Title: Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed
Developer: Sumo Digital
Let it be known that between all the current gen consoles I hold no allegiances. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are all brilliant companies who each have their own way of making the games industry stronger. I wouldn’t feel this way of Sega were still around though, I would instantly swear my allegiance to the almighty Sega and everything it holds dear. I have been a Sega fan boy from the days of the Mega Drive all the way until the much loved Dreamcast. Unfortunately Sega have gone downhill these days… In their prime they were one of the most innovative and out there companies around focusing on new ideas and concepts that really wowed the gaming world. Sure they weren’t all big hits (I’m looking at you Sonic R) but when they did get it right with the likes of games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Panzer Dragoon and Jet Set Radio to name but a few, you could see Sega had a talent that nobody else could replicate and a cast of familiar characters that could give Nintendo a run for its money. So what do you so when you have this kind of heritage to milk off of? You make a Kart Racer of course!
Kart racers have been popular ever since the 16-bit era when Super Mario Kart raced into our hearts, the combination of arcade style racing mixed with great characters and fun weapons made for one hell of a good time and its popularity still shows today with the 7th Mario Kart being released on 3DS just under a year ago. Since then many other companies have tried their hand at making a kart racer that can replicate the fun of Mario Kart and I like to believe every generation has its kings. 16-bit is no doubt Super Mario Kart, the Polygon era is a close tie between Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing (Sorry Mario Kart 64 fans, haters gonna hate) and in the early 2000’s the winner is easily Mario Kart Double Dash which to this day is still the finest Mario Kart released in my opinion. What about the current gen? As we slowly enter into the next generation of consoles with the Wii-U what kart racer will it be that defined this generation of consoles? The answer is Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed.
Sonic All Stars takes the idea of the classic kart racer and adds enough modern tweaks and improvements to create one of the most enjoyable and balanced kart racers ever made. The game itself has the usual game modes that you would expect such as GP which is pretty much a clone of Mario Karts GP mode, a single race option and a Time trial which allows you to race against AI and Online ghosts to try and get the fastest lap times you can. The mode in this game that is unique to Sonic All Stars is the campaign mode which tasks you with earning stars by winning various challenges from Races, to Drift Challenges, Battling a Tank and a whole host of other diverse and fun games that help break up the monotony of always racing. With these stars you can unlock new gateways to different races and challenges as well as many of the games secret characters. What’s great about the campaign mode is that it is actually very challenging and you will only make it to the end if you are the best of the best, it takes time and most importantly skill which is something that’s actually not often too necessary in the genre.
The races themselves are fast paced, often beautiful and always thrilling, Sumo Digital have completely nailed the two most important things, The driving and The “Seganess” of it all. Sonic All Stars features the same style racing as Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64 meaning not only to do you drive karts but you also traverse the water and skies using boats and planes, this game also uses the system Mario 7 implemented where when you hit the water your car goes into water mode and likewise Air mode in the sky but its much more fleshed out than that game. Driving in this game has a sense of depth that is usually left out in Kart racers, it is a very drift heavy system with a dedicated button for drifting that allows you to swing around wide corners and spirals with buttery precision, you can also drift in the water and air sections too with each drift behaving differently depending on whether you are on land, sea or air. Drifts = Boost and Boost = Speed, Simple eh? While drifting is key to getting a fast lap time this is a kart racer after all and racing ain’t all you got to do.
Numerous obstacles test your driving skills and no kart racer is complete without weapon pick ups. The weapons don’t hold a candle to Mario Karts but they do offer the basics projectiles (fireworks & ice Balls) and mines (blowfish) and some new unique ones too such as the hot rod which is a boost that you can detonate while using to hit enemies in a radius around you and the baseball glove which blocks an enemies attack then gives you that weapon to use against them. Nothing too exciting and thankfully no blue shell clones but they do the job and are very balanced.
Its the characters and tracks that really make this game stand out. The whole game is dripping with personality that is so Sega it would make any fan well up with a sense of joy at the sight of it. Speeding around Sky sanctuary from Sonic 3 and battling through lava lakes in Adders Fortress from Golden Axe are amazing thrill rides. The games tracks are made with such an attention to detail and respect to their sources that it just makes you wish we had a HD version of Panzer Dragoon or Skies of Arcadia to see these wonderful worlds brought to life with such flair. The tracks really take advantage of the transforming vehicles with some tracks taking place primarily in the air or in the water. One particular highlight is the Nights stage which has you flying through a trippy dream world straight from the sega saturn classic then teleporting to another serene dream world which features the bosses from the game trying to attack you as you race through the obstacles.
The first time I played this stage I had to put the controller down and just take a moment to reflect on it. Nights was one of my favourite games and seeing it like this honestly just blew me away. I also have to applaud them for creating a track based on one of the most obscure Sega games around Burning Rangers, the track has you driving around a space station in crisis to one of the funkiest tracks you will ever hear. Speaking of its soundtrack the music which features remixes from long time Sega fan favourite Richard Jacques are worth the price of admission alone. Jet Set Radio already has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time and these remixes just make it even better.
A kart racer like this is nothing without its characters though and Sega really brought its A game here. Sonic and his friends are here to reel the casual fans but for the sega fan this is fan service central. Playing as Vyse from Skies of Arcadia, Gilius Thunderhead from Golden axe and Joe Musashi from Shinobi is a nostalgia trip from heaven. Theres a few odd picks in there such as Pudding from Space Channel 5, Danica Patrick (American racer and model) and Wreck it Ralph from the upcoming disney movie but overall the game has some choice picks from the Sega backlog. One cameo character in particular is a wonderful nod to the Sega of old but I will leave it to you guys to earn that surprise yourself. The racers are also very balanced its not uncommon for certain kart racers to have 3 or 4 ideal characters that will outperform the rest but in this game every racer is a viable choice thanks to the mod system which allows to tailor your characters stats to suit your racing style.
Multiplayer is present as always and is available in Local and Online varieties. The online was stable and lag free while I played and generally ran without any hiccups. Local is where it’s at though and a nice addition is that you can bring all your couch buddies online with you and even better is that all the single player content allows you to play with 4 people as well.
In a generation where the kart racer really ain’t what it used to be this game comes along and proves that yes it really ain’t what is used to be, its better. A kart racer with depth and longevity like this deserves to have the crown of the kart racer passed onto its head. There is no need to worry about this game being simply just another Mario Kart clone with Sonic in it, this is a title worthy of standing out on its own as a wonderful game and probably most importantly of all for a game that wants to pay homage to the great history of Sega games it has managed to earn its place there too.
– Driving feels both deep and fun
– Character and Track selection really makes the most of the license
– Loads of modes to keep you busy
– Music is amazing
– Generic weapon pick ups
– Some throw away characters
(Ps. To answer the question I see being asked so much? If Sonic is so fast why does he need a car? The answer is simple, it would be unfair for such a fast being to race using his feet so he uses a vehicle instead to be fair. Sonic also can’t fly and has a fear of water so there.)