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  1. Summary coming soon. Test Text: Sonic Origins is coming before this game. But Sonic 3 already came before it.
  2. Summary coming soon. Titled "Sega Archives from USA Vol. 2" in Japan. Included: Columns III Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine Lose Your Marbles
  3. Summary coming soon. Released as "SEGA Archives from USA Vol. 3" in Japan. Included: Comix Zone Flicky Kid Chameleon Sega Swirl Shining Force Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit) Super Hang-On Vectorman 2
  4. Summary coming soon. Released as "SEGA Archives from USA Vol. 1" in Japan. Included: Altered Beast Columns Golden Axe Out Run Phantasy Star II Sonic Spinball The Revenge of Shinobi Vectorman
  5. Tres bon? Commissariat? Why is Sonic teaching us all, and not saving Mobius, you ask? Well, this is some American's attempt to use Sonic for the goodness of learning. Yes, learning, the thing we all love... Gah. It's not for you older University bods though - this program is suitable from 'kindergarten' (read: Playschool) to '4th Grade' (read: Year 4). It helps your child learn the basics of Maths, Reading and Writing.
  6. We’ve been celebrating Sonic’s 20th anniversary all year with various online and real-life events, contests and videos. It’s only right that an actual game be a part of the festivities. Sonic Generations is an interactive tribute to the series’ longevity and is one of the most fitting anniversary titles ever to be released. Why? It’s not because classic levels are re-imagined in 3D or that Sonic’s previously portly self is present. No, Sonic Generations is fitting because - in eerie, yet hilariously appropriate fashion - the game starts off incredibly strong, falters hard in the middle and yet shows a glimmer of hope at the end. It sums up the series’ history so perfectly, allowing you to ride the highs and lows of 20 years in one convenient, 4-hour package. Premise I don’t need to go into detail on the story. You’re at The Sonic Stadium. You know what the story is and it simply serves as a device to get both Sonics logically in the same game. That’s all a Sonic story should be. The writing is substantially weaker than Sonic Colors. Tails is your source for exposition, Modern Sonic supplies the most groan-inducing quips in series history and Classic Sonic is as endearing as ever, saying more than anyone with simple body language. All of the other characters never say anything of worth and bombard you with inane “tips” when you battle Time Eater. The highlights are when the game attempts self-deprecation, riffing on bad decisions and rattling off inside jokes. Due to the writing, Roger Craig Smith doesn’t turn in a good performance here, but Kate Higgins does an admirable job doing not one, but two motor-mouth versions of Tails. Mike Pollock is… still untouchable. All of the other voices are garbage. There, I’m done talking about the story and voice acting. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Up FAVORITE SCENE: “That pink water makes me nervous.” Gameplay & Design Follow me here. The game begins and you’re thrown into a reimagining of Classic Green Hill. If you were born in the eighties, you’ll immediately feel that something is off at the first jump. Is it better than how Sonic 4 handles? Clearly, but it’s still not ideal. That amazing feeling of being in total control of a seemingly out-of-control character isn’t entirely there, and it’s an expected let down at this point - yet not game-breaking. Rolling still is abysmal, a disappointing trend that would be rectified with the proper game engine. Spin-dash is back, but it’s ridiculously over-powered, allowing Sonic Team to propel you to a more-than-fast-enough roll where you don’t notice that the walls and loops are scripted and don’t function well (even when you’re near the game’s speed cap). If you were born in the nineties, you probably won’t notice and life goes on. Everything is great. Nothing is bad. If you think it’s super funny that the original Sonic the Hedgehog is included to showcase all of Generations’ faults, you’re not alone. It’s super funny. For all the self-deprecation the game’s cut-scenes lay down on the Sonic franchise, the choice to include Sonic 1 is the crown jewel. It’s Modern Sonic’s turn now. This time, you’re not looking to 1991 for gameplay, you’re looking all the way back to… 2008 to Sonic Unleashed. Yeah, you thought I would say Sonic Colors, right? Well, unfortunately, Generations’ base is the Unleashed engine, as the welcome, minor improvements made to Modern Sonic in Colors are absent. Platforming at low speeds in 3D is, of course, a mess and doesn’t belong. The amount of moves Modern Sonic has to perform at such an insane speed also muddles the experience. Modern Sonic is at his strongest in 2D or when in an area that focuses on the “quick step.” Those two kinds of sequences are when Modern Sonic is at his absolute best. Again, if you grew up with Sonic in his current incarnation, you’re none the wiser. It’s another happy day in the park for you. Now, all of these issues are alleviated with thorough practice. Like, dude, I’m the best Sonic R player around and that game controls like a fresh turd. It’s such a bad game. Why am I so good at it then? The presentation in Sonic R has some strange charm that draws me to replay it and, unlike modern games prior to Colors, Sonic Generations has an appeal that can encourage your perfectionist desires (which I’ll elaborate on later). If you can survive all that frustration and memorization, have at it. You’re the man. You might be asking yourself at this point why I’m focusing so much on the game's flaws. Neither Classic nor Modern Sonic are unplayable. They’re competent, given the series’ history, but I have to highlight the flaws to make the following point: the gameplay of Sonic Generations is not actually a tale of two hedgehogs. It’s a tale of a developer that understands, and then somehow doesn’t understand, its own game. I mentioned earlier that Sonic Generations mirrors the path of the Sonic franchise in terms of quality over time. At the game’s outset, in the Genesis Era of the game, Sonic Team designs its levels in a way that minimizes the amount of times you encounter the game’s shortcomings. If you miss a jump or accidentally fly astray, there are lower paths that catch you - they're usually less fun and possess fewer red rings, but at least you didn’t fall in a pit and die. These stages are wide open and provide enough wiggle-room to accommodate the controls and physics. Green Hill, Chemical Plant and Sky Sanctuary are a blast for both Sonics and feature sprawling paths that require exploration and a bit of screwing around - leaving the player feeling satisfied and wanting to replay them. In the Dreamcast Era, some things appropriately start to slide, but it remains a fun experience. Bottomless pits, scripted sequences and grind rails start to become a bit more prevalent and the overall pacing of the game is definitely on the fast side of things, as one would expect from the Modern Sonic stages. Hitting all of the highlights, from helicopters to street-boarding, haven’t lost their rush after all these years. Those sequences are as great as you remember them. Seaside Hill has its moments, but it’s kind of forgettable. But, wouldn’t you know it… the Modern Era opens with Sonic 2006’s Crisis City and it’s… terrible? That’s the damndest thing! Ham-fisted platforming meets the dated Sonic model of killing the player for making the slightest mistake. Crisis City Classic is surprisingly neat, but the mixture of gale-force winds and sluggish acceleration will test your patience. Rooftop Run is not memorable at all. I just played the level to specifically insert a moment into this review, but I forgot what it was before sitting back at my computer. Planet Wisp, like Colors to the Sonic series at large, starts to win you back, but it’s somewhat tarnished by its monotonous, near 10-minute length. The inherent problem with the Modern Sonic stages is that they are just that: Modern Sonic stages. Instead of continuing to design around the limitations in their engine, the designers felt compelled to try and make Modern Sonic levels authentic to their respective source material, where a player’s curiosity will cause Sonic to go flying off into pits or fall through floors. The source material didn’t work in their respective, flawed engines, so why did they think it would work in Generations’ flawed engine? If they would had stuck to simply using a level’s theme and graphics and adapting well to the Generations design, then we would all have less problems. Even though he’s strictly 2D, Classic Sonic is not immune to issues in the latter half of the game. Modern levels punish the pudgy one for the tiniest misstep, putting crucial platforms just out of horizontal or vertical reach, all above nefarious pits. There are less branching paths and more cheap shots. Again, Sonic Team, your controls aren’t that tight. Design for the engine that you’ve built and not for what you think you have built. Sonic Generations’ gameplay proves itself to be convoluted through the return of the robot Chao, Omochao. If you need constant text, voice and button prompts during gameplay, that’s bad game design. Video games are best when they illustrate what you have to do through gameplay. If you have to constantly prompt the player to press buttons at all these given times with limited warning, then maybe there are too many actions for the player to handle or you didn’t give them enough time in a controlled environment. At the main menu, you can turn Omochao and the control tutorials off because we all know he is obnoxious. However, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage during a majority of the boss fights and the modern era stages. You have no idea what to do unless you read a walkthrough or turn Omochao on. With tutorials/Omochao on, the game is patronizing. Without them, the game doesn’t teach you enough through gameplay. There’s no middle ground. The latter third of the game is one, giant Carnival Night Barrel. Each stage presents its own set of rules and moves, so it’s difficult for a new player to quickly adjust and learn. The biggest offender here is Time Eater. When you approach him, a homing attack reticle appears on his weak spot. Throughout the course of the game, you are taught to press X to attack when you see this reticle. Well, that doesn’t work and the player is left alone in one of the worst boss fights in recent memory. When you need all of that explanation, you’ve made things too complicated and it noticeably impacts the game’s flow and direction. Maybe that’s why you only lose 25 rings at a time… JUDGMENT: Thumbs... Neutral Like Sonic 4, your mileage may vary depending on your Sonic history and experiences. FAVORITE PART: Breaking a bridge with Modern Sonic’s stomp in GHZ and uncovering a cool, new path to explore. Level Selection & Game Navigation Since I’m reviewing a compilation title of sorts, the level selection and hub world deserve their own section and verdict. If you’re like me and in your mid-twenties (or older), you probably feel old knowing that it has been 20 years since the original Sonic the Hedgehog crashed into our living rooms. You know what makes you feel older? The fact that Sonic’s ever-changing, inconsistent modern form has been around longer than the often fawned-over classic design. Taking that fact into consideration, it’s understandable why two-thirds of the game is post-1998. There are more modern games. What doesn’t make sense is repetition of level tropes. The Genesis Era takes you from a lush, green landscape to an intimidating facility to a ruin adrift in the clear, blue skies. The variety opens a vast well of creativity, giving the player something new to see and do as the game progresses. After that amazing rush, it gradually comes to a halt. The modern stage selection is also a comment on the last 12 years: same old, tired shit. You’re treated to a city at night, a city at day, a second green “hill,” a city under attack, a foreign city and a green landscape tarnished by industry. I know modern Sonic games have mostly taken place in the “real world,” but I know there are more tropes than green lands and cities in those games. There’s only so many times you can run on the sides of buildings or on scaffolding. It gets boring and screams, “lazy.” The stage selection seems to be based more on the popularity of the stage’s music more than making Sonic Generations a thematically diverse package. There’s a real missed opportunity here with Sonic Generations. Instead of more levels, you’re left with challenge levels within the set of 9. These challenges are 90% optional and while some of them are fun and clever, most of them are clearly showing the challenge mode’s “filler” nature. In one challenge, you have to stop what you’re doing, call on Rouge and have her shake her tits to distract robots long enough for you to kill them. Some challenges are that absurd. Challenges feature many level gimmicks not seen in the main acts. Why aren’t they? They would only enhance the experience on the part of the game that is mandatory. As mentioned earlier, Crisis City Classic was cool, but it needed something else to really bring it together. Well, the challenge stages had level gimmicks, like spiky seesaws, that could’ve really diversified the main act and made it memorable. The way you get to these challenge levels is a great example of how you not to create a hub world. Navigating the main acts is great, but you have to ascend awkward ramps, platforms and sometimes text in this Sonic purgatory to reach the multiple challenge doorways. Whatever happened to menus? Not only are the challenges filler, but also simply getting to them is a time-sink in itself. Instead of challenges, Sonic Team could’ve supplied more levels or, better yet, more bosses. There are a pitiful amount of bosses on display here and each one takes very few shots to defeat. Outside of Metal Sonic, the rival battles are confusing without Omochao and only seem to exist to tap into your happy memories for a brief moment. Special Stages are also a huge part of the Sonic legacy and they’re nowhere to be found in Sonic Generations. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Down FAVORITE ASPECT: Selecting levels from a list using “Online” mode. Presentation Nobody expects bad presentation from Sonic Team and they continue to deliver with gorgeous graphics and well-produced music. The graphics are solid, but there’s an iffy texture here and there if you happen to be moving slowly. If you’re playing on the consoles, you’re going to be disappointed at the game’s frame rate. Sonic needs to run at 60 FPS to be successful. At 30, it’s too hard to follow the action and Sonic can become lost in the detailed scenery. The true champion here is the music. Solid remixes of classic and modern tunes to suit, uh, classic and modern levels ensure that you’re in for an aural treat from start to finish. Each song evokes a past emotion and guarantees that you remember this second visit by adding some additional flair. The option to select from a wide library of other songs is nice (hell yeah, Toxic Caves), but many of the bonus songs sound like MIDI and thrown in without care. Nostalgia plays a huge role in Generations. The sheer amount of fan-service in this game is ridiculous. It’s so awesome. Clearly, all of the effort went into this aspect of the game. From the many Easter Eggs, musical cues and classic forms of characters, Sonic Generations might have the most fan-service ever included in a video game. All of the familiar sights, winks and nods make for one sick nostalgia trip that, upon contact, almost makes you forget all of the game’s flaws. The sense hits some people stronger than others (I mean, look at all those glowing reviews on Metacritic/our forums) and it’s undeniable that most of the game’s appeal lies here. If you’re a die-hard fan of the series, your devotion to useless knowledge will be rewarded here. I mentioned earlier that I became insanely good at a terrible game like Sonic R because it was presented with such charm. Sonic Generations oozes charm. Despite all the bad things I’ve said about it, the presentational aspect draws me back for brief spurts of play. JUDGMENT: Thumbs WAY Up! FAVORITE PART: Fighting Silver the Hedgehog with Palmtree Panic music. Longevity Sonic Generations is short, clocking in at 4-5 hours to beat the mandatory sections of the game. Even if you suck at the game during your initial play-through, you’ll probably walk away with B, A and S ranks and a handful of red rings. Deaths are limited to frequent trips to the abyss and that’s all. A level obstacle or enemy will never kill you because you only lose 25 rings at a time. It’s really sad. Online leaderboards are present, but the real attraction that I don’t see many people mentioning is the “30-Second Trial” mode, where you try and make it as far as you can in 30 seconds. I’ve never experienced a mode in Sonic so addicting. Whoever created this mode deserves a beer or two for actually extending the mileage of a game that was clearly desperate for it. Absolutely genius idea. But why is there a single save file? Who decided that one save file is a good idea? Fire that person. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Down FAVORITE TIME WASTER: 30-second trials, dude! Conclusion Everybody is saying that this game “shows great promise for the future” and is “a step in the right direction.” I hate to break it to you, but Sonic Generations is a one-off deal that’ll never be happening again anytime soon. Classic Sonic is going back into the vault and Iizuka is already looking to create a new Modern Sonic. This game only services the present and the past; reminding us of the crazy ride we’ve all been on. Sonic Team put all of their eggs into the presentation and fan-service baskets to win back the hardcore-yet-jaded fans and the fans that haven’t paid attention in years. The marketing for Sonic Generations was nothing like we’ve seen before. It certainly worked. They’re paying attention now. However, nostalgia is a temporary fix unique to this game, a crutch that Sonic Team has been leaning on for the past few years. Bringing back Classic Sonic, Genesis stages and strictly 2D gameplay does not a good game make. These changes are simply cosmetic. Sonic Generations’ existence is conspicuously born from years of criticism and complaints, but the real ills with Sonic today still weren’t addressed. The remedy isn’t hermetically sealed in Green Hill Zone and has been apparent for over ten years; Sonic Team has no idea what’s wrong with its games on a fundamental level. Until they realize that tight controls, physics and level design ultimately trump presentation and nostalgia, we’ll continue to be stuck in our own Sonic purgatory. For having a mostly mediocre existence, Sonic gets an average adventure to celebrate with no indication on where he is headed. Sonic Generations is an inoffensive title that has frequent flashes of brilliance, but is once again hog-tied by legacy issues. Its strongest feature isn’t within the game, but rather, your memories. See? I told you Sonic Generations was the most appropriate anniversary release. Second Opinion @Detective Shadzter: Sonic Generations is a perfect celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th Anniversary, and fans of both the classic Sonic titles and the modern titles will be happy with Sonic Team’s Birthday efforts. Classic Sonic’s gameplay handles very close to how it does in the original Mega Drive/Genesis Sonic titles and Modern Sonic has been tweaked with controls even tighter than those in Sonic Colours. All of the game’s nine stages you revisit have been given fresh redesigns with plenty of routes to explore in multiple playthroughs. Add Red Star Rings to collect, 10 missions for each stage (5 per Sonic), rankings and online leaderboards and you’ve got plenty of replay value. Sonic Generations is one of the best Sonic games of all time. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Up! Final Words THE GOOD + Copious amount of fanservice + OMG NOSTALGIA + Amazing graphics + A well-produced soundtrack spanning the series history (even a few of the spin-offs) + Layered level design with many alternate paths + The first half of the game + Classic Sonic’s reactions to anything + Great 2D platforming areas for both Sonics + Getting all S-Ranks + 30-Second Trials THE BAD + Most of the writing + The quality of a few of the alternate music tracks + (Unless you’re a veteran) Convoluted Modern Sonic controls + Drifting + The hub world + Challenges + The latter half of the game’s level design + Lack of multiple save files + The meagre selection of stages and bosses + Omochao and his unfortunate, occasional necessity + The lack of difficulty, artificially created by bottomless pits + The short length Both the main review and second opinion were based on the PS3 version of the game. Special thanks to Ian (bmn) for providing the HD game footage. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  7. Sonic 4, then. Hyped as the true return to 2D form for the blue blur, unleashed at last upon the fanbase after a year-long wait that was riddled with delays and controversy. Does it live up to its promise? Is it worth your hard-earned Sonic wonga? Read on and find out, in TSS’ Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 review. Premise There’s really nothing to say when it comes to the game’s premise – it follows the formula of the classic games to the letter, seeing Sonic race through levels to rescue his animal friends from Dr. Eggman’s capture. As it continues on from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, there’s something of a bare bones plot – the evil doc, still smarting after the chaos that ensued on the Death Egg, is trying once more to bury the planet with his league of robot badniks. Of course, with the recession and everything, he’s on the back foot, forced to recycle only the best of the baddies from past games. Obviously, Sonic’s having none of it. With no cutscenes or any other guff to endure in-between levels, Sonic 4 does a great job of keeping the focus on what really matters – 2D platforming and fast-paced action. There’s a lot to be said about games that just let you get on with the game and just play – and Sonic the Hedgehog is such an accessible game that jumping in is a total cinch. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE SCENE: As it should be – the ending sequence. Presentation Sonic 4 is simply gorgeous. SEGA has brought the 2D games bang-up to present-day, and although the 16-bit sprites had a bit more charm to them, you’ll still be able to appreciate the detailed locales and intricate designs implemented here. With 3D models, special effects such as card-based paths looping in and out of the screen, and traditional items such as pinball bumpers and loop-de-loops covered in foliage, Sonic 4 does what the original Sonic the Hedgehog did in 1991 – create a graphical presentation that can truly wow kids. All that being said, there’s something of an obvious pattern when it comes to the design of Sonic 4 – it’s not entirely original. In fact, it could be argued that it’s not original at all. Each of the four major zones (and the concept of the Special Stages) are re-imaginations of levels already seen in the original Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The multi-tiered and engaging level design helps break the argument that this is but a mere rehash, but it is fair to say that this initial episode does feel more like an homage rather than a true sequel. Maybe some fresh ideas for the next episode, SEGA? JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE BIT: The all-too familiar looking Splash Hill going from daylight to sunset. Sound When you think of the music behind classic Mega Drive Sonic games, one of the most distinctive elements you would pick out would be Masato Nakamura’s deft use of percussion. Jun Senoue, a veteran who has been involved with the series’ soundtrack ever since Sonic 3, has tried to replicate that to mixed success. Oftentimes the background music sounds like there’s a 16-bit woodpecker knocking against your head. At other times, tunes are barely memorable – try humming a Sonic 4 song two hours after playing it. There are some blinding gems that show Senoue’s skill, like the pumping theme to Mad Gear or the absolutely delightful Act 3 music to Splash Hill Zone. But we all know what the man’s capable of when given a Mega Drive – 1996’s Sonic 3D Flickies’ Island is testament to that. Ultimately, I can see exactly what Senoue was going for here – it’s just a shame that the overall result is a bit hit-and-miss. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down FAVOURITE TRACKS: Splash Hill Zone Act 3, Mad Gear Zone Act 1 Gameplay This really is the heart of the debate – whether you rate Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 as a good or bad game depends entirely on what you perceive the game to be (ignoring SEGA’s constant marketing natter about ‘back to the classics, fo’ real homes’). Do you focus more on what the game should be, or what it really is? Here’s my take – Sonic 4 is a lot of fun. With some caveats. When you start playing the game, a lot of the hangups in the physics department appear glaringly obvious – and if they don’t, then you’ll be blitzing through the first few stages thinking subconsciously that something isn’t right with this picture. As it turns out, Sonic Team (for whatever reason) did not decide to build on the Mega Drive codebase but instead created as close enough a replication as it could. For some, the bits it got wrong are a deal-breaker. Jump to the side and let go of the analogue stick/D-pad, and rather than letting momentum take its course, Sonic stops moving and drops in a vertical line. Closer inspection shows that the same is true for other midair activities, such as being shot out of a cannon. Elsewhere, the game doesn’t seem to encourage the use of the spin attack because every time you use it, you slow to a crawl. Even on the Casino Street half-pipes – where in classic Sonic games, spin-attacking would actually make you go faster than running, the opposite is true in Sonic 4. For those used to the physics of the originals, it’s baffling. But if you stick with the game, you’ll get used to those setbacks and enjoy the game for the short, enjoyable ride it otherwise provides. Running around curves and bouncing off of badniks really takes you back to those halcyon days sitting in front of a Mega Drive as a kid. The level design – multiple tiers and with several routes for time-attacking – is a triumph compared to those found in recent 2D Sonics. And the sole addition to the blue blur’s attack roster, the homing attack, is far from a cheap get-out-of-jail-free card, but instead offers access to alternate paths and feels just as natural as a classic power-up should. Sonic 4 is a game that divides opinion like no other – just as I feel there is a lot of fun and gameplay worth to the game despite its setbacks, others may feel that the physics is enough to fail the game entirely. The strange thing is, both opinions are correct. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up (Your Mileage May Vary) FAVOURITE PART: Running like a madman to escape the chaos in Mad Gear Act 3. Longevity You won’t really get a lot of bang for your buck here – you’re buying entirely into the nostalgia trip that you may (or may not) receive when Sonic 4: Episode 1 first loads up. To compare the number of zones to past Mega Drive games is silly – Sonic the Hedgehog came out in 1991 with six zones for around £40. When you consider you’re only losing two for a tenner that’s not so bad. What can’t be argued is that you can easily beat Sonic 4: Episode 1 in the space of an hour or so (minus chaos emeralds – it will take you an extra couple of hours to grab them). When there are other premium games on downloadable services commanding at least four times that for about £2 less, you start to ask a question or two as to whether the longevity is value for money. It will be interesting to see how that might change if it has the ability to ‘lock on’ with future episodes, however. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down FAVOURITE TIME-WASTER: Time-attacking – the homing attack has some nice uses in speed running. Final Words YOU’LL LOVE + The sublime level design. + All of the beautiful backdrops. + A fresh challenge, wrapped in a familiar setting. + That you can still have fun despite its drawbacks. + The homing attack. Yeah, I said it. YOU’LL HATE – The rather naff jump and spin physics. – A rather forgettable soundtrack. – That it’s over far too quickly for your money. – It’s more of an homage than a fully-blown sequel. – One or two gimmick-specific stages. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  8. Sonic has had his fair share of racing games. Game Gear’s Sonic Drift, Sonic R on the Sega Saturn, and the recent Sonic Riders are some prime examples. These racers each tried something different (with the exception of Drift, really) and while interesting, didn’t really provide a stellar gaming experience. As much as I personally love Sonic R, turning corners and holding down that B button can be a right pain sometimes – and the fun’s over too quickly. Sonic Rivals was… well, that was Sonic Rivals. In 2010 Sumo Digital has decided to take a punt at a Sonic racer, and instead of going for something different (although they did reportedly toy with a Sonic R-style gameplay mechanic) the studio went with something a bit closer to what gamers knew best – a karting game. Why is Sonic, in fact, in a car? The answer is – who cares, really? Comparisons are inevitably going to be drawn with Mario Kart, but is Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing a fun game in its own right? Premise So it’s Sonic the Hedgehog (and friends) in a car, or plane, or bike of some kind. Some may call that an unoriginal and, dare I say it, ‘derivative’ approach, given that many mascot racers have tried – and failed – to match Mario Kart. The way I see it, there’s no way of escaping the Nintendo formula if you’re making a game of this kind. As much as the platformer genre involves jumping on floating blocks, so too does the cartoon kart racer require recognisable characters, crazy power-ups and colourful locations. Sumo Digital has proved its Sega knowledge before with Sega Superstars Tennis (a game that I suppose could have been ‘derivative’ in the face of Mario Tennis, but funnily enough people enjoyed that game and didn’t make that connection), and given its OutRun history a Sonic racer was the next logical step. Sonic suits a car quite well actually – especially given former Sonic Team head Naka-san’s love for Ferraris – but it’s not just a representation of Sega’s mascot I approve of here. It’s the re-introduction of long lost Sega characters such as Alex Kidd, Opa-Opa, B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi and – most impressively – Ryo Hazuki of Shenmue fame. For the Sega fan, this is a real treat. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE SCENE: To be honest, we can only really say the opening scene here, can’t we? Still, it’s ruddy good. Presentation The whole game is presented with that classic Sega sheen, right down to the menus. The attention to detail in each of the courses is stunning – Sonic’s Seaside Hill has never looked so good! Using Sumo’s own Sunshine engine, everything radiates with the warmth of the sunny blue skies that beams on almost every track. With a range of courses covering various Sega franchises (Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Monkey Ball, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, The House of the Dead, Samba de Amigo, Jet Set Radio Future) there’s a lot of nostalgia at play here. At first glance though, it doesn’t seem there’s a lot of variety in the tracks – especially given that we have characters from Shenmue and Virtua Fighter here. But this is made up for with the overall atmosphere and design of each course. Sonic’s tracks range from the sunny Seaside Hill to the dark, gloomy Final Fortress, while different districts of Tokyo-to each have their own feel and surroundings. It’s awesome to be driving full throttle through a psychedelic Samba de Amigo course too – Sumo Digital has not only done its homework with these tracks, it’s put real thought and care into how to best use Sega’s brands. It’s truly a great quality to have. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE BIT: Crashing through the billboard in Shibuya Downtown and flying over the cityscape. Sound A true mish-mash of classics from SEGA’s past. Darting through Seaside Hill while listening to Can You Feel The Sunshine from Sonic R is nothing short of delightful, and each of the games represented in All-Stars Racing have brought with them a substantial amount of tunes to keep the action pacing. Some of the choices are a bit predictable – a lot of Sonic Heroes music is featured, and it was the de-facto soundtrack to the Sonic side of Sega Superstars Tennis – but you barely notice that when you’re going hell-for-leather online. Voices are less keen to get you going, unless your race is blessed with the unintentionally-comedic delights of Ryo Hazuki. Most of the voice work has been pulled from past Sega titles, leaving quotes like Sonic’s zinger “Aren’t You Worried?” to terrorise brain cells with its irrelevance. Big the Cat and Beat, for example, feature fresh recordings though, so it’s not all stuff you’ve heard before. Hazuki’s Shenmue quotes have to be the best thing that’s ever happened to the voice work in this game. And not for any good reason. There’s also an announcer that sounds like a cross between an American surfer dude with constipation and Krusty the Clown. Thankfully, you can turn him off. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE TRACKS: Hearing Sonic R tracks in my 2010 game – surprise! Gameplay Being based off of the Mario Kart formula means that Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is already quite solid. But one area that makes this unique is the drifting mechanics. Sumo has taken its experience with past driving titles and introduced a modified system from OutRun. The L2 button (or the Left Trigger) is context sensitive, with drifts performed in combination with a turn on the analogue stick. Hold the trigger down to keep sliding, and adjust the angle with stabs on the accelerator. It’s a system that feels natural after a few races. Drifting gives you up to three levels of boost, which is vital to staying ahead of the pack. L2/Left Trigger also acts as a trick button when driving over ramps, and as a brake when no direction is held. With only one other button (besides the accelerator) being used to fire weapons, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing has a control scheme that’s simple to pick up – but the tracks and missions make it hard to master. The great thing is, the action is balanced very well. Even with the ‘catch up’ option set, there’s no real rubber-banding going on – computer controlled opponents are fairly matched against human players. Once you break ahead though, it’s likely that nobody will be able to catch up to you – but it’s a preferable situation to having cheating AI. Once you get knocked back a few places though, you can expect a deluge of revenge tactics from friends and CPU alike. It keeps the action exciting, and the tracks themselves are brilliantly designed – offering shortcuts and opportunities for stunts and chain drifting. You’ll want to replay the courses again and again to discover new ways of taking advantage of the corners and jumps. The power-up items are your standard karting fare – rockets, shields, speed ups. The most noteworthy item to have is the All-Star move, a unique ability for each character that allows them to move up a few positions on the track if you’re falling behind. Each require skill and timing to pull off though, so it’s not a sure-fire way of getting from last to fourth. It all adds to the balance that Sumo has created in the game. You’ve got to work for your meal, which makes the gameplay – and the winning – so much sweeter. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE PART: Drifting around the bends in the Casino Park tracks, boosting out of them and passing opponents. Pro. Longevity The amount of content crammed into this title will ensure you’ll be playing Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing for a long time. On top of the expected Grand Prix and Single Race modes, a lengthy missions mode challenges you with increasingly difficult tasks, while Time Attack puts you on worldwide leaderboards and against Sumo Digital’s ghost times. In multiplayer, you can take on up to three other players with Battle, Capture the Chao, Emerald and King of the Hill modes. They provide nice diversions in split-screen, but you’ll be mostly going back to the Races mode to conquer the track. Online, things are a bit more restrictive. There’s no mode to play other than Single Race, which is a little bit disappointing as it would have been cool to play some Capture the Chao games over Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. In addition to this, All-Star moves don’t exist online – it’s a total bummer, but understandable given technical limitations. Besides that, playing online is perhaps the most fun experience in the game and will keep you coming back to it long after you’ve unlocked that last Achievement or Trophy. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE TIME-WASTER: Playing Time Attack for a lap, and getting sucked into getting a better time again. And again. Second Opinion @T-Bird: I never got a chance to play this game at SoS and hadn’t downloaded the demo, so release day was my first opportunity to play this game. The controls (for a non-seasoned racer) initially came across as a tad odd, particularly seeing as there is an emphasis on learning to drift early on if you want to really sneak around impossible corners. In this sense the game is frustrating at first, but once you’ve completed a Grand Prix and accomplished a handful of missions, you really start to appreciate the high-end tuning that has gone into each individual character’s handling on track. The courses really do feel like they have been snatched from many SEGA universes, and I think this is a testament to the amount of thought and attention Sumo Digital have invested in the game. Granted there are a few points on a certain Billy Hatcher stage that have me screaming as Amy careens off into the lava, and I think the omission of All-Star attacks in multiplayer (or an option to have it) is a little disappointing, but overall this really is nit-picking at what is a very highly polished, fun game to play. Final Words YOU’LL LOVE + That Sega has an equal to Mario Kart. + Drifting and using the unique power ups. + All the Sega characters lovingly revived. + Earning Sega Miles as you play with friends. + Racing online – it’s great fun. YOU’LL HATE – A lack of online options, and no All-Stars online. We know it was explained, but still. – Few Sega franchises to race through, despite the variety in presentation. – That a lot of the gameplay is a bit too familiar. – The unbalanced bikes against cars. – Loading times. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
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