Sonic Riders

Video Game Review: Sonic Riders for the Gamecube
By Noah Diekemper

Sonic Riders is a game that I have been intending to play for some time, and when I finally got it, the circumstances formed a perfect storm of sorts – after a flat-out miserable week, I got it the day that a week-long Thanksgiving vacation began, all too ready to escape reality. Boy, did I ever – even though the Adventure games are taking me six years and counting to 100%, I blew through this one in thirty days flat.

To start off with, the story mode has some serious issues. While the gameplay is identical to regular Grand Prix racing, the story is needlessly complicated, doesn’t make sense on any number of levels – why would someone, trying to escape someone else, merely run in circles? – introduces yet more characters that never needed to exist, and takes itself too seriously, not to mention that the voice acting is atrocious. A bigger problem still is that while the difficulty becomes insane towards the end of the game, the final (and only) boss at the end isn’t creative and extremely easy – just how easy? You can’t die.

The core gameplay itself is pretty good – controls and collision detection are all right, pretty much Sonic Team at its best. Though there are many flaws in the system that show that the developers didn’t put quite the thought and care into this game that Nintendo puts into theirs.

For one thing, in what I interpret as an attempt to 1-up Mario Kart, there are item boxes scattered throughout the courses, like the ones you might find in Sonic Adventure; these can contain one of a few things: some rings, some air (fuel), a ball & chain, a rolling bomb. The first two are fine, but the latter two are just plain annoying, and don’t make much sense given how rarely they appear.

Also, the rings that you collect over the course of the race count towards a running total when they are banked at the end (again, think Sonic Adventure), but there’s something about the system in general that just doesn’t mesh. I think it has something to do with how your total for any given race is capped at 100, yet whenever you’re hit, even if you’re right before the finish line, you will lose them all.

Also, in every level, there is a section of track where the player must eschew traditional racing controls and spin the control stick around as fast as possible – why? This is a racing game, not Wario Ware. These are counterintuitive and a pain.

Also, you basically go through the same tracks whether you’re playing Grand Prix or story, which is frankly just lame (“basically” meaning that story has more). Why not mix it up? Of course, the Grand Prix has some other problems; it consists of five tracks (which is just too long) and there are only two, even though the game has sixteen tracks (why not assimilate a third Grand Prix?).

Besides that, the sixteen tracks are more or less eight pairs of twins (as it goes on, there are more differences, but still, Sega).

Here’s what I suggest:

-Four new tracks: Green Hill Zone, Death Egg, Flooded Station Square, and a Sonic CD track

-Five Grand Prix with four tracks each, mixed up from the Story

I also have some problems with the roster; they throw in two generic robots, Cream (who, by the way, they rendered in a way that looks really weird, especially from behind and without Cheese), and Rouge, but left out Metal Sonic?

There’s also a battle mode, but it finds itself in the uncomfortable middle ground between neither counting towards any game progress – even ring-wise – nor being enjoyable enough to be played for the fun of it (for comparison, Star Fox Assault does the former, Mario Kart DS does the latter, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl does both).

Graphics wise, the game varies between pretty and decent. The cutscenes are interesting, though: the flagship intros &c. are beautiful, while the in-game ones, ironically, are frequently worse than gameplay.

Also, the shop requires simply too many rings to purchase everything and offers far little fresh material to keep the experience fun the whole way through; I’d say that original material burns out after about 60% of total board progress achieved.

I also had a problem with the way the game announces things; for example, when you unlock a character, you get an overly simple blue rectangle on a similarly colored background and normal size font; not even a picture. In fact, it’s just the “Your game has been saved, please press the A button” screen except with different words, Why couldn’t they have the rainbow-colored “CONGRATULATIONS” and fanfare of Sonic Adventure 2? This is just lazy and basically flips off those people who worked so hard to beat their game.

There’s also some sweet Sega fan service in characters, boards, and tracks; but I won’t give anything away.

Summary: Sonic Riders is a good game with nice graphics, decent music, and plenty of replayability, though riddled with errors that keep it from being excellent. Recommended for Sonic, Sega, and racing fans.

Final Score: 8.2/10

Reviewer’s Completion: 50/50 pt. for both EX World Grand Prix; Story Mode completed; 100/100 missions completed; 100/100 gold mission medals obtained; all characters unlocked; 50+ hr. playtime logged; 54/54 boards purchased/unlocked

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