Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Sonic Riders

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Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)

Electronic Theatre ImageSonic has seen a lot of wacky action outside of his regular videogame activities over his sixteen-year career, such as Racing, Pinball and Fighting. Sonic Riders attempts to cash-in on the Racing genre, correcting the mistakes of the lack-lustre Sonic R in the process, perhaps in another  bid to usurp Nintendo’s Mario Kart as the pinnacle of the light-hearted Racing genre, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.

The back story of Sonic Riders involves a new team of emerald stealing thieves known as the Electronic Theatre ImageBabylon Rogues who just happen to ride around on Extreme Gear (aka hoverboards). Sonic’s seemingly only worthwhile nemesis, Dr. Eggman, throws a racing tournament in a thinly veiled evil plot to get his hands on those pesky Chaos Emeralds again, and before you know it you have a barebones understanding of why you’re playing Sonic Riders, aside from the fact that you bought it.

Instead of running on foot as we last saw in Sonic R, Tails, Knuckles, Sonic and some new characters (all equally forgettable and generic) this time out are all about hoverboarding. Yes, hoverboards – as in TrickStyle, EyeToy: Antigrav and Namco’s AirBlade. For some reason, Western civilizations’ fascination with hoverboards hasn’t fared well in the videogame arena and unfortunately, Sonic Riders isn’t the catalyst to spark a newfound gaming fad even though it tries to amalgamate surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and racing.

The racing in Sonic Riders is fast and might make you furious, due to a few factors that should have remained on the cutting-room floor. Electronic Theatre Image The worst gameplay mechanic in the game has to be the loss of Air while using your hoverboard. Using boost drains your Air Supply which results in your chosen character running on foot if emptied completely. To restore the Air, you’ll have to find a pit stop along the way, similar in intent to the Recharge Fields featured in the F-Zero series. Not only does this waste valuable time, but it completely disrupts the entire flow of the game. It’s easy to believe SEGA thought it would add a strategic element to the game, but it only succeeds at annoying you since you’ll probably find yourself avoiding the Boost feature at all costs; without it, the game often seems like your standing still.

An interesting element of gameplay that does work as intended is the use of riding opponent’s turbulence trails. Streaming from behind them, you’ll be able to jump onto their tailwind and increase your speed and execute tricks and combos by leaping to and from a variety of turbulence created by the other riders. The shallow Trick System isn’t anything to get excited about and the stunts are executed by a directional push – the only downside to the tricks is landing them incorrectly which can result in a small scale wipe-out, costing you valuable time.

The Track Structure is more than a little attention deficit – it’s like someone went crazy with the Track-Designer 3000. The Tracks start out busy and distracting and Electronic Theatre Image manage to assault the senses even more the further you progress – which means they should be just perfect for the youngsters and teens this game is targeted at. Having seemingly avoided the bustling metropolis’ that provided SEGA’s outlet in F-ZeroGX, Sonic Riders manages to hit that point we were all afraid of; busy backgrounds often results n loss-of-definition within the foreground. The Level design isn’t bad – Sonic has always featured Level layouts jammed with everything and the kitchen sink – it actually suits the style of the game quite well and allows for the limited amount of technique the hoverboard mechanic offers the player.

Controlling your chosen character is a snap for the most part and gamers of all skill-levels will be able to pick-up-and-play it with minimal instruction; whether they can manage a 1st Place Win or not is another story. The game requires the use of just a couple of buttons – Electronic Theatre Image jump, boost, R and L Triggers for tight turns and, once you get the hang of it, you’ll begin exploring the landscape using different characters to mine their various abilities (based on speed, flight or power) to reach cool new places.

The game supports up to four players, which signifies that the GameCube and Xbox owners will be ready to play right out of the box, while PlayStation2 owners require the Multi-Tap. Let me just say for the record that playing a game as involved as Sonic Riders is a nightmare on a small TV in four-player Split-Screen Mode. The speed of the game remains impressive with four players, but the twisty turn, hair-pin curve, Level design and reduced visibility make most of the races trial-and-error, rather than pure talent, even for the experienced player. Two player Split-Screen is definitely workable however.

Replay value is high if you persevere and manage to beat the many Difficulty Levels on offer. There are no less than ten extra characters to unlock, including NiGHTS, AiAi (from the Super Monkey Ball series), Shadow The Hedgehog, Ulala (from Space Channel 5) and Super Sonic just to name a few. Unfortunately, Super Sonic is a mixed blessing as you’ll constantly be reverting back to Sonic due to Super’s high Ring Count which you must maintain, and if you’ve played this game you’d know keeping the Ring Count above a Electronic Theatre Image certain number can be a little overwhelming given the lack of Rings and constant hazards that tend to take them away.

Visually the game is pretty hot stuff, even though it’s clear the development has been limited by the title’s multi-format nature. Sonic Team created the environments in Sonic Riders to look as though they were lifted from the same bizarre Sonic universe that all of the other games were borne from. The game is very smooth with the occasional Frame-Rate hic-cup, but it’s nothing to get your panties in a knot over. As mentioned the character designs are as generic as they come, but let’s face it, that all began with the introduction of Tails in 1992 and hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down since. At the very least they work within the framework of what has come before.

If you’re a patient gamer as well as a high-ranking Sonic Fan Club member, chances are you’ll be able to overlook the game’s weaker points and enjoy Sonic Riders for what it is. It’s certainly not perfect, but it is definitely playable and enjoyable. Fittingly snugly into the recent Sonic mould, Sonic Riders places itself between both Shadow The Hedgehog and the NintendoDS’s well-placed Sonic Rush in terms of competency. Sonic Riders is a bit of a bumpy ride, but what do you expect with all of that turbulence?Electronic Theatre ImageElectronic Theatre Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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