Review by UberSweet

"Comprehensive Sonic Riders Review"

While most people were fortunate to have never played the Sonic racing game named ‘Sonic R,' I, unfortunately, played this game. And while I've played a lot of Sonic's outings, I can assure you that not all of them are as outstanding as other friends might tell you. The crucial aspect left out of Sonic R was that there was absolutely no sense of speed whatsoever: a Sonic must. It really seemed to me that Sonic couldn't handle 3D outings after playing the fanboy critically acclaimed Sonic Heroes. Although I haven't played the recently released Shadow the Hedgehog, it acquired terrible reviews from almost all sources. Sonic seemed to be a fading character on our current generation of consoles, a name we all related to gaming, the game that put Sega on the map. Losing hope in Sonic, I decided to purchase Sonic Riders without reading any reviews for it (due to the fact there were none posted at the time!). This new Sonic racing game changes every aspect in Sonic R, which was the right move. It's not without its faults, but it goes well and way beyond my expectations.

Sonic Riders starts you off with himself and his pals (Knuckles and Tails) searching for Chaos Emeralds (which contain hidden powers), when all of a sudden, a group of ‘thieves' snatch it before they do. This group of thieves are all new characters to the Sonic series, and fit well into their constantly growing cast, being Jet the Hawk, Storm the Albatross, and Wave the Swallow. Sonic attempted to stop these thieves, but failed due the fact they were using insanely fast, air-powered hover boards. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Eggman (the villain in every Sonic game) holds a tournament where all the contestants who want to enter must put a Chaos Emerald on the line. Coincidently, the group of thieves joins the tournament, as well as Sonic and the gang. The contestants must also use ‘Extreme Gear,' the same machinery the thieves used. Did you honestly expect a decent plot from a Sonic racing game? Me neither, but the laughable voice acting didn't help.

Since you're using Extreme Gear, you should expect this game to feel fast, which becomes instantly noticeable. To maintain high speeds, you must be constantly aware of the amount of Air stored in your Extreme Gear, and be replenishing it whenever you have the chance. Air is always being used up to accelerate the gear, so refueling it is a must at all times. There are multiple ways of doing this, which are: performing freestyle tricks midair, finding air crates, or stopping in an ‘Air Station.' Performing tricks is the easiest way of obtaining more air, and the most effective. Once you have launched yourself in the air from a ramp, you'll use the right analogue stick and move it in different directions; some combinations work better than others, and the more tricks you pull off, the more air you'll regain (the higher up you are, the more tricks can be pulled off). The trick system isn't too deep, but it's not supposed to be; it's extremely intuitive, and looks very sleek.

Other ways of refueling air is by going into these automatic ‘actions sequences,' where the faster you rotate the analogue stick, the more air you refuel. Rotating also determines the speed at which you are traveling. These moderately annoying sequences can end up hurting your thumb, but offers a more interactive approach than not being able to do anything; it's not a necessarily important feature. Capsules can be found within each track which contain both rings and air ‘refuelers.' Collecting rings becomes a vital component to the gameplay, fore when you've collected 30, your overall speed is increased, along with your boost speed, and your attack power. You can upgrade twice during a race, giving players a huge incentive to collect them; a great idea, and nicely implemented.

While air is used to accelerate your gear, it's also used for boosting and cornering. Boosting causes you to lose a significant amount air, but the alternative is an intense bust of speed, which can, and does, give you an edge against opponents. When you're boosting and collide with another contestant, you're character will automatically pull off an attack, which can potentially devastate them. And remember, the power of your attack can be increased with rings, making for a very intricate system, but there's plenty more. Cornering uses up air, and it temporarily slows you down, letting you slide around tight corners. Once the air is built up to maximum pressure, you can use a ‘mini' boost at the end of the turn. While this cornering system is almost top-notch, activating it takes a half-second to register, leaving beginners hit walls, and lose the lead. Also, the attacks can even be a little too powerful, sometimes leaving you no hope in acquiring first place.

Each character has their own statistics, determining acceleration and the like, but most notably there are three types of characters: Speed, Flight, and Strength. While these attributes do affect their statistics, the main focus and rational behind them is the ‘shortcut' system. Every track has multiple shortcuts, but only the indicated character type can pass through them. Speed can use grind rails, Flight can use floating boost hoops, and Strength can break some obstacles. Because of this ingenious system, using different types of characters varies the way you play, and alters your mind-set. There also aren't any better character types; it's perfectly balanced. Unfortunately, you don't need to explore each track to find the shortcuts, because there's always a sign indicating one's up ahead. So close!

The most notable innovation in Sonic Riders is the new ‘Turbulence' system. When a players is going extremely fast, a wave of air is created behind them, always following their every move. Other players can ‘ride' the turbulence like a wave, and can perform tricks on them to get ahead of the player creating it. There's usually always some turbulence to ride, and it helps anyone that wouldn't normally be able to catch up. Another surprising innovation, faulted by one little problem: you can't get off turbulence once you've entered it. This can get frustrating when the opponent creating the turbulence isn't taking the short you were going to use. Don't get me wrong though, this is a wonderful new play mechanic, and it's certainly commendable and wicked fun.

With a seemingly grating air system, a somewhat basic trick scheme, character type based shortcuts, and this new turbulence mechanic most might think Sonic Riders is a mish-mash of all kinds of completely different gameplay; it most certainly isn't. Sonic Riders manages to pull all of these together to make a completely new, and rather innovative game. It also must be known that this game is tough, and requires keen concentration for your surroundings, which is a nice change of pace from all the other Sonic games. Also, it's surprisingly easy to just pickup and play, making for a decent multiplayer outing. Sonic Riders is easy to play, yet challenging to master.

Most racing games provide a somewhat large amount of tracks, but lack some creativity and intricacy; while Sonic Riders only has 8 tracks (not including the tweaked alternate track for each), their highly involved, and delicately created. Ramps will often lead to two paths, making the playing time their charged jump perfectly to make it on the upper one, and the shortcuts are all nicely placed, giving the characters the perfect advantage when being used. The variation between the tracks design and look are also impressive. I vividly remember at about 10 hours into the game, I was playing the first track, when I realized a hidden part that was never reached by myself; a moment that shows the effort put into each and every one of tracks. More would have been greatly appreciated though.

Graphically, this game delivers an overwhelming sensation of speed with awesome blurring effects, but detail in the environments is rather lackluster. From far away, the environments look colorful, but up close, you can see that some textures don't even utilize anti-aliasing, leaving some textures to look really pixilated. The characters are all shiny and look good, but they are really bland and basic, but each of their unique animations fit, and sometimes impressive. Also, each character reacts to the different type of extreme gear, giving the gear some personality. Full motion videos rock though, but the music can be rather corny, especially the ones with lyrics. Luckily, all of the songs and themes have a nice beat and vibe to them. Theme music specifically made for the tracks are sometimes a little bland, while some stick out and really make the races feel intense and also fit the setting. Sometimes one might think some of the songs could be played during a rave.

The massive amounts of unlockables becomes almost sickly addictive, where you might find yourself playing this game for countless hours without even realizing it. Since you start out with only 3 characters, you'll definitely want to unlock the other 13, and the secret tracks. It's this addictive mainly because of the incredible variety in gameplay. Also, once you've obtained Mission Mode (containing a total of 100 missions), you'll be playing this for a surprising amount of time. I've played Sonic Riders for a total amount of 17 hours, and I still have more than half of the missions to complete. I'm also nowhere near sick of the gameplay or tracks yet. The only problem here is that some of the characters are acquired when you've played a certain amount of races; I hate when games do that.

Sonic Riders is an impressive game, boasting an incredible amount of variation I haven't seen a racing game possess in quite some time. While some of the mechanics aren't as full-fledged as the others, it all turns out to be a lengthy, addictive, and entertaining game, and could be perceived as great groundwork for a sequel. If you're a Sonic purist, you'll absolutely love this game, and even those F-Zero GX fans will find a nice sensation of speed, coupled with some solid gameplay mechanics.

Fun-Factor- 8.5
Containing a surprising amount of variation that should instantly hook in players, and keep them in for the ride, though some of the mechanics are without their faults.

Presentation- 6.8
While the environments are varied and the speed effects look nice, the textures can be absolutely terrible. Music with lyrics are corny, but each of the track's themed music are okay; laughable voice-acting.

Addictiveness- 9.4
Tons of unlockables including characters, tracks, and new Extreme Gear. Mission Mode significantly increases the length of this game; I've been playing it for 17 hours and I'm nowhere near sick of it.

Overall- 8.2
With a solid amount of variation, and heaps of unlockables, you'll have a hard time not playing this game. It's a shame the graphics are quite average.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/06


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