Anyone who has ever played a two dimensional Sonic the Hedgehog game knows that the crux of success resides in being able to run from left to right, as quickly as humanly possible. The skills required to effectively complete the game are essentially having good reflexes and a penchant for collecting gold rings. It is amusing to note that right out of the gate, the Sonic Generations Strategy Guide acknowledges the fact that nothing within the pages of the book will ever be able to teach that. If I am not mistaken, the author is pretty much admitting that as a strategic resource, this book is fairly unnecessary in order to be successful. This level of candor is refreshing, yet troubling all at the same time.
For those that haven’t had the opportunity to play Sonic’s most recent iteration, the game is a collection of ten worlds, all of which can be played through with both the “current” three-dimensional and “classic” two-dimensional Sonic characters. Due to the frantic nature of the actual gameplay itself, it is almost implied that each section’s walkthrough should be read through and committed to memory before beginning each stage. Luckily the maps at the head of every chapter help to streamline the process rather significantly. This helps seamlessly give the reader an idea of what is happening and where they are located through every juncture in the walkthrough.
What follows is a baby stepped blow-by-blow through the entire campaign, with probably more depth than would ever be necessary. It is amazing how the author has managed to compose full detailed paragraphs about what would otherwise be a matter of a few split seconds of game time. As stated in the introduction, the key goal of the commentary is in order to help players avoid the most frustrating aspects of the game, by preparing them in advance. This mandate is executed on perfectly, often giving things almost more focus than really necessary, in order to assure the issue is addressed thoroughly. Where this attention to detail is especially useful is when stages have branches in the path. After reading each of the potential pathways, it becomes much easier to determine which is the optimal approach to finishing a stage.
One aspect of the guide itself that is irreplaceable to every completionist are the cutouts, containing the positions of every “Red Star Ring” in the game and the exact process to attain acquisition. Better yet is the fact that the cutouts actually appear in the walkthrough, were they should appear while actually progressing through the stage. For those that are not the collecting type these sections may prove to be a bit intrusive due to abruptly interrupting the layout of each walkthrough, but really it is much better than the alternative of forcing the player to backtrack, or worse yet, replay a stage unnecessarily.
A final inclusion to the actual guide portion of the book are descriptions and basic strategies for completing the game’s thirty Challenge Stages. Depending upon the complexity and involvement of the level itself, the lengths and depth of each write-up varies significantly. That said, where it is necessary, things are broken down rather explicitly, spelling out each step to victory.
As a neat extra, the last couple of pages in the book (aside from the closing credits, of course) are dedicated to interviewing Takashi Iizuka, a producer of Sonic Generations and a member of Sega’s Sonic Team. The piece may not exactly be Pulitzer Prize worthy material, but it still gives an interesting glimpse behind the title’s development. Though there aren’t really any ground shattering revelations in the eight question Q&A, it certainly provides more perspective as to where the developers were coming from when designing the game. Plus, it is a quick read and a neat way to tie a nice bow around completing the campaign.
If there were one aspect to the guide’s design that left something to be desired it would have to be the lack of consistency when it came to the amount of content on each page. Some pages seemed as if they were bursting at the seams with images and text, while other had huge barren chunks of white space, usually near the bottom of a page. Many times it appeared that this was due to random art assets from the game (not the actual screenshots) that very obviously were supposed to be the focal point of the reader’s attention. Layout issues aside, the division of each stage and act were clearly noted on the edges of each page, making navigating the text a breeze. Players who choose to jump around to different levels should have absolutely no problem getting their money’s worth from this book.
For a guide that in many cases might be considered unnecessary given the type of game that Sonic Generations is, it is impressive that they were able to squeeze out more than two hundred pages of information. There is a wealth of very useful knowledge waiting for the reader, should they be patient enough to read everything through thoroughly before jumping into the next stage. For the hardcore completionists out there looking to snag every item in the game, this guide should be right in your wheelhouse. While not a reflection on the quality of the book itself, everyone else might be better off running from left to right and testing their luck on their own.