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Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing - Wii Review

Game Info
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing

Wii | SEGA / Sumo Digital | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) / 2-8 Players (online versus) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller; Wii Wheel
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3rd May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

There have been many kart racers that have been introduced over the years. From the more recognizables ones like Diddy Kong Racing, to something as wacky as Looney Tunes: Space Race, fans of this genre certainly have had a lot to choose from. Mind you, not all kart racers do a good job at having riveting or even memorable gameplay, but there are some that stand out from the pack. How does Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing stack up to other kart racers?

    The character selection spawns multiple franchises, including familiar faces such as Sonic, Tails, Aiai, and Amigo. You'll even be able to use your Mii's, or race as characters from the more obscure SEGA properties, including Opa-Opa, the Bonanza Bros., and even Ryo Hazuki! Each character in the game has their own special vehicle, with varying strengths and weaknesses. While you might think cars would be the norm, when you actually start playing, you'll spot monster trucks, hovercrafts, airplanes, motorcycles, and more. It's no understatement to say that races can get pretty wild at times, with vehicles clashing into one another to try to stay ahead.

    The game boasts support for a good number of control schemes, allowing players to play the way they most feel comfortable. You can use the Wii Remote on its own, stick it in the Wii Wheel, the Remote/Nunchuk combo, or the Classic Controller. While the Classic Controller feels confusing, using the Wii Wheel is excellent and the tilting mechanisms feel right up there with Mario Kart Wii. Using powersliding techniques, vehicles can hold up to a level 3 boost, but using multiple drifts in succession will garner an extended boost. When you go off a decline or a ramp, performing aerial tricks will also earn you boost power when you land. Far from loose, drifting feels really natural with this control scheme and it's a great fit with this game.

Of course, S&SASR features a great item system, albeit not as unique as you might hope for. Green boxing gloves, and red homing missiles feel very familiar with other games of this genre. You'll also encounter speed shoes, orange-coloured mines (see: pylons), a deafening mega horn, and a giant missile that can be detonated upon demand. Although the SEGA aspect doesn't translate as well to the item system, it's very balanced and (perhaps best of all) there's no Blue Shell equivalent. The more you play, you'll come to learn of different tactics that you can use to help stay at the front of the pack. For example, if you have three mines, you can fire them all at once by holding the Item Button. You can also use the mega horn at the right time to destroy missiles prior to impact. It's all part of the strategy that comes with the game and having these minor elements makes the game rewarding for skilled players.

    Much like in SEGA Superstars Tennis, everyone also has their own unique All-Star Move that can come in handy when you're in trailing behind. They'll appear randomly within item capsules along tracks, but you're more likely to get it when you're in the bottom three positions. After you press the item button to activate it, a brief animation will trigger, and you'll be able to execute your ability for a short period of time. Jet will use his spray can to tag nearby racers, Billy Hatcher will ride on a giant egg, and Ryo will get into a rampaging forklift, just to name a few. Obviously, some work better than others, so it's up to you to experiment and discover which one works best for your racing style.

As you plow through the Grand Prix cups, you'll be exposed to all 24 race tracks. You'll first be introduced to some of the more straight-forward stages such as Whale Lagoon and Icicle Valley, but soon you'll need to contend with harder tracks, such as Roulette Road and Dark Arsenal. It's undeniable that the Super Monkey Ball tracks are the hardest in the whole game, but that doesn't mean they aren't enjoyable. At first, they seem overwhelming, but once you gain more experience and learn more advanced drifting techniques (namely, letting go of the gas whilst in a drift), you'll find that these can be a lot of fun, with all of their twists and turns. Sumo Digital did a great job as there are some brilliant track designs in the game, many of which hark back to the original games they're based on (such as Highway Zero from the Jet Set Radio series). There's definitely a lot of fan service even in the stages that longtime SEGA followers can appreciate.

    The game can get intense at times, but never does it become boring. This is, in part, thanks to the announcer who oversees the action during all of the races. Never mind the typical banter of Omochao from Sonic Riders, the announcer in S&SASR is not only funny, but he keeps things interesting. With his witty and sometimes idiotic remarks (such as asking Ulala on a date) will grow on you over time. You always have the option to turn his rantings off, in the event that he just begins to annoy you, but admittedly, the announcer makes the race more engaging and it adds to the frantic nature of the game.

Some may find themselves annoyed with some of the choices made in the stage selection. For example, all of the Sonic tracks are based off of stages from Sonic Heroes when there was a lot of potential to feature stages from other 3D, or even classic Sonic games. Similarly, two of the Billy Hatcher stages are based off the Blizzard Castle theme when there was potential to base a stage off of Giant Palace or Circus Park. Some will also find themselves wondering if it was really necessary to include three Curien Mansion stages. Although some properties could've been represented better, part of the variety has to do with how much leeway SEGA gave them. Hopefully, now that they've seen what Sumo Digital can do, they'll allow them more wiggle room next time.

    On that note, this racer features a wide soundtrack based on a variety of SEGA franchises used for stage themes and even the sequences for the all-star moves. It's a great music selection but, again, some minds will wonder about some of the selections. Sonic fans will very quickly notice how much music is based off of Sonic Rush, and songs like "Metal Scratchin" could've easily been replaced by much better ones, such as the theme for Bullet Station from Sonic Heroes. It could've easily used great choices from Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Unleashed, or Sonic and the Secret Rings. But for what it is, most songs convey the frenetic nature of the gameplay and there's a good number of quality song choices that won't go unnoticed by SEGA fans.

Aside from the GP and Single Race options, there's also a Time Trials menu where you can choose any of the tracks you've unlocked in the game, and set a lap record. Having to aim only for a single-lap time creates some replayability, especially since you're able to see ghost data of your best performance and the best Staff Ghost while you play. It would have been nice, though, if you could also aim for triple-lap records but it's still enjoyable nonetheless. If you're feeling competitive, you can also compare your stats to friends and other gamers around the world. Like in SEGA Superstars Tennis, there's also a Mission Mode, offering added reason to keep playing for completionists. Further, the Shop area allows you to spend the SEGA Miles you've accumulated from your races and unlock new characters, music and courses. Finally, the Options Menu will not only let you toggle settings, but you can also view your achievements.

    In terms of multiplayer, the game features a Split-Screen mode where players can engage in different events for up to four players simultaneously. In addition to the standard 'Race' option, the developers also made sure to include additional party modes. In 'Battle', each players has five pieces of fruit, and the last player standing wins the event. In 'Knockout', players engage in tense races where every 15 seconds, the person at the back is eliminated until only one remains. Players try to accumulate as many points as possible in 'Grab' by holding as many Chaos Emeralds in their possession for as long as they can. 'Capture the Chao' is essentially a Sonic version of capture the flag, where the person holding the Chao is very vulnerable as they try to get it to the highlighted area. Finally, in 'King of the Hill', players park their vehicles in a constantly-changing base to earn points. The only disappointing feature is the choice of arenas, with only three environments to choose from. It would've been a lot better if there were more arenas, maps where you could hide and take opponents by surprise. Otherwise, with the exception of King of the Hill and maybe Capture the Chao, these modes are fun for a group of people, and the variety is excellent for those that feel like trying something different.

Last but by no means least, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection option allows you to head online and face registered friends or random strangers in races of up to 8 persons. The developers were smart to restrict each character to one person (with the exception of Mii's), thereby creating strategy and even furthering the aforementioned idea of experimentation. Additionally, All-Star moves have been removed from the online component. When this was first revealed, quite a few people became upset that this wasn't included, but to be honest, it was a great decision to leave it out. In so doing, the online experience has an even greater focus on skill-based gameplay, rather than item abuse - something Mario Kart suffers from at times. And if you want to rule out luck entirely, both the catch-up feature and the item system can be turned off. All of the races I've experienced have been lag-free (a big plus in a game like this) but there have been some issues with connection errors.

    Although it has a lot going for it, there are a few problems with this mode that may affect your overall impressions of it. For one, random searches can take upwards of two minutes to find a match, and there's no option to quit early or start your own room on demand unless you're under the 'Play with Friends' option. The system also lacks a timer, which would've helped a good deal since there are some players who take forever just to get a game started, much to the frustration of those waiting. There's also an absent ranking system, something that feels a bit odd. If the developers are to make a sequel to this game, they simply must have battle record feature that indicates wins vs losses, and points showing how they stand against the rest of the world. Other than these minor annoyances and the disappointing lack of DLC, the online is a lot of fun with a good group of people, and it makes the game very replayable. Hopefully next time, Sumo Digital will pay attention to these drawbacks and possibly even add additional online modes (such as Knockout, Grab and Battle).

Sure the game never looks like its HD counterparts with its polished renderings and vibrant slipstreams, but for a Wii game, S&SASR is really impressive. Stages use lots of colour, character models look pretty good, and the overall impression is a very strong one. When playing with two persons, the visuals are very smooth, which is more than can be said for Mario Kart Wii. When playing races with three or four friends, gimmicks are removed in order to accomodate a top-notch framerate. It's not perfect, and some stages do show some "roughage", but never does the framerate border on terrible.

    In my humble opinion, Crash Team Racing is one of the best kart racing games to ever hit the video game scene. And while Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing isn't going to knock it off its pedestal, this is an excellent kart racing game in spite of its minor flaws. It's fast-paced, the stage designs are impressive and colourful, and most importantly, it's a ton of fun. There's a lot of room here for a sequel if Sumo Digital reflects on some of the discrepancies of this game. You'll likely find this hard to put down, especially with the large amount of replay value, and the tense 8-person online play. Any self-respected SEGA fanboy or even kart racer fan should avoid looking at this with a narrow mind and give this memorable game their time.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Great item system, controls feel natural especially with the Wii Wheel, focuses more on skill than luck, fast-paced and tense
Presentation 8/10 - Really strong level designs, framerate is pretty good, some great music choices, some games could've been represented better
Enjoyment 5/5 - Online is a ton of fun when you get a group going, split-screen multiplayer, addicting gameplay, fun party modes, lots of fan service
Extra Content 5/5 - Lots of content: multiple GP cups, fastest times, 24 tracks, online play, 4-player support, missions, unlockable content

Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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