Review – Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing
Shenmue fans get psyched. In a bad way.
‘Oh for fuck’s sake! Not another one.’ This is the thought that generally goes through the mind of any gamer when they see a tarnished gaming celebrity go through the rigmarole of yet another kart racer which tries and topple that fat bastard Mario at his own game.
Well here we go again,kids. Welcome to Sega All-Stars Racing, also known as Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing or, if you own an Xbox 360, you may prefer to call it Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing With Banjo-Kazooie. Seriously the game sounds like a fucking shampoo, â€œnow with added irrelevance.â€
As a few of you Peoww forumites know, I am shooting for a complete collection of Sonic the Hedgehog games. That means everything he is a part of whether it be a cameo, full priced release or the many collections bearing his 16-bit guise. I’m doing this because Sonic to me is the very epitomy of nostalgia and without the blue hedgehog in my life I may very well have done something far more productive like paying attention in school or being less overweight. For this I thank Sega, the company that could do no wrong in my developing years.
Now what you may be thinking would be something along the lines of FAN-BOY! or something to that effect, you may also be correct. I am however not naive enough to state that Sonic has been doing just peachy recently. It seems that Sonic Team are doing whatever they can dig the critter a grave lined with unsold copies of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic and the Black Knight.
Sega have promised change though, we have seen some hope with what is to be Sonic 4 (previously known as Project Needlemouse) a game which will hopefully remind us why we loved holding down a direction and tapping the jump button once in a while. Although when games like Sonic & Sega Allstars Racing with Pantene Pro-v get released us gamers start to roll our eyes and curse Sega for fucking about with our fond memories.
When I started playing Allstars Racing I found that I was enjoying myself far too much. Should this be possible? My expectations were so low for this product that I went in thinking I was going to be playing a cheap cash in. Instead I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I passed my opponents, performed perfect drifts around hairpin turns and fought for first place.
Sumo have managed to capture the look of the games that the tracks take inspiration from. Affording fans of Sonic, Billy Hatcher and Jet Set Radio with the joy of a HD update to some of their favourite locales. My particular favourite scene for the game are the Samba De Amigo tracks, these are filled with the very same mardi gras quirkyness that made the original game so great, they also happen to be trippy as fuck, the first track featuring a swirling vortex which warps you to another part of the track with a giant Amigo grinning insanely at you. The cast are characteristically well represented. They look and feel exactly as they should with only a few minor exceptions, such as some of the facial expressions and mid-race taunts.
The problem with this admittedly excellent cast though is the fact that a lot of the racers are under-represented in the form of playable tracks, additions like Ryo Hazuki and Opa Opa are merely cosmetic and do little to get the taste buds going for a dive back into the retro. This is a shame as each of these characters come from great sega licenses and their worlds would have been a great playground for the racing shenanigans. Also with the xbox 360 we are inexplicably treated to play as Banjo-Kazooie who to be honest feel so out of place in the game you start to wonder what the fuck are they doing there in the first place.
It’s seems like Sega can’t market games for toffee these days. First of all they release Yakuza 3 (arguably one of the best games they have released in years!) on the PS3 on the same week as Final Fantasy XIII but secondly it seems that Sega feel that they just need to slap Sonic’s name on anything they are selling at the moment otherwise it won’t get shelf space.
It wasn’t always like this though, Sega used to make awesome games back in the day and I am not just talking about their Sonic output. Games like Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Fantasy Zone, the Phantasy Star games all the way up to games like Shenmue and Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast. It seems Sega wish to remind us about the good old times with a decent if slightly generic entry to the ‘karting’ genre.
While the game is a by the numbers karting affair. The courses are what make this game really and in this game they are very vibrant, colourful and very well made and full of unique touches in terms of course design and nostalgic Sega flair. I would dare say that they are perhaps even better than the offerings of the most recent Mario Kart. Makes a change from camo green and muddy browns that’s for sure.
The courses will get you so far, and there is a ton of stuff to do in single player, but the online is a little ropey (i.e. laggy and full of disconnects). But the game is a fun game to play with friends and is very well made for the most part. I did not have any frame rate issues with the PS3 version to report but some of the online trophies are glitched.
Overall I recommend this game to anyone who does not own a Wii but would like some Mario Kart-style shenanigans in their life!
Secondary Score: 7/10
The game handles very nicely with responsive controls and there are no game breaking problems to speak of making this one of the better Kart racers. I actually enjoy the drifting which is vital to your success in the game, it handles a lot like the recent Outrun games which is to be expected as Sumo is behind the wheel. My major gripe with the game is that the weapons feel completely uninspired feeling more like ticks on the checklist of a kart racers status quo.
You have the green boxing glove for a straight up projectile attack a red rocket for a homing attack, Sonic’s shoes for a speed boost yadda yadda. Its all so needlessly generic when the Sega back catalogue is filled with so many games that could have been plundered of items and power ups. How great would have been to have columns raining from the sky? Or how about the teleport monitor from sonic 2‘s multiplayer mode? Sumo plundered the depths of nostalgia with some of the unlockables so there is no reason to be so half arsed in this respect. The all-star attacks (which are unique to each character) looked game-breaking at first but I can thankfully say that they do not overpower the one using it, instead it just gives those lagging behind a chance to get further up the field.
Content-wise the game has a lot going on. As you play through the game whether it be multi-player or single you can rack up currency in the form of Sega Miles. This can be used to purchase unlockable extras such as characters, music for the stages and stages for online play. This is a great way to add longevity to a game and I applaud Sumo for taking this route as you can unlock Sega Miles by playing in almost any mode depending on your mood. Meaning that if you choose you can play the game entirely in multi-player against friends but still retain the fruits of your labour by getting all of the extras without having to faff about in single-player. The unlockables are actually fairly decent as well, the music tracks range from old favourites like Palmtree Panic (Sonic CD) to remixed/original tunes based on the race tracks themselves. The Cast is a good range as well, I was surprised to see the bonanza brothers and Opa Opa from Fantasy Zone in the mix, this just shows that Sumo have taken into account us older cynical gamers as well as the young ones when making the game,
I think its fair to say that Sega may have dodged a bullet with this one, much kudos to sumo for pulling this brilliant time waster out of the hat despite the shortcomings of its concept. The game is great fun, its not original but it does not need to be as it serves its purpose. A genuinely good party game for the family and a great kart racer for those who can’t stand that Italian plumber’s smug grin.