Green Hill casts a long shadow over Sonic Generations on the 3DS. On the 20th anniversary of a series that has lost its way more than once, with each new release promising that this time, no really, this time the old magic will be recaptured, it's appropriate and yet slightly defeatist to open with the same stage that resonates so strongly for so many fans.
This is the Sonic we mean when we pine for the glory days of the blue hedgehog; a rollercoaster of verdant slopes and dizzying spins, rewarding players for taking the high road or the low road, and giving the sedate platform genre a much-needed red sneaker up the arse in the process.
It's a legacy that the series has struggled to live up to, and it's notable that the brightest moments of Generations' 3DS incarnation come in the first three stages, which recreate not only the iconic Green Hill Zone but also Casino Night from Sonic 2 and Mushroom Hill from Sonic & Knuckles. It's thrilling and comforting to revisit these beautifully designed courses, their familiar contours refreshed by a crisp 3D makeover.
20 years after the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, perhaps the most interesting thing Sega could have done would have been not to celebrate his anniversary, because goodness knows we have been invited to do so on enough occasions already. It could even be argued that in those 20 years Sonic has been subject to more rose-tinted compilations than enjoyable sequels.
If the series is famous for one other thing besides its hero, however, then surely it is Sega's unwavering devotion to his longevity, and thus it was no surprise when Sonic Generations sped onto release lists for the end of this year, just 12 months after the warmly received Sonic Colors. What's more surprising - and gratifying - is that for once the new game is both compilation and enjoyable sequel.
With help from a new time-travelling foe who has jumbled up the series' history, the action is split between 2D levels starring a mute, plain-shaded, slightly plumper Sonic, limited to spin attack and spin dash, and hybrid levels that mix 2D and 3D elements featuring the taller, mouthier and shader-spangled modern Sonic, with his arsenal of homing attacks, stomps, drifts and slides.