Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing - 360 - Review
It comes with deep regret that Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing with Banjo and Kazooie decided to take a route that doesn’t appeal to all demographics. In the past, complaints arose when the Mario Kart franchise decided to opt for more drift-heavy gameplay with less concentration on shortcuts. It’s in this same regard that Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing fails; it’s primarily a racer that focuses too much on drifting and not enough time on having a joy ride.
Upon playing your first match online or offline, it’s easy to notice how drifting relates to staying at the front of the pack. Drifting around corners – or even drifting to drift for the fun of it – allows for players to build up a speed boost that players immediately receive after exiting the drift. It’s in this theory that Sonic & Sega drops the ball on appealing to everyone as having to constantly hold the left and right trigger to excel at the title is a pain in the rear end.
In addition, the lack of shortcuts on the levels is disappointing. Each level may have one hidden shortcut, but it barely ever gives the players a leg up on the competition – it ends up being not much more than a scenic route. At least, the 24 levels provided were entertaining to drive on, even if there were far too many Sonic and Billy Hatcher levels that players have to endure. Sega dropped the ball when it comes to giving players a wide diversity of levels, especially for franchises not featured in Sonic & Sega.
When racing, players encounter the typical power-ups along their journey to the finish line to use on their opponents. Unfortunately, they are far too few available to use. I don’t know how many times I used the green boxing gloves in one match, but it was one too many by my count. There are all-star items to use that are unique to each character that can take players from the back of the pack and into the front. The issue with the all-star weapons is that they are rare and provided to players that need to play catch up. Most of the items are speed bursts, so there’s not much to see here.
The biggest draw of playing through Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing has to be the character roster. There are countless characters in the game from throughout Sega’s history found in the title. From Alex the Kidd to Ulala from Space Channel 5, the cast is fantastic. Even Beat from Jet Set Radio Future and Ryo from Shenmue make their appearances, so this title is definitely meant to open the eyes of longtime fans that are nostalgic for their favorite characters.
It has to be said though; Sega was able to nail down the controls. Not only were they smooth, but players should effortlessly pick up a controller and feel at home once they hit the track. The only issue I had with the controls obviously had to be drifting throughout the entire course to keep up with the fastest racers. It eliminated the fun factor for many matches and kept it to be being more about business than pleasure. Due to the focus on boosting and drifting, if players happen to fall off the map or get stuck behind a rock, they’ll be left in the dust and have to pray for their competition to make the same mistake or fall victim to a power-up attack.
The largest issue that Sonic & Sega has was the lack of both offline and online cooperative Grand Prix mode. Strictly as a single-player affair, Grand Prix mode is a major letdown without being able to race against a friend or two. Grand Prix is six different cups separated into four different tracks, so nothing out of the normal here. There’s also Mission mode available, which is objective based and has players playing catch up with Sonic, knockout with Knuckles, practicing drift and much more. Players are ranked from E to AAA, so there’s incentive to go back to the missions to earn the perfect grade. In addition, there’s several unlockables in the form of tracks, characters and music.
Sadly, Sonic & Sega All-Starts Racing is nice diversion and alternative from the Mario Kart franchise, but it far from supplants it as the king of the genre.
Rubberbanding is found and yes, it’s a pain as usual since it doesn’t reward players for their performance behind the wheel.
The visuals are hit and miss. At times, the game looks fantastic, but in others, it makes us scratch our head. One of the Samba De Amigo levels could potentially cause seizures, so not exactly sure what the development team was thinking.
The in-game announcer is painfully annoying and has one-off lines that he repeats over and over again. The unlockable music for the soundtrack helps make up for the poor announcing.
Not too many developers are braving the harsh world of the kart-racing genre, so it’s refreshing to see Sega attempting at least something and coming away with a decent product.
No ability to play Grand Prix with anyone offline or online is disappointing; that’s right, no online mini-games, just races. Eight players can compete online with AI bots, settings allow players to toggle items on and off along with rubberbanding. Thankfully, not much lag was found in the matches online. The offline mini-games such as King of the Hill and Capture the Chao are monotonous and don’t offer any value.
There’s potential for this to grow into a beautiful flower of a franchise, but as of right now, it does feel like an imitator with several great ideas and a handful of things holding it back from competing with Mario Kart.