Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing with Banjo-Kazooie
Review by SR71halo
"Sumo gives us proof that Nintendo isn't the only one who can pull off a good kart racer"
Everyone knows about Mario Kart and everyone knows that Mario has pretty much dominated the kart racing genre since the SNES. In between these games came cheap knock offs like M&Ms Kart Racing or even a Madagascar kart racer. Outside of Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Kart seems to be the only successful series of its kind. Even Sonic tried and failed with Sonic Drift for the Game Gear. However, now we finally get a GOOD and solid kart racer with actual effort that not only doesn't star Mario, but anyone on any console can enjoy, and starring Sonic no less.
Of course not only will you be able to choose between a few Sonic characters but many other characters from other Sega franchises are in as well. Such characters as Ryo (from Shenmue), Beat (Jet Set Radio), Ulala (Space Channel 5), Aiai (Super Monkey Ball), Amigo (Samba De Amigo), BD Joe (Crazy Taxi) and featuring the return of Opa Opa (Fantasy Zone) and the Bonanza Bros. The cast overall is much bigger and maybe better than Sega Superstars Tennis with up to 22 characters (Banjo Kazooie and your own avatar, but these are 360 exclusive although the Wii has Mii's playable) but it's too bad that Nights is no longer playable, but an official, and Gillius from Golden Axe has been removed even though they kept Alex Kidd. I was also hoping for other classics like Vectorman and Ristar. Every franchise included only has one character each this time except Sonic who has 7 (the 5 from SST plus Knuckles and Big). Each character is unique with their own stats and all star move.
You will have 24 tracks to choose from the series of Sonic, Billy Hatcher, Super Monkey Ball, Samba De Amigo, Curien Mansion and Jet Set Radio. It's too bad that more series didn't have their own tracks and Sonic has 9 (all taking after Sonic Heroes) while the others have 3. It doesn't seem to matter though, because these tracks are actually very well designed. Each one is unique and feels like the game their representing (like the loops in the Sonic tracks) and all of them are a lot of fun to race on.
Now on to the race. First of all, the A.I. is actually pretty smart as they are competitive and not only know how to use items, but they sometimes take short cuts too. Pretty much like every kart racer, you won't just be racing but you can pick up items to destroy your opponents. The items are decent put there's nothing to special like a missile which locks on to your rivals, a boxing glove (kind of like the green shell from Mario Kart), and mines which you set behind you. You can also shoot missiles or boxing gloves behind you too. However, each character has their own All-Star move which you only get if you're behind and can be used to catch back up. For instance, Sonic gets the chaos emeralds which he uses to turn into Super Sonic and knocks everyone out as he runs into them, Ryo ditches his motorcycle for a forklift and tosses everyone in the air, Amigo forms everyone up in a conga line behind him, etc. The main effect is mostly a boost but each have a unique side effect and the All-Star move in general is surprisingly not as unbalanced as you might think. One more thing this game offers is drift, which you use to turn corners easier. Holding down L will put you in a drift and will charge your turbo which gives you a boost upon release.
I have mixed reactions on the anouncer. On one hand, I think he makes the race a little more interesting. On the other, he can get a bit annoying. Luckily you can turn him off if you hate him.
There really is no story but single player mode will have a choice between single race, grand prix, time trial or missions. Single race is just a straight up race, choose your character and course and play. Grand Prix includes 6 tournaments with four races in each split up into three different difficulty levels, beginner, advanced or expert. The only downside is you can't play torunament with more than one player which is disappointing. In time trial, you choose your course and try to beat the best time. Your ghost will appear which is a recording of your best lap as well as a "staff ghost" who doesn't seem to use his drift and is very easy to beat. The whole race is endless until you quit.
As for the missions, completing them won't unlock anything, but they are extra challenges to complete that only get harder as you progress and are graded on each one. Missions include racing one other rival, staying in first and knocking out your opponents, collecting items along a track and plenty more. They certainly keep you occupied as there are 64 in all and some of them are fun, but the only thing you get is an achievement.
The game includes both split screen multiplayer and online. In split screen, you and up to 4 players can race like mentioned above, or you can battle in whch you are placed in an arena and must knockout your rivals with weapons. Capture the Chao includes taking your opponent's chao and taking back to your base. In Grab, you take a chaos emerald and try to hold on to it as long as you can without your opponents taking it. King of the Hill requires you to stay in a certain area as long as you can and keep others out and in Knockout, you must stay ahead of the pack, whoever is in last place when the timer runs out is eliminated. These multiplayer modes are interesting and a ton of fun, but they're split screen only. It's pretty disappointing that you can only race online. Racing is fun but having the others available would have been nice too.
When you complete a race, you earn "SEGA miles" (amount varies depending on how well you did). You can save up these Sega Miles and spend them on the store to buy more characters, tracks or even more songs which can be played on certain tracks.
Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is an incredibly fun game and shows that Mario isn't the only one who can perfect a kart racer. I can't quite say if it beats the Mario Kart series but it is nice to finally see someone put some effort into a kart racing game for once, especially one starring Sonic. The races are fast -paced and fun, there is plenty of characters to choose from and the tracks are very well designed. If you're looking for a new kart racer for your collection, no matter what system you own, that doesn't involve Mario for a change, forget all the other cheap knock offs (not counting Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong Racing) and look no further than Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing. Especially if you were like me; don't own a Wii but wish I had a Mario Kart-like game.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/08/10
Game Release: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing with Banjo-Kazooie (US, 02/23/10)
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