Sonic Riders Review
Editor's Note: I wrote this review a long time ago. I think it needs some polish. I still agree with everything I said, however the review itself isn't that well written. I still think I bring out some good points though, so the review can still be helpful to those seeking advise.
After making Shadow the Hedgehog, which was considered a horrible game by many critics and consumers, alike, Sega and Sonic Team have now made Sonic Riders, a racer starring many old Sonic characters and some new ones. It will not take someone long to find out that Sonic Riders is mostly a fan service for Sonic loyalists, but racing fans looking for something new could enjoy it, too.
The story in Sonic Riders is fairly simple and not that engaging overall and it does require some knowledge of the Sonic world, so if you haven't played that many Sonic games, it might be a little hard to understand. Basically, Sonic's nemesis, Dr. Eggman, has started an "Extreme Gear" (what the vehicles are called in the game) contest. To enter the contest the particepents must give up one Chaos Emerald and the winner gets to take it all. New to the series' character roster this year are Jet, Wave, and Storm, three thieves known as the "Babylon Rouges". Sonic and gang join the tournament, because they want to find out what Dr. Eggman is up to, while the Babylon Rouges are trying to find out things about their ancient Babylonian ancestors, but none of this is really all that interesting. One of the storyline's main attractions is the nice old-school cartoon style, such as when one character tries explaining something very confusing to somebody who is not all that bright, and then the dumb fellow's eyes starting rolling in his eye sockets rapidly out of confusion.
The racing in Sonic Riders is the main attraction. You ride on hover boards, which use air as fuel. As you're racing the hover board’s supply of fuel starts to wither away and even more so if you boost. Well, what do you do to get more air? Pull of some tricks, when going off of ramps, of course! It's not very logical, but it's good enough for the game. Another way to get air is to go through a path designed exclusively for each type of character. These include speed, fly, and power types. Speed characters can grind on rails by jumping onto them, fly characters go off of ramps and into giant rings which make them fly forward across the course skipping much of the standard path they would have to take, otherwise, and power characters can knock over obstacles that would normally harm other characters, and they can knock walls, which leads them into an alternate path full of more obstacles so they can gain more air.
Another neat little feature in Sonic Riders is the turbulence. When a character starts to really take off they create a stream of turbulence behind them. Characters can jump into the turbulence and can move forward without having to waste their air, and they can jump off the sides of the turbulence and perform tricks and get even more air. One flaw of the turbulence is that it can end rather abruptly and lead you right off the edge of a cliff. Putting that aside, the turbulence is a great feature that feels really satisfying to use.
There is also a level-up feature in the game. On the course, there are rings scattered everywhere and when you collect enough you'll level up, with three levels in total. Leveling up can upgrade your hover board’s air gauge, which will let you hold more air. The strength and effect of your character's attack, which is initiated by getting close to an opponent when boosting, will become better. The level-up feature isn't exactly new to racing games, but it does add some objectives during races.
The game's controls are okay. They do take a little getting used to, but after that you should be fine. Sometimes the game is a little more demanding than it should have to be, such as making you jump and then push the jump button again right before you land on a rail, just so you can do something simple like grinding. Also, there are moments, where the game makes you spin the joystick around, just to drift down the water current quickly, or take the lift up to the finish line quickly, which feels unneeded.
Unfortunately, the multi-player aspect of the game doesn't work out too well. There is just too much going on for three or four people to share one screen. And there's no online play for any version of the game, which could have fixed that problem. There are a bunch of modes that can be played in multi-player, but none of these are quite as fun as a standard race. You could maybe play with one other friend, but it just gets out of hand with three or four people.
This is definitely a pretty looking game. The races look bright and colorful, and the tricks you pull off look down right impressive. The races run at a pretty steady frame rate, and look very crisp and clean. In the story model, you'll find two different types of cut scenes. The first type are the CG cut scenes. These look very impressive, and have a great clean look to them. The other type is, of course, the non-CG. These are fairly decent, but they look like they were recycled from some of Sonic's Dreamcast outings, and just don't look as good as the CG cut scenes. Plus, one would think that all of the cut scenes would be CG, since this generation is starting to come to a close and developers are learning how to take advantage of all the console's capabilities, and making excellent looking games like Resident Evil 4, which keeps its excellent look throughout the entire game.
The sound quality in Sonic Riders leaves a lot to be desired, and is arguably the worst part about the entire game. The soundtrack isn't the problem, here, in fact it can be actually quite entertaining to listen to, and can keep you hyped during the race. The main problem here is the horrible voice acting. Some of the voice actors put little enthusiasm into their lines, while others put too much, and some of the voices are just irritating to hear. Also, the commentator for the races often repeats things a lot within one race, which gets annoying quickly. There aren't many sound effects, but just hearing a huge "swoosh" when passing by someone can give you a feel of how you really are going.
For a huge Sonic fan, this game offers a lot of extras to do after you finish the main story mode. There are a bunch of Sonic and Sega characters that can be unlocked, and two special Sega courses. After you beat story mode, there is a mission mode similar to the one seen in Mario Kart DS, but this isn't much fun, because it's mostly a bunch of boring tasks, that feels more like a chore than something that's supposed to be entertaining. If you're just a person just looking for a new twist to racing games, this game offers a good rental, but not much more than that.
Sonic Riders is definitely not the best racer out there, but it is still quite a lot of fun. There's quite a lot of things here Sonic fans will like, and it will satisfy people looking for something more than you're typical racer. Thanks to the fact that the game launched 10 dollars cheaper than most games, this game is easily a recommendation for Sonic fans to buy, but maybe a rental for everybody else.