Review by Xodyak
"Great for Sega Fanboys and Kart Racer Fans Alike"
While many developers have tried to take the throne to the kart racing throne from Mario, and with very few exceptions, there has been little success. This is Sega's second modern effort at the genre, and they have done enough to make Nintendo worry about providing innovation within the future of it's Mario Kart franchise, as I believe this is the best "kart" game since Double Dash.
The graphical presentation of this game is quite good. One of the best things about this game is that if you grew up with Sega consoles you get to see some of your favorite characters in upgraded glory. Aside from that, nothing here gave me that "wow" impression, but nothing really disappointed me. This being a Wii U game though I wanted to see something that separated it from the other platforms, but couldn't really see anything that would indicate a difference. Something you may notice and should be noted is that when playing on the gamepad the game takes a significant graphical drop. While it's hard to complain about a function that isn't available on any other platform, it's strikes as odd that the drop in quality is so great considering that other games on the platform have little to no drop in overall presentation. Once again, hard to complain about this, but the gamepad functionality appears to be tacked on and an after thought in production.
Musical quality is nice, but will be more appreciated by those who grew up around the games that are represented. Immediately upon playing the Skies of Arcadia level I was rushed with memories, in addition to the nicely remixed music from the Sonic, NiGHTS, and Golden Axe series, including others. The sounds that the racers make can be somewhat irritating, making sounds that don't actually match up with what they are doing, but that is a minor annoyance.
For a mascot racer, the roster of available racers is a mixed bag. The difference that sets this game against Mario Kart is that Sonic Racing uses more from its library of IPs, which is great for anyone who loves Sega. This could work against your favor if you don't have any idea about who some of these racers are, but is a great bonus for Sega fans. Even then, the roster is somewhat questionable. The obvious anomalies are Danica Patrick and Wreck it Ralph. The addition of these characters don't seem to add much to those Sega fans, and while may add to the casual fans interest, it can only do so for so long. Other than those two, there is your typical expected Sonic members, including Metal Sonic, and a host of other Sega mainstays. Among the Sega characters I find the fact that they utilized so many Space Channel 5 members odd, as while it's a cool cult game, it never really met much of the mainstream appeal. There were so many options available that weren't used, including Streets of Rage, Shenmue, Vector Man; We could be here all day listing what could have been here and wasn't, but we get three Space Channel 5 racers. Once again, small gripe, but really left me scratching my head about how much further they could have stretched their IPs.
The gameplay itself is fun and frantic, and provides much of the same characteristics that other kart racers provide, with some key differences that really set this game apart. This game provides the standard kart weaponry, including those attack the first place weapons from any place on the track to the "All Star" mode that is similar to the star from the Mario series. Controls work well, and every character has different methods of control. The game relies heavily on drifting, which can be extremely irritating when just picking up and learning this game. If you don't know how to drift properly, you will not win as the difficulty increases, or even place well. While the controls are easy enough to drift, there are times, especially in world tour mode, that I felt punished if I didn't execute drifting absolutely perfectly.
Moving away from the drifting, it is important I talk about the one thing this game advertises on the cover: the "transforming" part. This element adds a lot to the actual gameplay itself, as there will be races where you will experience driving in all three modes: karting, boating, and flying. The best part about this is that when you transform you don't just change your appearance to suit the new demands of the environment, the way your driver controls significantly alters depending on your vehicle's mode. Boats control like boats, karts like carts, and planes like planes. Much like drifting, this can initially be frustrating as one could not be used to handling these new ways of driving in the kart racing genre, but learning is fun and adds a much needed element that makes this game unique, different, and fun. This sole feature is the reason there should be a new direction in any new kart racers, as this is a true evolution that has been long overdue.
There aren't really that many modes in this game, but what's there works. There is your expected Grand Prix mode, which there is nothing really excitingly new there, but is as fun as any has been. There is a World Tour mode, which takes you from event to event doing different things and essentially learning how to play the game. This mode is where you unlock all of your extra characters as you are awarded points, or stars, for how well you do in each event. Online is there, and is pretty much what you would expect. The multiplayer modes are nice due to the fact that you don't need split screen to play two player locally and can support five locally if you want.
Before I wrap this review up, I must point out this game's difficulty. This game is deceiving, as its easiest settings are simple enough and welcoming, but the difficulty spikes considerably as you move up each level. I felt as if I needed to perform flawlessly at the "hard" level, and even sometimes at the "medium" level, especially in the World Tour mode, so much to the point where I almost don't want to try the unlockable "expert" mode. While this game can be difficult, it's not as cheap as some other kart racers. When you lose you know why you fail and what you could do better, as opposed to a magical boost in speed from a racer that has no business being there, and there is nothing as devastating as a "Bullet Bill" or a "blue shell". The balance is what keeps you coming back, and is well appreciated.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a really good game that has taken important steps forward for kart racing, and has shown Nintendo's next effort needs to be something more. Right now, this game is at a lower price than other Wii U games so it is worth looking at if you are looking for a quality game at a good price. If you're a Sega fan, if you haven't already picked this up, then you really need to do yourself a favor and get this now.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/01/13
Game Release: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Bonus Edition) (US, 11/18/12)
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