Review by Thine_Eyes

Reviewed: 08/09/06

Frustrating and long at times, but otherwise a fun and unique racing experience

Sonic the Hedgehog is a true veteran of the video gaming world, and as such, he has all the right in the world to gather his friends (and foes) to a racing extravaganza like Mario did. Thing is, can he actually do it right?

The answer is how far you go and how much fun you have with Sonic Riders. You see, unlike most other racing games where you race in cars or go-karts, Sonic and co. use hoverboards (or other vehicles, depending on the character) that float above the ground (referred to as "Gear"), similar to the vehicles in Kirby Air Ride. However, it almost seems realistic in the sense that the Gear run of air, similar to how your ordinary car runs on gas. In other words, the Gear eventually runs out of "gas" and you have to use pit stops or tricks in order to regain air. If you can keep your air in-check, though, then you can easily win races and not have to worry about opponents always passing you.

Speaking of tricks, this is one of the most fun parts of Riders. Jumping off ramps obviously launches your character into the air, allowing them to perform stunts with their Gear. With a simple tilt of the Control Stick, they will perform a certain stunt in the same direction you're tilting it in. The best part is that you can hold and release the A button with correct timing to jump higher in the air, leaving room to perform higher, better, and more insane tricks to gain more air.

The Air factor, while one of the most interesting, is one of the most annoying parts of Sonic Riders. Air is measured in a meter that gradually lowers as the race goes on. Also, in exchange of using the 'B' button to boost, the 'R' button to steer, and the 'L' and the 'R' buttons simultaneously to cast a tornado, you lose air in great amounts. With all these factors combined, it can be difficult to keep air in your meter, especially if your character is using a Gear that burns a lot of air. Performing tricks by jumping off ramps and repeatedly turning your control stick in circles in areas where your character is automatically steered via an outside force are the easiest and fastest ways to regain air, but there are some tracks where these ramps and specific paths are spread out along the track, and pit stops are not only inconvenient in the sense that they take a long time to refill the meter, but also the fact that your character may not be near one. And there's nothing more annoying than watching your character frantically run around trying to find a pit stop when there's not another one for several feet along the track. But perseverance is the only way to win most races, so practicing on each track is a good way to, not only spend time on this game, but also to help effectively control air with a character and board.

Moving on to character classifications, instead of dividing characters by weight class like the Mario Kart series does, Sonic Riders divides characters into the three classifications used in Sonic Heroes; Speed, Flight, and Power. Each one has their own advantages on a track. Speed characters can climb and grind on rails. However, it takes a lot of practice just to jump on a rail correctly, and can still be troublesome if you don't know the track well.

Flight characters are easier to control. There are special ramps with yellow markings on several tracks. With a Flight character, you can automatically jump off these ramps and into yellow rings that sends your character soaring, speeding up, and regaining air.

Power characters automatically knock away any and all obstacles in their path (besides the opponents, of course). This includes cars, trains, vagabond robots, stalagmites, doors, and pretty much everything else. Since the characters can do this automatically, they're very easy to use and control effectively.

On to the less technical things, the 3D character models are very reminiscent to those of Sonic Heroes, and is very obvious in the story modes. The characters are bright and colorful, yet lack an extreme amount of detail, as if they're simply painted-on mobile clay or porcelain dolls. However, most of the courses are extremely beautiful in terms of suitable colors and designs. Whether the course is sunny or dark, filled with lava or with ice, the lighting and colors match the mood of the course exactly.

The music varies from electronic alternative rock (the music with vocals) that's similar to that of Sonic Heroes's (but slightly less interesting) to just electronically-made looped disco-esque beats (some of which are oddly catchy) used in menus and courses. And as we all know, this game uses the cheesy voices used in the 4-Kids anime (a controversial decision on the part of the ones who came up with the idea). But the only thing about the new characters' voices that makes you cringe is Jet's voice (the frowned-upon voice similar to Usopp's from the One Piece dubbed anime).

This game probably has the most variety character-wise than any other Sonic game. With 16 total characters and each one being able to use several different Gear (again depending on the character), there are several character combinations to mix and match and practice with.

The one-player modes (Story and Mission) are fun and fulfilling (as you unlock several new characters and courses by completing them), yet aren't satisfying in some cases. The humor used by the characters is very dry, but still tolerable if you let the jokes go one ear and out the other. In both modes it can be very difficult in areas and you have to really persevere and hope Lady Luck is on your side just to complete whatever has you stumped. Again, another advantage of practicing on courses in other modes.

So, quite frankly, this game can be fun and interesting, but only if you can stand how difficult and frustrating this game can be and if you can consistent enough. Persevere, ignore anything you find negative, and the same as any racing game, rent if you're not confident enough, buy if you are.

Over-all score: 8/10

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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