Review by Phange
"The first game to legitimately fulfill the promise of the PS Vita"
Generally-speaking, Vita iterations of console titles have been rather disappointing affairs. From bad frame rates, stripped modes, and a general lack of developer "care", most are usually throwaway titles. To be fair, the Vita's rather stagnant performance and a lack of Vita-specific triple-A titles has left third parties disinterested.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on Vita is the second miracle this series has accomplished. The first miracle being that the console iterations were at least as good as the very best Mario Kart titles - with a plethora of modes, razor-tight game play and tons of fanservice. The second miracle? That the Vita version is virtually identical to the console versions - right down to the unlockables. Everything from the console versions - every track, every character, every song, every multiplayer mode, every achievement, every sticker, is present in the Vita version. What's even more astounding is that, despite relatively downgraded (but still gorgeous) graphics, it runs at a slightly higher overall frame rate (with notable exceptions) than the console versions.... and if that weren't enough, it's actually cheaper than other Vita titles -and- the console versions.
Simply put, this is the game the Vita was made for. It's a game as fully-featured as its console equivalent, with no caveats.
SASR on the Xbox 360 / PS3 / Wii U is a great-looking game, but suffers from an uneven frame rate that can be a real drag on the action. Compared side-by-side, it's clear that the Vita version has been significantly trimmed down, yet on its own it's still one of the best-looking Vita titles and the generally-solid frame rate only sweetens the deal. Of course, the game's bright colors are a visual overload on the Vita's spectacular OLED screen.
Overall, the graphical downgrade is not terribly significant because the game itself still looks great, and runs very well.
Awesome remixes of classic SEGA tunes, with lots of fanservice. I particularly appreciated hearing Skies of Arcadia tunes again - a game that has been perplexingly neglected by SEGA for quite some time.
Pound for pound, the Vita version of SASR is identical to the console versions aside from the number of competitors (8 instead of 10, which has virtually no impact on the game). SASR is a very well-designed kart racer, with similarities to Diddy Kong Racing. The actual racing is intense, cutthroat, and very difficult (especially by Mario Kart standards), but what makes the game work is the weaponry. Unlike Mario Kart, universal attacks are non-existant - no Blooper, Lightning, or non-survivable Blue Shells. While the game still promotes catching up with better items near the rear of the pack, all of the weapons are balanced to require skill either to use or to evade. A prime example of the game's remarkably balanced approach to weapon design is the Swarm, which sends a dozen-ish wasps to terrorize the first three racers. While this is superficially similar to the Blue Shell, it can be dodged with skill, giving the frontline racers an opportunity to maintain their lead while exerting skill to do so.
The amount of modes and things to do in SASR is nothing short of astounding. A huge quest mode, a standard grand prix mode, several multiplayer modes, time attack and single race challenges all await and offer their own rewards. Stickers, levels, and racers are unlocked by playing these various modes, and it would take an incredibly long time to unlock everything - not to mention considerable skill.
It's truly amazing what Sumo Digital was able to accomplish under-the-radar with the Vita version of SASR. This is not only one of the Vita's best games, it's arguably better than the console versions as it's cheaper and portable while maintaining feature parity.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/25/13
Game Release: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (US, 12/18/12)
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