What always set Sonic apart from Mario in my book are the little differences. Sonic and Mario were both side scrolling games. Compare Sonic the Hedgehog to Super Mario Bros World, and they are pretty even. Mario may have been longer, and had slightly better graphics, but Sonic was more bang for your buck. All games are inherently repetitive. After world 6-7 in Mario I always ended up zoning out. Jump here, get coin here, hit turtle shell here..rinse/repeat. What made Sonic the Superior game in my opinion is yes it is the same as Mario in the, its repetitive category, but where it wins out is in content.
Sonic by nature could never get boring. Whereas Mario was side scroll, jump, jump, coin, side scroll. Sonic was dash, jump, fire jump, oh crap what is that, OMFG I can’t tell what I am doing, OMFG I just died. I know many people who got the end of Mario multiple times, if you could get past 5-5 you were good. I don’t know many people who have actually gotten to the end of Sonic. Mario only went as fast as you wanted it to. You could take your time to figure out your jumping pattern and get through. Sonic not so much. Whereas in Super Mario World, you could get a ton of lives, unlimited continues, and just play on average over 85 different missions. They all ended up being the same exact thing. Sonic had just 6 zones, each consisting of 3 acts. This is where Sonic shines.
Each zone had a very unique layout. Compare and 6 Super Mario World zones to each other and really, it’s like they just copy/pasted it. Compare the 6 zones in Sonic to each other and each is like its own game. With its own strategy and rules. Dashing through green hill zone looking out for spikes. Your thinking “Yeah this is fun” expecting the next zone to be the same. Not even close. Now instead of a bunch of hills, you have pipes in a water plant. Then came one of the few times a game made me rage because I was sad. Sonic drowning, the music for it just has a sense of impending doom. The first time I encountered it I was excited, a change in music equal new boss……then Sega did this…
That is what made Sonic better than Mario. You don’t need 96 worlds to make a great game. 6 Zone split into 3 levels, each with their own tactics and style. Each zone had specific pitfalls. Since your also running as fast as the game could render, no matter how good you were, you will die.
We all know how awesome the Dreamcast is. I still have one hooked up to a crappy TV. In fact it’s the only TV in the house, and its only purpose is to play my dreamcast. After it failed due to a combination of marketing/piracy Sega got out of your living room. They quit making consoles. This led us to what I like to call the “Mario generation” of sonic games. I believe it came from the fact that when they actually made a console, they had to make great games or it would not sell. Once they gave that up, their direction seemed at a loss and they just took a page from Mario. Let’s add sonic to this new type of game, and this new type of game, and hey Mario did well in a party type game let’s put Sonic in that as well.
This leads us to Sonic Generations. After the last few years of very disappointing Sonic games, when I heard about generations it was barely a blip on the radar. When I heard the feature was taking the most popular zones from both the side scrolling & 3d era and combining them it sounded stupid. It could have been very easily. Oh How I am glad to be wrong for a change. Sonic generations really does go back to the simplistic nature of a Sonic game. And that merging the 2 eras. Brilliant. Re doing each zone from each area for the opposite was great. I could play Emerald hill zone in 3d, or the cityscape in side scroll mode. Lots of mini challenge games. A few unlocks here and there and you have a very nice re-imagining of Sonic from the best years.
I recommend to the casual gamer and the hardcore gamer alike. This is the Sonic game for you. It brings back the simplicity of the earlier games, but adds in the complexity that some of those 3d worlds had. I always faulted Mario for copy pasta, yet this version of Sonic is heavily that, but in its own crazy way. Reimaging each of the classic zones, and then duplicating them, for side scroll & 3d.
I apologize for the long rant in the middle; I just could not help but let you know where I am coming from as a game reviewer. We all have our bias. I wanted to be clear on my take on the sonic games so you could understand where my point of view is coming from.