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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Preview

by Diogo Miguel October 9, 2012

It’s no surprise that Sega and Sumo Digital decided to develop a sequel to the popular Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing. However, they didn’t just go with the idea of making a sequel with some extra content such as new characters. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is much more than a mere sequel. But is this enough to warrant another entry or should Sonic and co retire from the racing scene.

There were two console builds available at the preview event. One consisted of multiplayer sessions on the PlayStation 3. It was possible to play a variety of courses and get a good feel of what each of them is like.

The Carrier Zone course is a fantastic take on the Afterburner video-games. Most of the course takes place in the sea. This means that players are spending a lot of time either using the boat or aircraft vehicles. There is a lot happening in this stage but most of it is for show. It’s certainly an impressive show though with various air crafts and other Afterburner vehicles moving in the background. Funnily enough, this is one of the courses shown that changes the least. It makes it a lot easier to remember the track though.

Sonic fans should look forward to the dazzling show that is Galactic Parade. This Sonic Colours themed course is one of the best shown at the event. The track itself changes regularly throughout the three laps. It even transforms into a flying section at some points, where the characters must race through an asteroid belt. This is the toughest course shown at the event since it includes the least safe zones. This is because of a section where the path literally appears as the characters continues to race. It’s an interesting idea that keeps the race lively, since one mistake could mean losing the top spot.

The NiGHTS themed Dream Valley course consists mainly of an air section and a short river joy ride. Most of the course is loosely based on the Spring Valley level from the beloved NiGHTS into Dreams Saturn video-game. Fans of NiGHTS will easily spot familiar props such as the yellow link rings and Ideya Captures. Interestingly enough, the course changes to a Nightmare section at a certain point. This Nightmare section changes for every lap and represents a different NiGHTS boss. The course did feel like it lasted for a long time but the flying sections were enjoyable.

Those wondering where the more traditional racing courses are shouldn’t worry. The Shinobi course mostly consists of a ground race track – with the exception of a short and rather exciting water section. The course itself doesn’t go through a major transformation throughout each lap. However, there are some cosmetic changes, since each lap represents a different season. One of the more interesting sights in this course are the training ninjas who seem blissfully unaware of the race going around them. The course design itself is fantastic with plenty of opportunities, like tight corners, to show off driving skills.

The Skies of Arcadia themed course is the one played that went through the most transformations. The course starts out as a group of smaller island connected by bridges. There is a war of sorts in the background which results in parts of the course being destroyed with each new lap. It all ends in the characters having to race by making use of air vehicles. All of this makes for a very exciting race since it’s difficult to know what may happen next. This is the sort of course that shows how committed Sumo Digital is when it comes to taking on the task of creating a dynamic racing experience.

Playing against other players is a thrilling experience in itself. The various new items included in this sequel ensure that it’s not easy to keep the lead. All Star moves have now been tweaked so they benefit those far behind. However, it does so without creating an unfair advantage. Each character feels different and so it means players can try and master one or more. The inclusion of custom wheels also makes it possible to focus on a character’s strengths.

Controls have not changed that much since the previous title. Obviously it’s different when using sea or water vehicles. These require a different approach but it’s fairly easy to get used to them. The transforming courses are also a handy way to ensure that it’s fun to play. It’s possible to gain a speed boost by either drifting or successfully performing a stunt during a jump, when a vehicle is in a car or boat transformation. It’s fairly easy to pull off jumping stunts and earn a brief speed boost, but it takes some practice.

It’s not a proper Sega title without the various references and Sumo Digital has struck gold again. Each of the courses contains various references to the Sega titles they are based on. Fans of these classics are in for a treat, with props like Puffy bouncing around in the NiGHTS stage. You know the development team tried their best when the race starts and Ristar is cheerfully waving the flag. Each of the courses is a visual treat that will certainly make gamers smile. The various transformations that take place in real time make it even more exciting to look at.

Then there are the fantastic music remixes that accompany each of the courses. It doesn’t seem like there are as many this time around, but it shows that quality is more important than quantity. The NiGHTS course music track, for example, is very enjoyable as it includes a few music tracks from the Saturn hit title.

Funnily enough, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is pretty much the same on the Nintendo Wii U. Visually it can stand up to its current generation brothers. It was only possible to play the Ocean View course, but it was enough to get a good feel for this version.

At first it’s tricky to get the hang of the controls. It’s not exactly the game’s fault since the Wii U GamePad is quite different from anything out there. This is due to the substantial gap, where the screen is placed, between buttons on each side. However, this is only brief as it does become much easier to get the hang of it after a few attempts. It also makes use of the tilt feature to control the vehicle’s movement. This feature isn’t fully implemented but it showed a lot of promise. Specially as the large pad made it feel like controlling a steering wheel.

The development team attempts to make good use of some of the unique capabilities that the Wii U has to offer. Unfortunately the use of the GamePad’s screen to show the map and character positions is distracting at times. This is due to the fact that it’s quite difficult to stay focused on the race, during busy times, whilst also keeping an eye on what is going on in the GamePad’s screen.

Holding up the Wii U GamePad against the screen will show a reverse mirror in the GamePad’s screen. An interesting idea that is more practical. It’s only based on a brief amount of time trying it but the Wii U version has potential for being one of the stronger launch titles with a few tweaks.

It’s clear that Sumo Digital has gone to great lengths to make a sequel that is more like a stand alone title. This is a celebration of everything that once made Sega the company that many grew up idolising. It could have been just another racing title, but the fact Sumo Digital took the time to make it so unique shows how committed they are to the project.

Get ready to race with all your favourite characters, because Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed has the potential to literally transform the very core of the racing genre.

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