For Sonic the Hedgehog's 20th anniversary, Sega and Sonic Team will bring two versions of its mascot -- in "classic" and "modern" flavours -- together for a time-travelling, old school-meets-new school adventure. But only one of those Sonics will actually speak in Sonic Generations.
Sonic Generations spans three eras of Sonic the Hedgehog's video game history: the Sega Genesis, Sega Dreamcast and "next-gen" system games (Sonic Colors, Sonic Unleashed). It blends classic, 2D side-scrolling Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay with the faster paced, behind the back 3D gameplay of games like Sonic Colors.
Old Sonic plays simply. He jumps and spin dashes through two dimensional levels like "Green Hill Zone," the first level players will see in Sonic Generations. New Sonic has the targeting attacks, air jumping combos and rail slides of contemporary Sonic games. The two hedgehogs (and their respective fox sidekicks) will behave in era appropriate ways (for the most part).
Modern Sonic, the leaner of the two, will be as chatty as he has been since the Dreamcast's Sonic Adventure. Classic Sonic will be as quiet as he was in his 1991 debut on the Sega Genesis. His sidekick, Classic Tails, will speak on his behalf when the two Sonics interact, says Sonic Generations producer Takashi Iizuka.
But classic Sonic may get to silently experience some of the skills and superpowers that modern Sonic has enjoyed in the modern era. I asked Iizuka if classic, side-scrolling Sonic would be able to enjoy the superpowers of a game like Sonic Colors or Sonic Unleashed. Would he turn into a drill or a laser or a werewolf (or "werehog," if you must)? Could chubby Sonic use a sword in Generations? Iizuka would neither confirm nor deny that classic Sonic's skills would expand beyond spin dashing and jumping, but it sure sounds like a possibility.
All we know for sure is that Sonic Generations does an expert job in delivering a very handsome high-definition 2D side-scroller half of the time. The two-dimensional platformer version of "Rooftop Run" from Sonic Unleashed demonstrated by Sega was a lovely sight to behold, far better looking than Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I for current consoles. Its modern Sonic/3D counterpart looked good too, full of the blisteringly fast, love it or hate it gameplay of current Sonic titles.
I played a different level on the Gamescom show floor, enjoying the retro flavour of classic Sonic's levels more so than Sonic Generations' take on the "City Escape" level from Sonic Adventure 2. But maybe I'm one of those older, grumpier Sonic fans and need my hedgehog platformers in 2D.
You can see some of Sonic Generations' 2D and 3D gameplay in the title's Gamescom trailer, which dabbles in old and new school levels re-imagined for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo 3DS. Expect Sonic Generations to hit multiple platforms this November. And don't be surprised if a silent, pot-bellied Sonic gets a few new superpowers.