Review: Sonic Riders (Retro)
- Release Date (NA): February 23, 2006
- Release Date (EU): March 17, 2006
- Release Date (JP): February 21, 2006
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sonic Team
- Genres: Racing
- ESRB Rating: Everyone
- PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
- Also For: Computer
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
If you thought that Sega couldn't make Sonic anymore “Rad” than he already was, then we all thought wrong. How rad can he get, just try this and find out. Who needs wheels when you've got air?
Oh boy this should be a treat to some people. Yes I said some people. This is a game I remember well, I bought this when I first saw Gamestop open up near me back in 2006 and having a game store this close was a dream come true (I know now their reputation is different now, but that was then) Back in 2006 when I still was brainwashed to buy every Sonic game I can get my hands on, I was more excited about this for some reason. Just the game box attracted my attention, prior to seeing it in store I had no idea of this game, I was busy playing Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on my Gamecube raising my Chao to beat my classmate's and earn all emblems.
I mean just take a look at this box art. You got Sonic with some green shades on his head riding a hoverboard, Tails and Knuckles at the bottom with their own boards, and some new... bird characters? All of that high detailed stuff and a logo celebrating the 15 anniversary of Sonic, that is just the front! On the back it has some in game screenshots with some "rad" captions. "The bigger the trick, the greater the power! Hang tight! Ride the turbulence to ramp up speed! Beat 'em or Get Beaten! Test your skills against your friends in Multiplayer Mode!" Obviously it was silly cliche stuff but I was already smitten with the Sonic on a hoverboard picture. Oh and there was also some story about Eggman having a grand prix for air-riders and new rivals "The Babylon Rogues." This is what marketing was all about, convincing the patron that the game was worth paying for, so like any other brainwashed Sega fan did (Not Sonic fan), I bought it. Don't judge me, I'm human.
At first glance you run the game and play it, you would either be quite impressed with the colorful looking and active environments in the game or not be impressed cause you feel like is same as the 4 other Sonic games that was released on this system by now. The game's graphics is appealing to some degree, the stages that is race tracks all feature flashy lights and indicators for hints the player uses to indicate various shortcuts and other things that happens on the course as the race continues, not to mention the futuristic look for the stages and characters. Did I mention Sonic with shades, and a hoverboard? There is trails of light coming out of those boards and even some cool wind effects that hits your screen to make you feel like you are going fast. There is lot to see but because how short each course is you don't feel satisfied with that.
The presentation is pretty much the same as past Sonic games except with one exception. The opening shows off this cool anime looking video that reminds you of those found in Sonic CD, though on the actual Sega CD, those looked very bad due to the compressed data but this one was more like Sonic X standards. Other than that one anime intro, you have three impressive videos that show some mind blowing animation on two levels. This more impressive looking video than the actual game that made me wish they did more of this in Sonic games, even 10 years later, is still as impressive to me. I mean just look at this.
Sure, it sounds like I'm overselling this but in 2006, this was amazing. They made a anime intro and super quality cinematic video, two types of highly developed production videos for this. Sadly the game only has three scenes that uses this impressive video which kinda upsets me, the rest of the game uses in game graphics to progress the story. The reason why I deem it impressive is cause it seem like a lot of effort to make these video files to include in the game, at first it caught my attention hands down but it is just a video file. Any kind of impressive stuff could have been made with that and just stuck it in the game, I just wish they did all the story scenes like this, it felt like a tease to show this first then go to a boring in game cutscene, the graphics isn't bad but not as good as this. The game also features a tutorial video that shows you how to play the game rather than a actual playable one that teaches the controls and gives in game feel before getting serious but is there. Solid presentation to say the least.
The story is simple, the Babylon Rogues known by Jet the hawk, the leader, Wave the swallow, the brains, and Storm the albatross, the muscle (are all birds of different subspecies) are contacted by Dr.Eggman who tells them about unlocking the secret to the Babylon garden, along with the cube Jet possesses, he tells them that Chaos Emeralds are necessary and that he should seek out Sonic who have been seeking them. The team sets out and encounters Sonic's team (Known by now as the Sonic Heroes team) and taunts them into a race. Suddenly Eggman appears on a monitor in the futuristic city announcing his racing grand prix that requires a chaos emerald as entry and grants the winner a great treasure of Babylon. Or course this is all Eggman's scam but that is all for the story, this is a review not a spoiler.
The soundtrack for this game is unique and what I mean by that is that is unique for a Sonic game. It uses techno beats, synthesizers, and electronics to simulate a futuristic feel of "Cyberpunk" just imagine some... cyberpunk anime like the opening to Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex and you got something based on that here. While I don't think is terrible music, it isn't a genre of music I'm used to hearing in video games which caught me by surprise. Is just after seeing Sonic and how he is depicted as "Rad, extreme and awesome" this wasn't what I expected. I mean previous games had some Rock & Roll, upbeat and even rap themes and song. But I guess with a new game comes new things to try, I mean this is Sonic we are talking about, Sega tried almost everything to keep up the mascot's image and hope he stay relevant as time marches on. You might find some tracks you enjoy or some feel too bland, most of them depend on the stage and how they fit so this one is totally a gamble for you all. It's good but not something I would want to buy a soundtrack on and listen with my music player like previous Sonic games.
Okay, this could be a bit to take in but I'll try to make it easier for you. Before I start, this is a game I personally refer to as having the "Sonic Heroes Syndrome" and you'll see why soon or just look at the pic. This is a 4 player racing game, players pick a game mode and depending on the game mode you choose one of the various obtainable extreme gear which resembles various types of sporting vehicles such as a skateboard, roller skates, windsurf board, and motorcycle. There is over 50 different ones in the game to obtain and specific characters can't use some of them limiting their options for example, the two egg robot characters you race against in story mode can only use the board types and nothing else. Each character has a specific type and statistics focused on that type. Sonic is a speed type, and his focus is speed, so picking him makes him good for having a high top speed than the others, but that not the only reason he is a speed type.
When you start a course, rather than having a boring countdown like most games... okay there still is a countdown. But instead of just waiting for it to end to start accelerating, you have a area where the character can move around. The idea of this part is to move back and run forward in time with the end of the countdown to get a bonus in speed advantage, if you are too soon, you get shocked until the countdown ends and get a slow start, if you are too late, you don't get much of a advantage. Most people would wonder why even include that but I think is a bit interesting.
During the actual race, you are automatically advancing forward meaning you don't have to hold any buttons to accelerate. This is probably a good time to mention the game's gimmick systems. The extreme gear has a air system, it fills by doing various things but when is empty you can't use it, you are forced to run just as you did before the race started, the only way to get back on your gear is to get some air which you will want to do right away cause it makes it difficult to win the race.
The flow of racing
So this is where I explain the flow of racing. There is shortcuts in the race that makes this game different from other racing games, the thing about these shortcuts is that they are exclusive to specific characters. Remember how I mentioned "Sonic Heroes Syndrome" This is what that is. Each character is one of three types, speed, fly, and power, sound familiar... exactly like Sonic heroes. Sonic is a speed type who can grind rails on the course, Tails is a fly type who can launch off of flight pads and use the air ride ring boosters, and Knuckles is a power type who can destroy obstacles in his way. Each of these abilities recovers air when used that helps a lot, the shortcuts are crucial to making the races easier as well as keeping your air supply full. There is also ramps where you can do tricks on that depending on your grade recovers some air, these same ramps also provide shortcuts as well to upper parts of the course.
The next thing to explain is the turbulence system. Think about it as Slipstream in some racing games like Outrun 2, if you stay behind another racer, you gain a speed boost. Since this game is about air and hovering, is turbulence, when you are moving at high speed, you made create some and it looks like a tunnel of wind. You and others can ride it, not only does it prevents air loss but if you do tricks you can recover it and gain speed boost that helps you catch up to the competition, also if you do tricks at specific times you can access shortcuts too. Of course you don't want them using that to surpass you right? You also have a defense attack against that called the trap tornado. This move drops a tornado behind you to catch anyone following you into a hit and huge speed loss, you can also use a boost attack to take offensive stance, both of these attacks cost lots of air to use but use properly can help. Most of the gameflow is using the knowledge of all the access to shortcuts to find the fastest route to the end of the goal.
Besides the main story, there are some other game modes, each with their own rules. Free races is just as the name implies, you can freely select your custom options for racing with friends, pick course, set rules and pick any character and extreme gear. Time attack obviously is a race for best time records, this includes ghost data you can share with friends. World grand prix is a race on 5 consecutive courses you have done in story mode with a grand prize at the end, playable up to two players. The tag mode is unique, this mode has 4 players in teams of 2 sharing a air tank and they must stick together to keep the air from running out, the goal here is teamwork. Survival games are basically like Mario Kart battle modes, don't expect much of a unique factor to this one. Last is a mission mode that test player's skill in the courses and can earn a grand prize if they do well.
This may seem like a lot, but is not hard to learn, after playing it for some time you understand more about it. The tutorial video helps I guess but I would have prefer they made the tutorial playable not just a video to watch. There is a mission mode that helps test your skills on each stage, you can try them to help improve your skill a lot. If you wondering how to obtain many of the extreme gear, there is a shop you can buy them from. Collecting rings and finishing a race with them adds them to your shop total, you can use them to buy more gear which you will want to do. Some others can be obtained under some conditions. Each one is unique having their own stats, some with special abilities like granting speed characters use of flight skill or using rings instead of air, that is crazy... wait that is what it is called. There is many different gear here to try and experiment with or challenge yourself with. 4 Friends with the same gear or some handicap makes for crazy moments.
Like most Sonic games, I spent hours and days and weeks trying to complete everything and I did, having people to play with is fun too, minus having to share a small screen, yeah multiplayer games in the past has those compressed boxes for 4 players, now with online play and system link stuff we don't have that issue but it's still just as fun. I know this game doesn't have a great reputation, especially from what I heard the last one on Xbox Kinect ruining it, I never tried it so I don't know, but before that it was a new game for me to try and I enjoyed it, more than Sonic Drift and Sonic R for sure. My only hope is sega does what I been asking for... Make a Sonic Riders HD Collection for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam, has all 3 games on it, doesn't have to be super 4K HD but least 720P, have online multiplayer on all 3 games, and no silly gimmick controls! Tha is it, just do all that and I'm willing to buy it, maybe then people can actually enjoy the game without control problem like wii motion controls or the Xbox Kinect problem.
+ Breath of Fresh air (Subjective)
+ Unique concepts
+ New futuristic setting and story
+ Decent replay value and content
- Same graphics as the other games on the system
- Tedious completion rate (Unlocking gear takes long)
- Not many courses
- Short story
As I already said, the presentation that made me buy the game and get excited before I started to actually play the game was all on point; however, after all that and actually playing through the game and story mode is where that excitement ends. Those high quality production videos they added to the game was great but not being able to see them often was disappointing. The story was simple and short, kept the pace well balanced and the plot not too complex for anyone to follow.
The game introduced some new ideas, the air and turbulence, system make for some interesting things as well as using the "Sonic Heroes Syndrome" as shortcuts for the characters gives strategies for players to pick characters based on them helps keep the variety for a while. But due to how short the courses are and how many courses there is, is not much. Is not too bad with the abundance of extreme gear giving reasons to try many combinations for playing over and over for a long time with friends, setting challenges and such is a good move.
Being it is a racing game, some of them are fun to try again over and over every so often, while some you don't ever think about again. This one I remember specifically cause it like many others made a huge impression on me. Most people won't consider this a good game, but is not terrible. Just that there are better games than this out there making this shadowed and kicking it while it is down due to the reputation it has gotten over the years. With all that, I still would play this when it ever does come into conversation among people and still want an HD modern port.
out of 10
(not an average)
I said a lot and perhaps too much, but is not a terrible game. It has fair control and ideas. If it wasn't for the box art marketing and the video presentation drawing me in, I probably wouldn't have bothered with this game. I know there is better racing games, more fun even, quite impossible to be Mario Kart or even the modern Sonic Sega All star racing, but in 2006 this was something different than traditional racing games all packaged with Sega still trying to make Sonic a cool mascot for Sega fans as they continue to experiment with Sonic games to find something that works for everyone.