Sonic Rivals 2 - PSP - Review
Spinning through a slot machine, one blue, super-speedy hedgehog prepares for the loop ahead. He takes the loop as if he’s been through it a million times before – considering that his first adventure took place in the 90s, you can be sure he has. But this one is larger and longer. He needs a running start to get through it, and may have to go back for an acceleration-boosting device should the head start not be enough.
Multiple shades of green and yellow almost blur together when he reaches top speed, earning him respect as a console mascot – and now, a multi-platform hero – that can be looked to for inspiration. Sonic the Hedgehog, the former Genesis legend, is the only action/adventure star that has kept up with Mario. His next-gen debut didn’t have the same impact as his first Dreamcast offering. But he did garner some points for appearing in Sonic Rivals.
Developed solely for PSP, Sonic Rivals takes the classic Sonic formula (side-scrolling levels that cater to speed) and drowns them in a racing game environment. The 2D perspective remains, but with a 3D engine powering each stage, the game can transmit dynamic angles that leap past the second dimension.
This is not the first time Sega has toyed with a Sonic racing game. Many of you should remember Sonic R, Sega’s answer to Mario Kart (minus the vehicles). Most gamers will also recall the time-based competitions of the latter Genesis titles, which split the screen for a two-player race through the game. If you’ve played that before, then you already know how awesome an idea this is when it works, and how disastrous it can be when it doesn’t. Sonic Rivals 2 is a little bit of both. The racing portions are a mix of “oohs,” “ahhhs” and “no, not again!”
Those less pleasant moments would be worth enduring for the good times, but they’re not the only element that causes Sonic to come to a screeching halt. Despite being promoted as a racing game (the back of the box reads: “Move your feet or be defeated in an all-new race with 8 Rivals, 12 new courses and unlimited speed”), Sonic Rivals 2 is a mishmash of button-mash gameplay. Intertwined with the racing and time trial stages are boss and rival battles that slow the game down with a Super Smash Bros. impersonation. Like the racing stages, this probably sounds awesome – until you get to the not again part.
Whose Rival Is It Anyway?
Everyone knows Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Shadow. Their moves are the same as always: Tails can fly, Sonic has a speed boost advantage, Knuckles can damage enemies and obstacles, and Shadow may slow down his Rival. But unless you’ve played through the last couple of Sonic games, chances are you aren’t aware of Sonic Rivals 2’s other four competitors: Silver, Rouge, Espio, and Metal Sonic.
One of the newer members of the series, Silver is another hedgehog. He doesn’t appear to be related to the blue hedgehog, nor do his special moves – the ability to scramble an opponent’s controls – indicate that he may be. Rouge the Bat, a professional treasure hunter, uses winged comrades to attack and protect herself from Rivals. Espio must think he’s part hedgehog because he can speed boost and become invisible. Metal Sonic doesn’t have any unique moves of his own, so he just copies whatever his Rivals dare to unleash.
Sonic Rivals 2 features the same linear setup that’s found in its non-racing predecessors. The stages/courses are laid out on a world map and may be revisited upon completion. Boss battles are waiting at the end of each cycle and contain the same kind of hit-the-weak-spot gameplay that made beating up Dr. Robotnik (now Dr. Eggman) a hit more than 10 years ago. To win, you mustn’t only defeat the boss – you must do so before your opponent.
Battle (non-boss) stages begin with just three rings for each character. In these stages, points are scored by hitting your Rival at least twice: first to remove the rings and a second time to inflict damage. Once lost, rings cannot be reacquired until your character stops blinking (at which time he or she is temporarily invincible), and if the rings disappear before they’re grabbed, you won’t have any protection from the next attack.
Racing and time trial stages aren’t that different from each other. One is a race against a Rival, who can attack and slow you down. The other is a race against time, which never attacks but is constantly depleting, and does not offer second chances to those who are late.
Conceptually, these stage types are great. Sonic Rivals is a really wonderful idea and, for the few seconds when it’s running smoothly, is as fast and exciting as the original Sonic. But this isn’t as much a race against Rivals as it is a game against clunky controls and unnecessary stops. The world designs look great but they don’t work. Every time you pick up speed and begin to enjoy Sonic for what it’s supposed to be (an action/adventure that’s faster than all others), the game slows down – and in some cases completely stops – by making players jump across platforms, climb poles, or button mash to climb a wall.
You’ll also have to swing from vines like Donkey Kong and launch yourself out of cannons. None of these are particularly bad elements. In a regular action/adventure, they’re usually welcome. But in a game where speed is paramount – in a racer where the last thing a player wants is to hit a red light – they nearly kill the fun.
Review Scoring Details for Sonic Rivals 2
Sonic Rivals 2 isn’t the super-speedy racing game you’d expect from the world’s fastest blue hedgehog. Jerky levels and unwarranted slowdowns prevent the game from moving at Sonic’s true speed.
An excellent 3D remake and partial redesign of Sonic’s best worlds, including the classic casino stages.
Sonic used to be known for having distinct sounds and a memorable score. This game’s sound is just annoying.
Though the cheap AI might make some think otherwise, Sonic Rivals 2 is not a challenging game.
Great idea, bad execution. I’d rather have 12 great courses that last 60 seconds than 12 three-minute courses that interrupt the experience with walls and poles. That was likely part of the plan – to disorient players with unexpected obstacles. But if they’re not fun, we end up feeling disoriented in a way the developers did not intend.
You only need one game disc to play Sonic Rivals 2 with a friend, but it’s unlikely that you’ll want to take advantage of that option.
Doesn’t rival Sonic’s previous adventures.