It has been a long while since I've played a new Sonic game on a home console. The last title I completed? Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast, close to 10 years ago.
When the collapse of Sega as a hardware provider came, followed closely by a slew of Sonic titles with reviews that were less than encouraging, I was effectively halted from wanting to pick the series back up.
Playing Sonic again with Sonic Generations made me feel as if the last decade never happened. Playing on my Xbox, it became clear that I had jumped back into my favorite blue hedgehog's world at exactly the right time.
Sonic Generations on Xbox and PS3 is a thrilling game; the levels offer unmatched speed while providing a very clear path for continued forward motion. Not once did I feel the need to stop and explore; the game has a way of keeping you on the move toward your destination and making you love it.
The levels take the best moments from Sonic's 20 years of gaming and upgrade them. Remember those horrible water levels from Sonic's 32-bit days? You won't mind them at all here. Ever get stuck trying to make an impossible jump in Sonic & Knuckles? Not an issue in Sonic Generations.
I think the biggest testament to the success of Sega's level design is that even the bonus challenges -- time trials, races, alternate versions of courses -- are a joy to play through.
The game doesn't take itself too seriously, mining nostalgia for laughs. There are references to chili dogs and Dr. Eggman's old moniker -- Dr. Robotnik -- offering plenty of fan service alongside visual tributes to the stages Sonic fans have played over the years.
The nostalgia that makes this game so great also hinders it from attaining perfection. While riffing on levels from the past, I never quite got the feeling that the plot or levels would surprise me. Sega has you playing in a world that you've visited before and it takes away from some of the exploration that made the previous games fun.
Now if we can stick to this style of game play and insert a fresh story into the mix, I believe Sega will have created the ultimate Sonic sequel. This side of the millennium, that is.
If you're looking for a colorful, upbeat game that has as many addictive challenges as it has nostalgic moments, Sonic Generations is a good bet. The game is available now for $49.99 on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.