Sega and Sonic have suffered from a few bumpy roads these past few years - that’s no mistake. The spiny blue hedgehog has stayed firmly in the limelight of his captors for 20 years without ever really have a day off. 20 years of scraping his spikes through the dirt of different worlds, likely leaving skin behind with him - and for what? To become more and more disjointed from what made him great in the first place.
I’ll forever cherish my days playing Sonic Adventure and its appropriately named sequel. Coming mostly from a Pokémon and Zelda background, the idea of switching out the infuriatingly tense platforming of the 2D Sonic titles in place of a 3D explorable overworld, dialogue and a plot (no matter how bizarre in execution) was exactly what a 7-year-old me wanted in a game. I probably spent more hours grinding animals for decent Chao stats than I did raising my own Pokémon.
But for many people it was the 3D transition that spelled the end of Sonic as their childhood mascot. Sega tried in all sorts of ways to shift the formula of the speed freak over the years; including giving him a sword, alien technology and presumably the ability to go from 0mph to Mach 5 in a split second on a snowboard half-pipe. Whether intentional or not, it was just downright silly. His darker-haired rival even walked the streets with a high-caliber handgun for good measure.
It wasn’t until 2011 that Sonic Team was able to finally give the fans what they wanted; a game that would please fans both new and old – Sonic Generations. Released to acclaim by critics and fans alike, that year’s Sonic title was equal parts 90’s as it was 00’s with each of its stages having both a ‘modern’ 3D and ‘classic’ 2D style playthrough available with no overworld fluff in between. Sonic Generations still, 5 years on, sees the modding community band together to keep the saving grace of the franchise alive – at least for PC players. Let’s take a look at just a few of them;
Unleashed Project 1.0
By far the very definition of the Sonic Generations community right now comes in the form of a near-complete rip of the ‘Daytime’ stages of Sonic Unleashed. The daytime levels here specify the modern 3D Sonic stages of Unleashed - a game that, similar to Generations, was designed with 2 different play-styles - Modern Sonic-style and the more action-adventure oriented ‘Werehog’ night time stages. Aptly named the ‘Unleashed’ mod, players can easily add around 5 new levels for Modern Sonic with a few simple clicks.
Playable through a third-party launcher, you’ll have to toggle this mod off to revisit the standard-issue Sonic Generations levels thanks to a ‘level slot’ limit imposed by Sega in the darker patches of the game’s coding. While the 1.0 release has been available for a number of years now, a single member of Team Unleashed took control of the project when the founding members ticked it off their to-do list. The project is still very much alive with a 2.0 release – bringing even more ported stages and playability tweaks – coming later in the year.
What’s even more special about this behemoth mod is just how it strives to improve on the optimization of the base game, too. Those with slower machines will notice a sizable performance boost after installing the Unleashed Project potentially opening the gate for players on aging systems to pick up and play one of the best Sonic games of the last decade - while playing a few stages from another one! Even shaders, shadows and lighting get a notable upgrade too making an already gorgeous game into something worth the time of any skeptical Sonic fan. Grab this one here.
Now this one speaks words to me. Anyone growing up in the PS1/PS2 era should have heard the name Klonoa at some point. Presumably Namco’s answer to how Sonic was an attempt to create a mascot much like Mario was for Nintendo, Klonoa wore his creator’s legacy on the cap resting atop his huge, drooping ears. The anthropomorphic creature featured in games sharing an ascetic familiar vibe of Sonic Team’s own Nights series while trying to introduce fans to the idea that side-scrolling platformers can be action/adventure/puzzle games too.
Despite the fate of Klonoa seemingly being set in stone, that didn’t stop ModDB contributor, Evil_Raccoon , from utilizing pre-existing models and fanart to give our furry friend the chance to run like the wind.
The ‘Klonoa Generations’ mod swaps out both Modern and Classic Sonic out for Namco’s ill-fated hero - his iconic floppy ears barely move and he still loves to mimic the voice of our blue-spined buddy, but it’s good to see him travel around some pretty unique locations again. Bring him back to us, Namco. Please?
Planet Wisp: All Stages
“Hey, this sounds familiar”, I hear you say. You’d be right in the assumption that Planet Wisp already exists in Sonic Generations as a 2-level stage based upon Sonic Colours – an often overlooked gem for the Nintendo Wii swallowed whole during the time of other less-than-stellar Sonic bouts.
The ‘Planet Wisp’ mod is a little bit different to the levels included in Generations from the get-go; originally released as 2 more levels in 2013, by 2015 all 6 Planet Wisp stages from Sonic Colours have been incorporated into Generations for both Modern and Classic Sonic players with a new lick of paint to make full use of the switch in rendering engines. SKmarioman of ModDB is the guy to thank for this one - and the video below.
Super Sonic Generations
Here’s one you’d just expect from the get-go. Unlike Sonic Adventure, Generations didn’t launch with an option to permanently play the game as Sonic’s iconic super form. Instead, it was left up to the modding community to splice the model out of the game’s predictable ending and do the leg-work required to make it function in a level not intended to cage and sustain Sonic’s levitating powers.
JoeTE’s modification goes especially well in the Dragon Path level of the Unleashed mod mentioned above. Those familiar with Dragonball Z will likely notice how the serpent-modelled rail in the sky strikes a notable resemblance to Snake Way in the classic anime series – a place Goku would be forced to walk along for multiple episodes after getting killed… again. Pair Dragon Path with Super Sonic and you can let your Dragonball fantasies run wild with this one.
Daffy Duck Generations
In a community bursting with simple palette swaps for pre-existing characters, it’s sometimes hard to scrounge through enough of them to really find something worth trying. Daffy Duck is certainly one of the gems you’ll occasionally come across while sifting through pink hedgehogs with two tails. Compiled by lhutfi123 of ModDB, it’s certainly one of the more creative ideas.
And if that isn’t cringe-inducing enough, there’s even a more robust Donald Duck mod that allows you to hurl meteor fragments at Mickey Mouse on a highway in space. Say no to drugs, Kids.
The Sonic Generations modding community is both old and, quite frankly, terrifying at this point. 5 years on the title that proved to us Sonic Team still understood how to replicate the formula we feel in love with decades ago, was ready and willing to give us just about anything we could hope for.
There’s model swaps for Disney fans all the way to My Little Pony aficionados with seemingly little in the way willing to dictate both who can play this game and who they can play it as. While it’s a shame to say the majority of console players won’t get a chance to mess around with these goofs, most in possession of a half-decent Windows PC or laptop can use the mod enabler to at least play the game at a somewhat respectable frame rate. These mods technically make and break the game at the same time; and mostly for the better, too.