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Sonic Generations: the forgotten “good” Sonic game


KHCast
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Is it just me, or does it feel like outside the fandom, a lot of people often seem to forget that Sonic Generations exists when discussing sonic games being good? Idk with a lot of the “mainstream” youtube gaming channels I watch, when they bring up Sonic a lot of them tend to refer to Sonic Mania as when Sonic “finally” started being fun again, and it’s weird cause Generations happened, a lot of the gaming community loved it, and then people forgot about it. Even on Twitter I see little discussion around it. Is Gens just in a bad position?  Cause I think about it, and it came after Colors, but then was followed by Sonic Lost World after a long wait, Boom, and Forces, all of which were bad-mixed as far as the general consensus went. It really does feel like it got sandwiched a bit. Idk, am I overthinking this? Or do other people notice this as well?

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At the time Generations came out, it was a boon of goodwill and optimism for the future.  Finally, they'd done two "great" Sonic games in a row, Colours wasn't just a fluke!

...Turns out... Colours and Generations as a one-two punch, was a fluke.

Essentially, the lukewarm reception of Episode 2, Lost World and Forces, and the abysmal reception of Sonic Boom, has meant Sonic Generations has been downgraded from the harbinger of "Oh shit, Sonic really is good again guys!" to just "yeah, Generations is one of the ones worth playing".  The grandeur of being the latest release has faded, and now while it's still considered one of the high points of the series alongside 2, 3&K, Colours and Mania... We have also had Lost World, Boom and Forces to confirm that no, Sonic isn't good again, he's still as inconsistent as he's always been.  The ratio of good to mediocre to bad Sonic hasn't really changed since what it was before Generations.

Basically, when Generations came out, the reviews and essays were all "Sonic has had a rocky time in 3D... until now!"  But the games since have returned us to the status quo: "Sonic has had a rocky time in 3D".  It's sadly, once again, as true a statement now as it was before Generations.

 

(Note to pitchfork grabbers, the above is all written within the context of general opinion outside of the fanbase, where Colours and Generations are considered the only universally good 3D Sonic games - I know Colours is contentious and that most of us would say SA1/SA2 are high points, but most people outside the fanbase would disagree).

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I don't think people forgot Generations. I think they realized it's just ok. Gens Classic was always a pale imitation of actual classic Sonic, and with Mania crushing it at that goal there's not much reason to go back to it. And while Gens Modern may be some of the best the boost gameplay has been...it's still the boost gameplay, and with the game approaching 10 years old I can't imagine there's much left to get out of it.

 

Generations is definitely miles better than games that are bafflingly designed or outright broken. But looking back at it, long after the honeymoon period...it's just ok.

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I'd say Generations is just an easy to miss Sonic game for how consistent it is. In terms of innovation, scope and all that it's a pretty by the numbers Sonic game for the meta era and esPECIALLY as an anniversary game. You could more then easily argue that for Colors, but that game has the context of being what many consider Sonic's release from the "dark age" which keeps it fresh in people's minds. 

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48 minutes ago, JezMM said:

...Turns out... Colours and Generations as a one-two punch, was a fluke.

In hindsight its kinda nuts how closely Colors and Generations came out with like a year between them and they both were seen as pretty good mainline games and we cant even get that in 3-4 year gaps, shit sucks man lol

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13 minutes ago, KHCast said:

Wasn’t that only because Gens started development as a HD console port of  Colors? Or is it the other way around, and colors was initially a Gens wii port? Or was that all just speculation?

I believe it was the latter if I'm not mistaken which is still a pretty happy accident all things considered 

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Colors and Generations just aren't that remarkable in the wider scope of gaming. New Super Mario Bros, Donkey Country Returns and Rayman Origins were all much better value for your money and that's not even getting into the wide amount of non-platformers we had as alternatives. They weren't groundbreaking technical showcases, they didn't have any flashy gimmicks or endearing new characters, and they often couldn't even live up to the depth of the Sonic games they were emulating. All they had was their gameplay, and on that front those games are just too shallow and devoid of content. 

I don't want to be too mean to these titles since I certainly got my money's worth out of them, but they certainly weren't as competitive as Sonic games were in their heyday. Unfortunately they made some creative decisions that put them in direct comparison with older Sonic games and they couldn't measure up to that either, putting them on notice with hardcore fans. 

This is all okay with me, btw. I don't think they'reunderrated or anything. They got the exact amount of recognition I think they deserved before everyone moved onto better things. 

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13 hours ago, Wraith said:

Colors and Generations just aren't that remarkable in the wider scope of gaming. New Super Mario Bros, Donkey Country Returns and Rayman Origins were all much better value for your money and that's not even getting into the wide amount of non-platformers we had as alternatives. They weren't groundbreaking technical showcases, they didn't have any flashy gimmicks or endearing new characters, and they often couldn't even live up to the depth of the Sonic games they were emulating. All they had was their gameplay, and on that front those games are just too shallow and devoid of content. 

I don't want to be too mean to these titles since I certainly got my money's worth out of them, but they certainly weren't as competitive as Sonic games were in their heyday. Unfortunately they made some creative decisions that put them in direct comparison with older Sonic games and they couldn't measure up to that either, putting them on notice with hardcore fans. 

This is all okay with me, btw. I don't think they'reunderrated or anything. They got the exact amount of recognition I think they deserved before everyone moved onto better things. 

I honestly feel like I was saying all this ten years ago, but the loudest voices in the fanbase were still calling Generations an all-time great of video games with its only substantial flaw being that it was too short. There was some pretty extreme tunnel vision going on back then.

Generations is a decent game, a 7/10. It's definitely well on the good side of the spectrum, no question. But it's a heavily curated experience that sorely lacks depth. It's a platformer with 18 levels, 7 bosses and a final boss divided amongst 2 play styles. Each level takes only a few minutes. There's virtually no story to speak of and the hub is basically an interactive menu. That's makes good a game that's tiny. Teeny tiny! And it sorely lacks an identity; it had this problem when it was new simply because it was a celebration of the past, but that's been doubled down on by Mania and Forces aping much of its premise. There's filler content in the form of some very slap-dash missions that recycle the levels you've already played in very uninteresting ways, and I seriously doubt that anyone is eager to replay many of them. 

When you get into the meat if the regular levels, they don't really match up the platforming contemporaries of its time or the previous Sonic games. The levels are constructed like a series of set pieces that will play out more or less exactly the same every single time. The game has a physics engine for Sonic's movement, but Sonic's physics are invisibly overriden all the time, changing his speed and direction in unnatural ways. This is completely unlike the more innovative platformers of the 2000s and 2010s and makes Generations seem a bit half-arsed by comparison. Or at the very least, discourages repeat playthroughs by homogenising the gameplay experience.

It lacks the depth of the games that it's supposed to be emulating and celebrating. It doesn't offer the same amount of content as it's contemporaries. The platforming genre has moved on in the past ten years, and Generations remains the critical pinnacle of 3D, with the 3D games following it widely regarded as duds or failing to capture the same magic.

Generations, following on from Unleashed and Colours, should have marked the beginning of an upwards trend for 3D Sonic games. But as time marched on, Sonic couldn't match Generations again. People have "forgotten" about it because it was never amazing outside the scope of just how dire things had been for the series in the 2000s. To say that it's been forgotten though is totally wrong. Once people got over the hype of a decent Sonic game, they more or less settled on thinking "yeah its pretty good" and the series has failed to keep people engaged every since.

tl;dr Generations isn't bad or forgotten, but it is unremarkable beyond its novel use of nostalgic elements at the time and for being better than Sonic "the first good 3D game in the series" Colours. Now that the shock factor is gone, there's not a great deal to talk about because the series hasn't progressed or improved since and we're back to boring or bad 3D Sonic games.

 

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I'm generally not on board with "better game exists so the game isnt worth it" argument since we ignore the inherent appeal each series has to its own like you're gonna convince people that like Sonic's asthetic to play something like NSMB Wii over Generations because it's more a "solidly built" 2D platformer than a 2D/3D fast paced hybrid with crazy visuals set pieces music etc like it's really not impossible people would just prefer it. 

It's just such an odd argument to me to make in regards to Sonic games because not since Sonic 3 have these  games ever been as good as its contemporaries yet most fans don't care because they still find value in them, heck even I'll play SA2 over something like Mario Sunshine despite the game being better in the technical sense because it has inherent appeal to me as a Sonic fan despite its being just okay, so why do I only see this argument tossed out in regards to Colors/Gens? Because they were actually praised by non Sonic fans for once? Well I guess but the meta critic score of 77-79 for both games tells me even back then no one thought they were GOTY worthy just in the context of the series they stood out as enjoyable experience and saw it as good things to come for the franchise even if they didn't pan out like that.

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I had the pleasure of finally playing this game a few weeks ago and really loved it. Only major criticisms were some of the controls are slippery and I really wish it was longer. Definitely falls under the category of a good Sonic game imo. Kinda surprised it doesn't get more praise given that it's a part of the modern era while simultaneously being a good game lol.

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2 hours ago, Soniman said:

I'm generally not on board with "better game exists so the game isnt worth it" argument since we ignore the inherent appeal each series has to its own like you're gonna convince people that like Sonic's asthetic to play something like NSMB Wii over Generations because it's more a "solidly built" 2D platformer than a 2D/3D fast paced hybrid with crazy visuals set pieces music etc like it's really not impossible people would just prefer it. 

It's just such an odd argument to me to make in regards to Sonic games because not since Sonic 3 have these  games ever been as good as its contemporaries yet most fans don't care because they still find value in them, heck even I'll play SA2 over something like Mario Sunshine despite the game being better in the technical sense because it has inherent appeal to me as a Sonic fan despite its being just okay, so why do I only see this argument tossed out in regards to Colors/Gens? Because they were actually praised by non Sonic fans for once? Well I guess but the meta critic score of 77-79 for both games tells me even back then no one thought they were GOTY worthy just in the context of the series they stood out as enjoyable experience and saw it as good things to come for the franchise even if they didn't pan out like that.

This isn't the point at all though. If you're interested in Sonic, Generations is definitely worth checking out. But there's not much game to enjoy and it's not that amazing.

When Generations first came out, people in the fanbase were going wild about it as though it was a platforming great. It was and always will be a pretty good game. But because the rest of the gaming sphere didn't think it was quite as amazing as Sonic fans treated it, of course it's going to get less attention as time moves on. Games that make a really strong impression are the ones that stick around. Generations is over too quickly and doesn't stand out.

Just think about what Generations has to stand make it stands out. It's a Sonic game. What else? It's pretty good. Anything else? Well it had the 2D/3D hybrid gameplay, Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, returning levels and... Well, all of that stuff has become standard for the series since then.

Now think about other games in the series. What makes them stand out? They've almost all got a lot more sticking power than Generations.

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When I look at generations, I really do see a game that is a love letter to Sonic fans. And a reminder to even non sonic fans about Sonic's staying power, regardless of his ups and downs. He's still going.

 

Generations to me was always in the B- range for games if I were to give it a grade. A legitimately good title but not a landmark title in the series. I think it incidentally gained that reputation by being perceived as the only consistently good 3D sonic game outside the fan base, along with colors. Really, "peak 3D sonic" for the casuals, which don't regard 3D sonic well in the first place. People look back on the past 20 years and it's just  about the only thing they can really point to on the 'recommend' list unfortunately.

 

Sonics global popularity and recognizability is really underappreciated because many other series would have long gone into hiatus by now.

3 minutes ago, SBR2 said:

Who the hell has forgotten Generations? It's still widely considered one of the best and probably will be until it becomes trendy to hate on it like Colors.

Colors is only trendy to hate on by a particular subset of fans who happen to be very loud at the moment. The mainstream and critics have been fond of it since it's release, as well as it's younger fans that grew up during the early boost era.

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I wouldn't exactly say that it's "forgotten" but yeah, given where the series is now, its importance has largely been displaced.

That whole time period is really only seen as a blimp as far as this series goes to the general gaming community. A time where everyone thought ST was getting their shit together. Though, we now know that simply wasn't the case and there's only so much 2-3 hours of actually fun gameplay can do to change that. Hell, I still enjoy it's gameplay the most out of the entire series and I can't even fault people for not bringing it up more. It's just been a needlessly stupid decade.

Though, to be fair, most content I've seen of the series recently is usually knowledgeable enough to say something like "Sonic has had an interesting go of it. Its hits of greatness sandwiched between the infamous lows (often within the same game) makes the entire thing a roller coaster of quality" instead of "Sonic has had a rough history in 3D" or some shit.

 

But, real talk, a part of me can't help but laugh at how optimistic I was back then (like 2012). To remember where I thought this series was going versus where it actually went is just... yikes.

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6 hours ago, Soniman said:

I'm generally not on board with "better game exists so the game isnt worth it" argument since we ignore the inherent appeal each series has to its own like you're gonna convince people that like Sonic's asthetic to play something like NSMB Wii over Generations because it's more a "solidly built" 2D platformer than a 2D/3D fast paced hybrid with crazy visuals set pieces music etc like it's really not impossible people would just prefer it. 

It's just such an odd argument to me to make in regards to Sonic games because not since Sonic 3 have these  games ever been as good as its contemporaries yet most fans don't care because they still find value in them, heck even I'll play SA2 over something like Mario Sunshine despite the game being better in the technical sense because it has inherent appeal to me as a Sonic fan despite its being just okay, so why do I only see this argument tossed out in regards to Colors/Gens? Because they were actually praised by non Sonic fans for once? Well I guess but the meta critic score of 77-79 for both games tells me even back then no one thought they were GOTY worthy just in the context of the series they stood out as enjoyable experience and saw it as good things to come for the franchise even if they didn't pan out like that.

If the question of this topic is "Why didn't these games hold up in the public consciousness", we have to consider what other options the average player might have had. Every game have at something different to offer you, but the whole point of genres are to classify experiences that are similar.  They're all competing on the same shelf for the same amount of money at the end of the day, so why did one experience succeed over another one in the same genre?

Wouldn't a "return to form" for Sonic be something that wouldn't fade from the public consciousness before it's contemporaries? Wouldn't it's quality compared to a Mario/DK/Rayman game be debatable instead of a foregone conclusion? 

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When Generations came out, I didn't quite feel like I got my money's worth. Add about 10 years of time plus games with even less meat on their bones (Forces) to ruminate on it and.. yeah..

When you compare the sheer mass of a game like Mario Galaxy (nevermind it's sequel) or Rayman Origins to Generations you immediately see how strapped for content it was. Just a handful of (fun!) levels with minimal engagement beyond them. Even if this were the case, it could've kept the Unleashed philosophy of having a strong difficulty curve to encourage replay, but Gens was not only easy to complete but also easy to S Rank. For that reason, the game has given me about an 1/8th of replay value compared to most games in the series preceding it. Even now on replays every few years, I just kinda beat the levels, get an S Rank in one go, and then cut it off. There's just not a lot for me take away from it.

It also always annoyed me that it was treated as "the best 3D Sonic" or even "the best Sonic game" at it's peak, considering (much like how I view Mania) it owes basically every single one of it's successes to games that previously existed. It doesn't feel fair to give it that kind of rank in any of it's qualities, since the game itself hardly has an original bone in it's body, even if it was fairly creative with what it repurposes.

It's a fine game. And it's definitely not forgotten; the average normie will still tell you its the only good 3D Sonic or whatever. It deserved praise as a good title, and it had it's time in the sun, so I don't think it's wrong to just be okay with it mellowing out. I've been ready to move on, haha.

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23 minutes ago, Wraith said:

If the question of this topic is "Why didn't these games hold up in the public consciousness", we have to consider what other options the average player might have had. Every game have at something different to offer you, but the whole point of genres are to classify experiences that are similar.  They're all competing on the same shelf for the same amount of money at the end of the day, so why did one experience succeed over another one in the same genre?

Wouldn't a "return to form" for Sonic be something that wouldn't fade from the public consciousness before it's contemporaries? Wouldn't it's quality compared to a Mario/DK/Rayman game be debatable instead of a foregone conclusion? 

Thats fair enough considering. I was thinking more on how this is relevant in 2021 and not 2011which wasn't what the initial inquiry was about obviously. I'd argue the gap isn't THAT large like we're talking a 7 game vs 8/9 quality games but yes in 2011 if you had to make a choice on how what would be worth your money's worth and you only had one choice then yeah the latter games would be the obvious pick of you weren't inherently biased to any of the games in particular 

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10 hours ago, Blue Blood said:

The levels are constructed like a series of set pieces that will play out more or less exactly the same every single time.

I feel like there’s a couple exceptions here, that said. Seaside Hill to this day I still appreciate for how it actually seemed to do more than just be a bunch of set pieces, and more seemed to be a level worth exploring multiple times to find new paths. 
 

On another note,  do you think DLC content would have potentially helped Gens in any regard? I wanna say maybe, but the problem with that is that first impression, unless you’re a game like something like Smash or some other big fighter,  probably leaves more of a lasting appeal for many. Idk, DLC can definitely often help with replay value, and keeping in the public’s mind, but at the same time, less people are likely to experience that DLC

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I just want to state for the record, because I don't see a whole lot pushback to sentiments like these lately...

Sonic Generations, from a certain perspective, might just be my favorite video game, period. It's certainly the one I've gotten the most value out of over the past 10 years, I'm still not bored of it, and I still enjoy playing it now just as much as I did back in 2011.

You see less hype and praise for it nowadays and more people picking at it for the same reason you see that with Mania: Once the excitement's died down, the people who are satisfied with a game are less-inclined to speak up about it. The wheel that wants grease is the one that squeaks, haha. But that doesn't mean there aren't tons of people out there who still love it and count it among their favorites.

I think it's in a weird place right now. It's _still_ the last well-regarded 3D Sonic game, and the most recent one took its formula and did everything worse. Like the Adventure games after 06, it's going to look a little tarnished through that lens.

Basically, it's too old to be hyped up as something fresh or exciting, but not old enough that most people are nostalgically looking back on it just yet. But give it a few years, and especially if newer games move away from its precedents, I bet you'll see a lot more love for it again. These things go in cycles.

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I would go with the sentiment that people tend to realize, or judge things more clearly once the hype is gone. I've noticed many people that used to love the game, and in retrospect doesn't quite like it at much anymore. Some would go back and say that Sonic games were never good.

It can also be a change of taste, or value comparison. The competition for entertainment is fierce out there, and we're not only talking about just platformers.

Personally, I'm not too bummed about it, since I never thought it was exceptional. It was actually the game that started to dispel the illusion.

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On 3/11/2021 at 11:34 PM, KHCast said:

Is it just me, or does it feel like outside the fandom, a lot of people often seem to forget that Sonic Generations exists

Take the word 'Generations' out of that sentence and then you've got it. XD

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It feels kind of like Super Mario 3D Land in that it's a bunch of good levels, but that's all it is, levels. Sure, it has kind of the excuse of being a nostalgia title, but beyond that, it lacks a distinct identity of its own to be particularly memorable to me.

Oddly enough, despite how padded and janky Sonic Adventure is, I find myself returning to it more often. Perhaps it's just lingering nostalgia from its 1999 debut, but it once felt legendary, and I can still feel its subconscious influence in modern games even today. I think one of the most telling aspects is the way Generations handled Speed Highway. The original level ends with the At Dawn section, which is such an unexpected, yet pleasing transition that it's hard for me to forget it. It brings back memories of being on vacation and anticipating what adventures today would bring. Generations, on the other hand, just keeps going like in the first part. It's functional, but not as memorable.

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