Colours in the 3D levels are absolutely clear. It controls and feels very much like the Wii release but now on a traditional controller and without the extra powers Sonic accrued in the game – but that’s no bad thing, as Sonic Colours was the best 3D Sonic title since the Dreamcast.

As a veteran of the Mega Drive classics I felt like classic Sonic’s controls needed tightening up a little – as exemplified by how many times Iizuka himself struggled with platforming in his demo – but the core mechanics and physics feel leaps and bounds ahead of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sega’s recent downloadable offering.

Interestingly, I found the classic Sonic physics and controls on the 3DS to be much closer to those I have fond memories of from the 90s. On the 3DS Sonic & Knuckles’ Mushroom Hill Zone is playable. Entire segments of the level are recognizable from my memory of the original layout in Classic Sonic’s run-through, and this feels much closer to a remake than a reimagining than any of the HD levels I’ve played so far.

I felt like classic Sonic’s controls needed tightening up a little – as exemplified by how many times Iizuka himself struggled with platforming in his demo.

After hands-on time Sonic Generations leaves the feeling of a lovingly created tribute to 20 years of the blue Hedgehog, and Iizuka is clearly keen to try to please as many of Sonic’s fans as possible, young and old with this new title. “The main take away we want people to have is that with Classic Sonic you can have real platform action while with Modern Sonic you can have non-stop fast-paced action,” he tells us after we try the game out.

“I hope that there will be something here for everybody.”

Sonic Generations is set to launch for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC and 3DS in November.

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    The suspend/resume feature in PlayStation 4′s 2.50 firmware update is causing some issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Killzone: Shadow Fall developer Guerrilla has said that the game is experiencing some issues in some instance where the suspend/resume feature is used. The timing of when players put the game in suspend mode does have an effect, […]

  • Bungie on Destiny matchmaking: “We believe there’s no substitute for a pre-made team”

    Crazy though this may seem, it’s possible that Destiny shipped according to plan. History points to community as a crucial component, far from the contingency that many now suspect. Paul Davies spoke to Bungie for clarity. “The community always engineers the best solutions for bringing players together. While Matchmaking is a great resource for introducing […]

  • Bloodborne works with suspend/resume, but only offline

    PlayStation 4′s newly-added suspend/resume feature works with Bloodborne as you’d expect, but only while offline. PlayStation 4 received the long-awaited suspend/resume feature today as part of firmware 2.50, and people are starting to test it out with various games. Bloodborne does work with the feature, but only if you play offline. Playing online is arguably […]

  • This is what Crossy Road looks like in first-person

    Crossy Road is fun and addictive. But in first-person, it’s mostly frightening. YouTube user Andy Front Films likes Crossy Road so much he decided to show off what it would look like in first-person. If crossing roads quickly and watching around for cars and trains, all of this as the camera chases you felt intense […]

  • Take a small behind-the-scenes peek at Mass Effect 4

    BioWare cinematic director Ken Thain has given us a very slim look behind the scenes at some motion capture work from the upcoming Mass Effect game. The upcoming Mass Effect game, whether it ends up being called Mass Effect 4 or not, will most definitely incorporate some form of motion capture work. How do we […]

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – 8GB day one patch on PS4, 16GB on Xbox One

    Day one patches for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection are pretty hefty. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection require players to download lots of gigabytes to make the experience as smooth as possible. The PlayStation 4 version has an 8.31GB day one patch. The Xbox One version however has […]

  • Get a PlayStation 4 with Bloodborne and The Last of Us for $435

    If you’ve been waiting for the perfect game to get to buy a PlayStation 4, there’s no better time than the present. Amazon is offering a good PlayStation 4 bundle at the moment. For $434.99, you get a PlayStation 4 console, The Last of Us, and Bloodborne. The Last of Us is of course the […]

  • Upcoming Battlefield Hardline patch to nerf the K10, buff battle rifles

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch will focus on weapon balance and a few changes have been proposed. Battlefield Hardline lead multiplayer designer Thaddeus Sasser posted a few of the balance changes that the team is considering for the next patch. K10: reduce bullet damage to 33 Saiga and PTR: reduce recoil to bring more in line […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and a new Resident Evil game coming this year, according to research firm

    According to digital games analyst SuperData, a new Resident Evil game is due this fall and that this year’s Call of Duty is Black Ops 3. In its latest report on digital console games, research and analytics firm SuperData revealed that a new Resident Evil is coming this fall. “We anticipate this month’s downturn to […]

  • Bloodborne: you can add gestures to your messages

    As players get deeper into Bloodborne, they keep uncovering so many of its little new additions, including this one. Bloodborne, like all of the Souls games before it, allows players to leave messages for other players. These messages could be used to point players towards impending doom, treasure, or just be sarcastic and witty. What […]

  • PlayStation 4 firmware update 2.50 is now live

    PlayStation 4 firmware update version 2.50 has started rolling out. Reports are coming in saying that Yukimura, PlayStation 4′s firmware 2.50 has been made available to download. The update is clocking in at just 245mb, so get downloading. 2.50 brings with it many new additions, including the suspend/resume feature, backup and restore, accessibility options and […]

  • Harley Quinn DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight is a prequel

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s Harley Quinn pre-order DLC is set before the events of the main game, according to Amazon’s description. Today we learned a few details about the pre-order DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight, namely the Harley Quinn one. According to the description on Amazon, the DLC takes place in the lead-up to the events […]

  • Bloodborne Vicar Amelia summon mystery solved

    Bloodborne players unable to summon near Vicar Amelia: here’s your solution. Bloodborne’s secrets are unfolding by the hour as clever players piece together From Software’s cunning design. Yesterday we reported problems summoning in the Cathedral Ward, before the Vicar Amelia boss fight. It turns out this isn’t a bug – or if it is, it’s […]

  • Steven Spielberg will direct film adaption of Ready Player One

    Steven Spielberg will direct the film adaption of the sci-fi, virtual world, video game themed novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film in June 2010 and hired screenwriter Zak Penn to rewrite the previous draft written by Eric Eason, according to Deadline. The book takes place in […]

  • Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets shouldn’t forget about the custom audio

    Here’s a friendly reminder for Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets: be sure to download the Headset Companion App from the PlayStation store if you haven’t already. As previously reported, the game supports a custom Bloodborne audio mode which can be uploaded. It contains custom audio created by developers specifically tuned to enhance the audio. This […]

  • EA explains why FIFA Ultimate Team transfer prices are now platform specific

    EA has posted a blog entry explaining its FIFA Ultimate Team transfer market price ranges which now include platform-specific pricing in order to best the coin sellers. EA said it has implemented the changes to FUT over the last several weeks because it should be “fair and fun for every player,” ultimately coming to the […]

  • Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness now available

    In case you forgot, Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness was released today. It is available on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The third episode releases on iOS devices and Android tomorrow, March 26. The Sword in the Darkness finds Asher Forrester heading to Mereen […]

  • Bloodborne players are already documenting their crazy antics

    Bloodborne has been available for almost two days now in North America, and already players are posting interesting clips and character customization choices for the game. Below are interesting takes on creating a character and videos of a frustrating death and another full of blood coming from a very painful place – monster or not. […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team celebrates sixth year in existence with giveaways

    FIFA Ultimate Team is celebrating its sixth year in existence with special events running from today until March 29. According to EA, every FUT fan will be handed one free pack every day, and those who play at least one match in the FUT Birthday Cup will have a chance to win rare “tradable In-Forms” […]

  • Halo Online is a F2P PC game in development exclusively for Russia – video

    Halo Online is a free-to-play game which will launch this spring in Russia, and is in development with Saber Interactive. According the reveal event attended by IGN Russia, the game was designed to run well on lower-end PCs and runs on a modified Halo 3 engine. The game is set on a secret UNSC space […]

  • SteamWorld Dig Xbox One release expected in late May

    SteamWorld Dig is coming to Xbox One, developer Image & Form has announced. A firm release date hasn’t been announced, but the studio expects the title to arrive on the system in late May. “We’re preparing quite an elaborate Easter egg for the Xbox One version – a gaming thing that we really wanted to […]

  • SMITE celebrating first anniversary with a sale on skins, Ultimate God Pack

    Hi-Rez Studios is celebrating the first anniversary of SMITE with a sale. From today through Friday, March 27, the Ultimate God Pack, which includes all current and future Gods, will run you $19.99. Alll individual pre-launch skins are 50% off, and all Gem Packs will award bonus gems. In addition, from March 27-29, all SMITE […]

  • Borderlands 2 has sold around 12 million copies, says Gearbox

    Speaking with Microsoft’s Major Nelson in his podcast, Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford stated Borderlands 2 has sold somewhere around the 12 million mark. As of August 2014, it was announced by Take-Two in its financial report the 2012 game had sold-in 10 million units. Pitchford noted in the podcast he learned of the figures […]

  • Broken Age releasing on PS4 and Vita same day as Act 2 on PC

    Double Fine Productions has announced it will release Broken Age on the PlayStation Store next month. Act 2 will also be released on PC. The full Broken Age adventure will release on PlayStation 4 and Vita on April 28 in North America and April 29 in Europe. It features cross-buy and cross-save. Broken Age Act […]

  • Star Citizen earned another $1 million within two weeks – total hits $76 million

    Star Citizen continues its funding streak with backers pumping another $1 million into the game’s development in the last two weeks. The total earned for the space sim has now reached $76 million ($76,015,532 to be exact) with 851,395 backers contributing to the staggering figure. Star Citizen’s latest update was version 1.1 which included two […]

  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline top Media Create charts

    Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline were the big ticket debuts during the March 16-2 period in Japan, with each game claiming the top three slots on the Media Create charts, respectively. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD moved 92,094 on PlayStation 4, while Resident Evil Revelations 2 moved 73,373 units on […]

  • You can now learn English or Spanish on Xbox One with the Rosetta App

    Want to learn English or Spanish? Rosetta Stone has an App for that on Xbox One. According to the language teaching firm, Rosetta Stone’s Discover Languages, the new application teaches English and Spanish by way of immersive simulation. Users will virtually travel to learn vocabulary and grammar “necessary for real-world interactions.” Here’s how it works: […]

  • PayDay 2 and PayDay: The Heist have sold over 9 million units combined

    The PayDay franchise is a lucrative IP for Starbreeze and Overkill, as both games combined have sold over 9 million copies as of November 2014. The company has also sold over 8 million paid DLC packages since PayDay 2 was released in 2013 (via NeoGAF). In its Q2 half year report issued in February, net […]

  • Nintendo wants to “surprise” customers with NX, not expand upon existing hardware

    Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has firm wants to “surprise” players with its new NX system. Speaking in an interview with Nikkei, translated by Kotaku, Iwata wouldn’t go into details on the new system, but stated expanding on a current gaming system would be “dull.” “In the past few years, the idea of what [encompasses] a […]

  • Kojima Station show suspended

    In another episode in the the ongoing kerfuffle between Hideo Kojima and Konami, the publisher has suspended the Kojima Station web show. Recent tweets from the newly created Japanese Metal Gear Solid account confirm that Kojima Station will not be broadcast tomorrow, but would not provide a date for the next episode. The Tweets were […]

  • Watch Battle Royale for free this weekend on Xbox Live

    Square Enix is celebrating the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD by offering Xbox Live members in the UK a free rental of Battle Royale. Starting Saturday, March 28 and through Sunday, March 29, Xbox Live members in the UK will be able to rent Battle Royale through the Xbox Video Store, for free. The […]

  • Bloodborne journal, part 1: managing anxiety on the path to the Cleric Beast

    Bloodborne is both like and unlike the Souls games. Brenna descends into Yharnam with reluctance and trepidation. Need help succeeding in Bloodborne? You need our Bloodborne walkthrough and boss guide. Bloodborne isn’t Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. Let’s get that out of the way right off. I enjoyed both Dark Souls games, but it was […]