Cue old school Genesis SEGA jingle–that aura of nostalgia is in the air. Why you ask? Because the sequel to Sega’s Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing has arrived with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Released on November 18th, the game was released on multiple platforms including Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U. There will be a handheld port for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita as well as PC releasing on December 11th. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version and the only differences between the console versions are exclusive characters where the Wii U version has a playable Mii character and the Xbox 360 version having your Avatar playable. There are no exclusive characters for the PlayStation 3.
This time around the menus are easier to navigate due to the lack of unnecessary amounts of subsections like the previous game. You can choose between Career, Matchmaking (Ranked Match), Custom Games (Player Match) and Options. Career is where you will find all your single player needs; Grand Prix is as it sounds, four races combined in a specific cup; Time Attack has you racing against staff ghosts and Single Race is where you select a track to race. A new addition is World Tour which is a mix of various events such as racing, drifting and reach the checkpoint. This mode could be seen as a spiritual successor to the Mission Mode from the original since you get stars upon completing the events at a specific difficulty which ups the requirements.
At the character select screen, you will find 10 starting characters with 13 other characters to unlock (14 if on the Wii/360). Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles, Aiai, B.D. Joe, Beat, Ulala return from the original with MeeMee and guest character Wreck-It Ralph are the starters for new characters. Eggman, Shadow, Amigo, and the Avatar/Mii are the other returning characters you have to unlock. New racers include Vyse from Skies of Arcadia, Gillius Thunderhead from Golden Axe, Joe Musashi from Shinobi, Gum from Jet Set Radio, Nights and Reala from Nights into Dreams…, Pudding from Space Channel 5, Guest Racer Danica Patrick and AGES who for any nostalgic Sega fan will recognize as a VMU from the Dreamcast system. To make room for so many new characters, about half of the original racers are gone like Billy Hatcher, Big the Cat, Zobio and Zobiko, Ryo, Jacky and Akira, the Bonanza Bros, Opa-Opa, the Chuchus from Chuchu Rocket and Xbox guest character Banjo and Kazooie. Alex the Kidd, who was a racer in the original game does return but is a time unlock character for the holidays. Metal Sonic who was downloadable content in the first game once again returns as downloadable content. Also since Nights is now a racer, his old position as race starter is given to Ristar.
The controls remain largely unchanged with the main difference being tricks are now done by using the right stick as opposed to the left trigger in the last game. The horn feature has been removed possibly from complaints in the previous game of over pressing the button while also using items (horn button was connected to the item button). While racing and flying, the controls remain the same so there isn’t a fear of having to pilot the vehicles differently upon change. Also for those who are afraid of piloting during the air instances, you can turn on an assist feature from the options menu that shows you a trail to follow.
The gameplay is improved upon from the first game with the biggest change being the vehicles transforming from cars to boats and planes. Not all three forms are seen in all races as some stages are just a two vehicle combination. A good example being Ocean View from Sonic Heroes which is only car/boat combination, while Carrier Zone from After Burner Climax has all three vehicles. The items received a major overhaul as well; all items are new (as far as I can tell). They’re items that are “new” but do exactly what an old item did, an example being the sneaker item for boost which was replaced with two purple arrows. All-Star moves, which were random pickups in the original game as a last ditch item to help a racer lagging behind, return but with new mechanics. To get an All-Star you need to collect gold coins which are found around the track. The more you have, the higher chance you will gain an all star. The moves seem less useful compared to how they were portrayed in the original game as super items which could usually auto pilot a racer in an invincible state as higher up the position ladder and usually giving a nod to the series it represents, like Sonic turning Super Sonic, Aiai entering the circle and running with other various monkeys assisting him and B.D. Joe performing a Crazy Boost with a random passenger who appears. Now you have to pilot yourself while in All-Star and they aren’t as nostalgic to their respective series, a good example being Sonic’s car being surrounded by rings and he can shoot himself forward possibly doing a homing attack before having to return to his car before being able to use it again. I feel these items were toned down since they can now be used online whereas before you couldn’t and also possibly to justify the feel is because All-Stars can be used no matter the vehicle you are currently piloting.
In a nutshell, this game is vastly improved over its predecessor. I was afraid the transition from vehicles was going to take away from the racing experience and I was mistaken. If they only would have used the Carrier Zone as the stage for the demo, as that stage has you switching vehicles frequently as opposed to about once in a lap. The lack of nostalgia from the All-Stars is my only major issue along with the decision to redesign the items. But other than that, this game is great and since Mario Kart isn’t available on multiple platforms, a great alternative for consoles like Xbox looking for an arcade kart racer.