Sonic R (Saturn) review
"Sonic the Hedgehog has several things going for him. Decked out in sleek blue fur and stylish red sneakers, he’s the epitome of what a game mascot should be. He’s hip, cool, and fun to be around. Though his obsession with chilidogs isn’t exactly healthy, he’s still far more of an interesting and dynamic character than his rival over at Nintendo. Image aside, Sega’s blue blur has one thing going for him: his pure, unbridled speed. Once those feet of his start up, it’ll take an act of God (or a we..."
Sonic the Hedgehog has several things going for him. Decked out in sleek blue fur and stylish red sneakers, he’s the epitome of what a game mascot should be. He’s hip, cool, and fun to be around. Though his obsession with chilidogs isn’t exactly healthy, he’s still far more of an interesting and dynamic character than his rival over at Nintendo. Image aside, Sega’s blue blur has one thing going for him: his pure, unbridled speed. Once those feet of his start up, it’ll take an act of God (or a well-placed bottomless pit or spike strip) to slow him down. But is Sonic the Hedgehog truly the fastest bipedal mascot in gaming history? The minds behind the series tried to answer that by giving us Sonic R, a poor attempt cash in on the popularity of franchise-themed racing games.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Sonic and his furry little pals are no longer out to save the world from the evil clutches of Dr. Robotnik. Instead, they’ve decided to take a little break from the heroics and have a friendly competition to see who is the quickest mammal around. There are no more animals that need saving, no gigantic weapons of mass destruction to dismantle, and there’s an absolute lack of villainous robots running amuck. That doesn’t mean that evil is taking a break, however. Dr. Robotnik may not be plotting for world domination at the moment, but he’s driving one of his latest machines in attempt to outdo Sonic and his friends and become the fastest competitor in all the land.
Don’t worry, all you die-hard Sonic fans, despite the abrupt departure from the usual gameplay of the series, much as been retained and converted for special use in Sonic R. Instead of running from one end of a level to the other, you’ll have to run through a race track for three laps, outpacing the likes of Robotnick, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy. Much of the track designs come straight from older Sonic games; you’ll have run fast enough to clear roads that loop upside-down, jump along loving platforms and avoid bottomless pits, use springs and panels to boost your speed, and even collect the dozens of golden rings that are strewn about everywhere. Instead of following the usual format of using the rings as a means to defend yourself against enemies, these little trinkets can be used to gain the upper hand during the race. If you run over one of the boost panels on the track, it’ll suck away your coins and increase your speed based on how many coins you’ve amassed. Also, coins can be spent to unlock certain gates, allowing you to use shortcuts to leave your opponents in the dust.
In fact, Sonic R encourages you to explore the levels; there is not one beaten track, but several. You’ll find that the paths frequently split apart, wrap around each other, and eventually end up in a garbled mess that requires time to figure out correctly. Some paths may be smoother and easier to handle, whereas others feature more hazards, jumps, and obstacles that need to be overcome. The problem is that such exploration eliminates any possibility of an organized race; there’s nothing quite as aggravating as falling from first place by taking a different route, or cheating by ditching the track entirely at the right moment and cutting across the surrounding arena. It doesn’t help that the game is filled with glitches, allowing characters to run through walls and miss jumps that would otherwise doom another racer. The sluggish controls, sloppy AI, and occasionally awkward camera angles don’t do the game justice, either.
Despite such glaring flaws, Sonic R does have a few positive points. Though the game only has five tracks to explore between the main races, Time Attack, and Versus Modes, they are crafted in the three-dimensional imagery of their 2D forefathers. You’ll be able to run across sandy beaches and sprint across the tide, run across wooden bridges and up hills with ease. You’ll get lost in ancient tombs, race through winding freeways that wrap around a small city, and wander through one of Robotnik’s decrepit factories. Sonic and the gang have been faithfully morphed into three dimensions, allowing you to view their cartoony eyes, spiky hair, and color costumes in all their polygonal glory. However, the truly best part of the game lies with the music; you’ll fall in love with the irritatingly cheerful (but catchy!) vocals and techno beats once you get an earful.
Unfortunately, not even such an interesting presentation can save this game from its descent into mediocrity. In their attempt to create a rival for Mario Kart 64, Sega created a monster of a racing game. Yes, Sonic R features many of the characters you’ve come to know and love from the series. Yes, the game boasts plenty of levels and designs from the 2D games. However, the incredibly jumbled track structures and overemphasis on exploration drag the game down from greatness; though the game is far different from other racing titles, its unusual gameplay makes it too unbalanced and broken to be taken seriously. The lacking features and unpolished aspects ultimately seals Sonic R to its fate as a game worth forgetting.
Community review by disco (January 07, 2007)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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