by Max Keogh
previewed on PS3
The Sega gang returns… this time for a race!
Ah, Sega. I don’t know about you, but I always seem to get a warm shimmer of nostalgia whenever their name gets mentioned. They have given us some good memories, such as the signature “Sega!” chime that went off before you played a game on the Sega Genesis. While Sega brought us some great classics in the past, fans will undoubtedly know that the company has gone through some difficult times in recent years.
Sonic games in particularly have not lived up to their former quality despite numerous new releases. Sega seeks to make amends by putting gamers behind the wheel of a new arcade racing game called Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing which is being developed by Sumo Digital. Now, your initial reactions may be entirely appropriate; we all cannot deny that the mascot kart-racing genre has turned stale and tired. There have been dutiful attempts such as Crash Team Racing for the PSONE but most games seem to want to use the tiresome Mario Kart template, unable to think of anything fresh and new. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing actually looks to be a competent racer, lovingly recreating and unearthing a lot of Sega’s character stable and history.
How to win the race…
Upon first look, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing seems to use all the standard gameplay mechanics from your usual Mario Kart-esque racer, and doesn’t really aim to reinvent them either. Players have to collect weapon upgrades that they can use to attack the opposing player. In the game, players have a choice of three different vehicle types consisting of standard vehicles (if one could call anything in an arcade racer ‘standard’), off-road vehicles and flying vehicles. This choice is not merely a gadgetey way of offering you some more variation. Different pathways open up to you during the race depending on your choice of vehicle.
Furthermore, each playable character will have its own definitive “All-Stars Move”, a character-related special attack that the player can use to ultimately go across the finishing line first. Every fan could have a good guess of what these moves might be, and most of the moves are synonymous and fitting with each character, such as “Super Sonic” being Sonic’s specific trait and All-Star Move in the game.
It’s great to see so much of the old classic Sega games return to the TV screen. In tune with these classics, the confirmed stages in this game vary from the bright, welcoming beachside of Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes to a futuristic and whimsical Phantasy Star Online stage. Other stages confirmed are Blizzard Castle from Billy Hatcher, and even an Amigo Stage inspired by Samba De Amigo. They all look very inviting and carry a surprisingly high attention to detail and strongly match the art styles from the original games.
The fan service is actually both quite consistent and strong in quality. Every stage and character seems to be faithfully and respectfully presented that one wishes that they got nowadays. Sumo Digital seems to acknowledge each franchise, and their overall importance to the fans. I could discover no lazy or half-baked designs anywhere and the game remains true to the Sega vibe. The little touches in the game such as hearing the iconic spring noise from the original Sonic games and the memorable rolling noise from Super Monkey Ball clearly shows the developers’ personal understanding and love for everything Sega.
One recently announced feature is the addition of Sega Miles. These are coins that can be found on the racing track and can be spent on a variety of unlockable content ranging from new tracks to new unlockable musical tracks. This may well extend the replay value far beyond the core racing game. Furthermore, the famous bird and bear duo Banjo & Kazooiee will be unlockable characters exclusively on the Xbox 360 editions. An online mode, available for up to eight players has been promised so that players can take on fellow fans in online matches.
Sega spin-offs have been criticized for their shallow, simple and standard gameplay and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing many not change this perception. It is a game utilizing a safe racing genre using a lot of the already tried-and-true Mario Kart gameplay. However, the soulfully executed fan service may be enough for fans to have their own ideal racer. Time will tell whether gamers will choose to accept another mascot kart racer as their purchase.