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Sonic Generations: Something old, new, borrowed and blue

Sonic goes through his greatest hits, with only himself for company...

Most hedgehogs ensure a long-life by avoiding roads and remembering not to hibernate in bonfires.

Sonic The Hedgehog, however, has made it to 20 years - a lifespan assured by a decade of sheer quality that paid for enough gold rings to save him each time his games came unstuck from their corkscrews later on.

For those who sleep beneath chequered Green Hill Zone duvets and awake to the squawk of a foot-tapping Sonic alarm clock every morning, the past decade has been pretty tough going. Recently Sonic Colours on the Wii was perfectly fine and downloadable Sonic 4 a brief return to form, but games like the 15th anniversary's disappointing Sonic the Hedgehog was execrable.

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GENERATION X
It's great to discover, then, that Sonic: Generations is the real deal. A modern Sonic game built to simultaneously respect his roots and tighten up the chase-cam looping gameplay that the blue one's newer fans have come to expect. It's a birthday celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog, and its genius is that it provides two versions of the spikey speedster to blow out the candles.

"In this game we have a new mysterious nemesis who eradicates time and space," explained Producer and Sonic Team stalwart Takashi Lizuka when we flew out to meet him, and to fail in our attempt to beat his times in the Green Hill Zone. "This forces the Modern Sonic back in time, and he meets Classic Sonic...

The storyline is that Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic collaborate together and go on an adventure through 20 years of Sonic's history." The two Sonics redraw their own history in their own fashions, then, gradually bring the colour back to an interactive map that's been blanketed in a white nothingness by the time-meddler's nefarious plans.

SONIC TONIC
Generations has Sonic's most iconic moments, from his beginnings on the Mega Drive through to his spell on the Dreamcast and beyond, being reimagined twice: once as cute little nubbin-nosed Classic Sonic and then again in his chattier modern form. Not only are all the legendary zones of yesteryear getting a 3D makeover, the more recent fan-favourites are being reimagined as side-on 1991 affairs, full of loops, leaps and smashed walls.

Only Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic will be playable in Generations, but it's promised that all of their most popular wild-life chums will make an appearance - whether in the storyline or in the interactive 'White Space' that the daring duo gradually recolour as they sprint through the game.

Playing as Classic Sonic in the opening Green Hill Zone is an utter delight, and it thankfully retains the thrill of building momentum that was strangely absent in the otherwise decent Sonic 4. With the traditional Sonic one button controls, and entirely familiar music to serenade your travels, the importance of speed is underlined as checkpoints flag up your times and a blurry-legged Sonic nuzzles the far edge of your screen.

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All of Sonic's 16-bit animations have been lovingly recast in the modern Hedgehog engine, meanwhile, allowing for a wonderful side-on three dimensional effect that simultaneously can provide impressive whizzbang effects and the occasional jaunty camera angle.

Throughout the Green Hill Zone's distant chequered hills and loops stretch out into the distance beneath vibrant blue skies - as much a surreal holiday destination as an iconic platformer level. What's more, the game's dedication to multiple paths through each level, and the chunky old-school cathode-ray TV screens Sonic can break for bonuses, is heart-warming.

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