Oh boy. Here we go. Deep breaths.
So, when I first took up this offer to do a weekly racing feature for the site, the first thing that came to mind (after the assumed “oh god what am I getting myself into I’m so out of my league”) was how it’d be a great excuse to go back and play some old games I never had a chance to play in their heyday for whatever reason. And as a Sonic fan, I’d been wanting to play today’s game for the longest time, but never had the time and/or resources to play it. But I have those, and an excuse, to play it now.
So, in honor of a return to the 90s style of Sonic coming next week (for me at least. Some of you with your fancy iPhones are probably already playing it instead of reading this. FOR SHAME.), I’m taking the dive. Hit the jump for some hopefully Super Sonic Racing.
So, I think, if you’re on this site, you kinda know the story behind this game. The Saturn… For every step forward it took, it took several large steps back. And one of its failures was not having the company’s mascot in an original game on the system. I’d say we all know the plight of Sonic X-Treme, and Sonic 3D Blast, aside from the new special stage and soundtrack, was technically just a higher-res port of the Genesis version, and Sonic Jam was just a collection disc. So what does Sega do? They decide, “Hey! Let’s make the kids happy with a 3D Sonic racing game!” to make up for this.
And thus, in October 1997, the sunshine was felt around the world.
So, as the only original Sonic game on the system, how does it stack up today?
To put it bluntly… Not very well.
The graphics are nice and colorful, as a Sonic game should look, but character animations are pretty awful. Want proof? Just win a race with Knuckles, and just watch as he does something that looks like a cross between a Cossack dance and the running man. Embarrassing. Just like the Saturn itself, it took one step forward and two horribly animated steps back.
The most memorable part of this whole experience is easily the sound, being cheesy 90s Europop of the gods. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing when most of a game’s soundtrack is in the so-bad-it’s-good territory. Sure, there’s a nostalgic kick to hearing some of these tunes today, but in my short experience with the game, there was only so much sunshine I could feel before I wanted to strangle myself with my torn-apart speaker cords, although the strangulation might have less to do with the music…
And more with the gameplay. Let’s come back to the future a little bit to 2006. Another little game in this same franchise was released, and in it was contained more gaming abominations than Custer’s Revenge had, one of the worst being a little something called Mach Speed Zones. They were uncontrollable, unfair, and just downright unplayable sections of levels that would make even the most hardcore Sonic nuts not just rip a few hairs out, but literally scalp themselves.
And THOSE were more controllable than this game, at least for me. Sonic manages to be too fast AND too slow at the same time, there are no “brakes”, per se, and cornering is nigh impossible. It is simply the worst racing game I have EVER played. To be perfectly honest, I could only do two and a half races before I shut off the emulator and said “NEVER. AGAIN.”
The game got a PC port in 1999, and a Gamecube/Euro PS2 port on Sonic Gems Collection. It was also the first of now several console Sonic racers, as it was followed up by such games as the Sonic Riders series and All-Stars Racing, most recently.
And those would be far better buys than trying to track this down. They’re at least controllable and fun. Sonic R, at least in my opinion, isn’t. And honestly, that’s a damn shame. I was looking forward to playing it for so long, but whatever dreams I had of it being a decent little game got shattered in an instant. To me, the only thing this game has going for it is this little guy…
And there you go. I have a bad feeling about rioting in the streets or something after this, but I can’t lie. I didn’t have even an ounce of fun with this game. Got a different opinion? Of course you do. As always, I welcome and completely encourage any feedback or requests for games to be featured in future editions. Just leave it here, or post it in the forum thread. I’ll see you all back here next week, hopefully. Thanks for reading!