The demo for Sonic Generations hit PS3’s and 360’s across the globe last Thursday, intended as a playable celebration of Sonic’s 20th birthday, and it took hackers all of a day to crack it open and rip out its forbidden treasures to an audience of forum-goers everywhere. It was only supposed to contain the ‘Classic Sonic’ version of Green Hill Zone, but prodders and pokers have found oh so much more, from hidden remixes to rough CG models. SEGA has always had a particular issue with demos that contain ample amounts of “secret” content, and the Sonic community is, if nothing else, a committed and curious lot.
The end result, for now, is an unofficially-official rundown of all the stages that will be recreated in Generations as both “classic” and “modern” levels. A lot of these were easily predicted, some are genuinely surprising… For me, nothing is more indicative of the franchise’s unsettling tonal shift, post-Genesis, than the fact that 45% of the game will now contain environments based around human-populated cities. No snow levels, no desert levels, not even a casino-themed stage as far as anyone can tell. (DLC pinball games, while admittedly cool, do not count.)
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some great choices in here, though. Hit the jump to see the full list of zones/stages, complete with rundowns of unique features and video play-throughs of the original versions!
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1.) Green Hill Zone – (Sonic the Hedgehog) *Officially Confirmed!
- Wooden bridges
- Branching paths
- Classic Zone badniks
It’s the first Zone out of any Zones, it’s the most recognizable Sonic environment, and– in more immediate relevance to this article– it was basically outed in the teaser trailer. It would have been ridiculous for them to not include Green Hill.
The video above features an edit that combines several playthroughs to create a full run-through of the entire Modern-style version, but for a more complete demonstration of both versions (on handycam and with commentary), check out this demo with brand manager Aaron Webber. He shows off a somewhat hidden path, as well, emphasizing the care that’s been paid to this game’s exploration and replayability.
Not gonna lie (nor would I have to for you people)– I was totally sold on this from that teaser trailer alone, but the gameplay videos and demo that followed have hooked me at 110%.
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2.) Chemical Plant Zone – (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
- Vaguely human-populated city
- Pink “Mega Mack” liquid
- Trap-door platforms
- Vacuum transportation tubes
This would have been my personal selection from Sonic 2, mostly because the music is so beloved and so many people recognize this stage. It’s the second zone of Sonic 2, so most people will have played through it dozens and dozens of times. As much as I’ll mourn the loss of a possible remix/reminagining of the Mystic Cave, Oil Ocean or Metropolis Zones, you really can’t do much better than Chemical Plant.
Hackers also uncovered this game’s version of the “drowning” jingle that everyone knows and loves/hates. There’s only one other level on here where the threat of drowning seems possible, so I’d say that the odds of players scrambling for air in the trademark pink liquid this time around are pretty damn good.
Also, as a cameo note, this is very likely to be where “Classic Tails” might make his first appearance, which would be pretty keen. Tails, like everyone else in this franchise, was way better before he started talking. Fingers crossed, for sure.
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3.) Sky Sanctuary Zone – (Sonic & Knuckles)
- Floating platforms
- Assistance from Knuckles
- Bouncy clouds
- Battles with ‘Mecha Sonic’
Look, I’ll make a concession: this is a good choice.
Sky Sanctuary is a great level with great music and scenery that will undoubtedly look stunning in full HD. But to overlook all of the other worthy stages in Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles in favor of this one seems bizarre and insane. No Carnival Night Zone? No Marble Garden, no Ice Cap, no Mushroom Hill or Lava Reef or Death Egg? Really? There’s always the chance that the impending 3DS version might embrace some of these arguably more obscure levels, but the odds are not good.
It’ll be odd to see a zone set near the climax of one game pop up as the third level of another, but ultimately this will be a pretty solid choice– especially in comparison to some later inclusions. A cameo appearance by “Classic Knuckles” is almost definitely in the cards, as his help for the initial part of this stage is crucial.
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4.) Speed Highway – (Sonic Adventure)
- Directly human-populated city
- Looping, twisting stretches of paved road
- Helicopter ride!
- Vertical wall skyscraper sprint
Here is where we, like the franchise, start to go downhill.
Picking this level from SA1 certainly makes sense. It’s one of Sonic’s more iconic stages from the game, something immediately recognizable that, at the time, was a great display of Sonic’s abilities. Unfortunately, Speed Highway is the first or four manmade cities to be appearing in this game, meaning concrete and asphalt will be noticeably prominent for most of the action. Hell, Chemical Plant even technically counts as a city environment, if you examine the background, which would bring this to roughly half of the game.
That being said, the “modern” incarnation of Speed Highway will probably play out quite similarly to Skyscraper Scamper from Sonic Unleashed, but at night and with the obligatory vertical sprint down the side of a building. If they include the “dawn” aspect of the stage, it would probably land in the classic version over the modern. It could go either way, there.
All-in-all, not a terrible stage, but one that certainly helps contribute to a frustrating trend for this self-celebratory tribute.
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5.) City Escape – (Sonic Adventure 2) *Officially Confirmed!
- Another human-populated city
- Urban snowboarding
- Giant, killer G.U.N. truck
- That song, man, that song
Really, this was the only possible choice.
Sure SA2 has plenty of memorable Sonic levels (and music) like Green Forest or Metal Harbor, but this is the one that most people immediately associate with the game. The song certainly helps, and some of the gameplay ideas for this reimagining are genuinely exciting. Take the GUN truck in Classic Sonic’s stage, for instance: now the truck is present for almost the entire stage, relentlessly pursuing you and changing the architecture of the level by plowing into scenery and destroying platforms. That’s brilliant.
It’s also pretty convenient that this stage originally ended in Sonic’s first official encounter with Shadow the Hedgehog. Since he’s also officially confirmed to be making an appearance, this would probably be the most natural place for him to pop up this time around.
Also, as confirmed in gameplay videos out of E3, Omochao is set to make a minor cameo by hovering around you as you pull off stunts and hit trick rings. That’s pretty cool, as his presence was certainly a notable aspect of the stage way back in 2001.
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6.) Seaside Hill – (Sonic Heroes)
- Ramps, loops, all the typical Sonic tropes
- Bobsled slopes on… grass… and stone…
- Ocean Palace area, shifting ruins
- Floating turtle platforms
- Rolling rock chase
- Potential for underwater areas
Seaside Hill has been getting a lot of attention lately, serving as the lower-maintenance, modern-day equivalent to Green Hill in lower-priority, party-style games like Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games and Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing. It is, essentially, the Green Hill for the younger generation, an environment famous as the first stage from the first multi-platform-at-launch Sonic game.
As such, it certainly seems like a disconcertingly similar experience to Green Hill: checkered terrain, green striped grass, palm tress, the whole shebang. It would almost become a direct repeat were it nor for the important inclusion of Ocean Palace, the environment’s second stage that, technically, is still a part of Seaside Hill. This is where the variety will come into play, as the water and temples might provide a pseudo-Labyrinth Zone experience that will offer players a second chance at air bubbles and drowning.
The music is not incredible, either, but perhaps they’ll figure out an approach that is both unexpected and improved. One can certainly hope, anyway.
I’ll bet dollars to donuts that fucking orca makes a guest appearance here, as well. I hate that whale so much.
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7.) Crisis City – (SONIC the Hedgehog, 2006)
- Human-populated city, albeit in ruins
- More urban snowboarding
- Grind rails
- Platform jumping inside a flame tornado
- “Mach Speed” sprint away from flame tornado
- More fire? I guess fire is sort of a feature
I’m using this specific video because it both displays the level in full and adds the context of just how terrible the referenced game truly is. If you want the digest version: it is a shitty, shitty, shitty game. It does not deserve any sort of tribute and the fact that way better zones/stages have been overlooked from earlier entries (seemingly for the sake of equal attention towards every major installment in the series) is completely disappointing.
I can almost guarantee that they included this stage because it was the simplest way to shoehorn a cameo appearance by Silver the Hedgehog, making this yet another reason to hate Silver the Hedgehog. He comes from this ruined world of the future, you see, because he’s a time traveler. The setup of his origin is so fucking complicated that there would be no other way to explain his existence if you didn’t just seize the “time holes” angle of this game’s plot to visit his exact introduction point from his only major game appearance– hence Crisis City.
So, is this really the stand-out level of 2006’s SONIC the Hedgehog? The truth is, no one really cares. The game being marked and honored here is absolute garbage, so it doesn’t matter. You can probably expect two passable interpretations, as this is another game that featured neither the “Classic” or “Modern” styles of gameplay that will be applied this time around. It’s another city level, certainly, but at least this one has a hook: utter destruction and chaos. This level is meant to represent the ruined world of the far-flung future, so if we’re going to be stuck in another manmade city then at least Crisis City’s bottomless fire pits and whirling flame tornados might help it serve as an obscure lava-themed stage for Generations.
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8.) Rooftop Run – (Sonic Unleashed) *Officially Confirmed!
- Yet another human-populated city
- Analogue of Italy, basically
- Branching high/low paths
- Narrow alleyways, wide courtyards
- Climbing, then descending a giant clock tower
Rooftop Run is from Sonic Unleashed, the game that introduced the now-established “modern” style of Sonic gameplay, so having another “modern” level made from scratch isn’t very exciting. We’ve already seen a crisp, HD version of this setting, so the best we can hope for is a more streamlined and improved level design that tries some things the original didn’t have. It will also have to work very hard to distance itself from City Escape at times, since both are cheerful daytime runs over the roofs and through the alleyways of intensely vertical cities with atypical architecture.
The real value will come from the Classic version’s 2D reimagining. Even then, however, the majority of this environment will probably be light grey with flecks of reddish-brown and may appear startlingly similar to the City Escape stage in both layout and navigation.
Also, it’s very likely that Chip will make a cameo appearance similar to Omochao, flying beside you as you pull off stunts or tricks and rooting you on. He’s not a beloved character by any stretch of the imagination, but he would certainly be welcome in this sort of appearance. Shit, it’d be more gameplay action than he ever saw in the actual Unleashed levels themselves, that’s for sure!
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9.) Planet Wisp – (Sonic Colors)
- Lush greenery
- Construction areas
- Wisp-based power-ups
- Long stretches of sprint-based 3D gameplay
- Vertical-scaling 2D areas
The inclusion of any level from Colors seems odd and almost too immediate… this was, after all, the very last game to have been released. Then again, it was the most notable and commendable game in the series from almost a decade’s worth of installments, so it could be argued that it would be a crime not to include a nod in Generations. The level music is wonderful, the setting is interesting, and this stage will certainly provide more than enough material for both “Classic” and “Modern” styles of gameplay.
The real question becomes whether or not SEGA will include the Wisp-based power-ups that made Colors so memorable. It would complicate things to introduce this mechanic for only one Zone, but the Wisps were such an integral part of Colors that it would almost be ridiculous to leave them out.
The “Modern” gameplay will benefit from an HD upgrade, at the very least, and you could certainly do worse than lush greenery surrounded by Eggman-branded construction equipment for scenery.