Thursday, September 22, 2011

Retro Review: In Defense of Sonic R

This may come as a surprise, but I actually like Sonic R. In fact, I actually think it's pretty good.


Yeah, and those people are wrong for a number of reasons:

a. They never played it, and are making assumptions based on scant video released of the game. If they focus solely on making fun of the music, I can nearly guarantee you they've never played it. Sonic R is still pretty rare. It's only available on Sega Saturn, PC, and the Sonic Gems Collection on Gamecube. Most people decide that when they can't track it down to play it, watching a Youtube video is just as good.

b. They played it on pc with a keyboard or a terrible joypad. I know this may be hard to comprehend if you're only going off of videos of people playing Sonic R on a PC, but Sonic R actually controls well! The reason most videos show people running straight into walls or water or whatever is because they don't know how to drift. On the Saturn and Gamecube, it was straightforward; you just used the R and L triggers to bank right and left respectively. However, on a keyboard, this would be nearly impossible. The same applies for a joypad that lacks shoulder buttons.

c. They didn't understand the controls. One of Sonic R's coolest features is that every character controls a little differently. Sonic can double jump, Tails can fly, Knuckles can glide, Robotnik can hover over water and shoot missiles, etc. on top of drifting and braking at different rates. That said, if they're playing the game expecting everyone to play more or less the same (like a kart racer), they probably never figure this out.

d. Ignorance, the player simply doesn't know how to play the game. They never bothered looking in the instruction booklet, and likely have no idea how to drift or make use of the characters' special abilities.

Alright. Now that I have that out of the way, let me post the genuine problems the game has. First and most importantly, there's only 5 stages. This is really the biggest and most legitimate complaint you can make about the game. If someone doesn't mention this point, you can rest assured that they've never played it. Secondly, some of the characters are useless. Amy and Robotnik are both horrendously slow, and have next to nothing going for them. Lastly, the game was only 2 player. This isn't inherently a problem, but it's hard to say it wouldn't be better if it supported more.

Now on to it's good points. As stated previously, the game controls well. Once you've figured out the nuances of drifting and breaking and picked a character you like, you can really start enjoying what makes the game unique.

I'm actually surprised at how well the graphics hold up, ESPECIALLY for a 3D Saturn game. The levels are colorful and the character models are easily distinguished from one another. The animation could be a little better, but we're talking about a 3D game from 1998. They were great for the time, and there's certainly more there than one would expect from any other racing game. Plus, the PC version (and the port of it on Sonic Gems) has dynamic weather. This changes not only the look of every stage, but how the play as well (water freezes and can be walked on when it is snowing, it becomes harder to drift when it is raining, etc.).

I know, the music is polarizing. You will love it or hate it, but at least it's unique. It was also pretty cool for the time since very few games had lyrics. I want to point out something really quick while I'm on the subject: if people say they hate the music in Sonic R, but LOVE the title theme to Sonic CD, they are crazy. The music is hokey in both games, and I have a hard time believing that you like one while hating the other.

Every level is visually unique and designed well. There are multiple shortcuts and secrets to find; Sonic R has a lot in common with Diddy Kong Racing in that regard (grab the collectibles and win the race). However, unlike DKR Sonic R's collectibles don't open up new levels. Instead, they unlock new characters. In order to unlock a character, you must collect 5 tokens hidden around a stage, finish in 1st place, and finally defeat the new character in a one-on-one race. Every character is unlocked in this way, except Super Sonic. Super Sonic is unlocked by collecting every chaos emerald hidden across all 5 levels. He's the fastest character in the game and can hover over yeah, he completely breaks the game. And that's when the game basically ends.

After you've played through every level, collected every token and emerald, and played as each character, the game is over. There's some fun to be had in racing your friends, but with only 5 tracks and unbalanced characters, there's not much to do. There are a couple extra modes for multiplayer, but they're pretty forgettable.

So yeah. Sonic R isn't great, but don't knock what's there. If you've got 4 or 5 hours to kill, it can be a really enjoyable experience. It's a well designed game that controls well, has polarizing music, and ends quickly. That's Sonic R, for better or worse.

The Breakdown:

Controls: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Level Design: 8/10
Music: 0/10 or 10/10, depending on preference
Lastability: 1/10

Overall: 6.5/10

"Whoa, a 6.5? I thought you were defending it!"

For reference, I would give Sonic 2006 a 0/10. I'm not kidding; the game isn't even finished! The fact that Screw Attack's list of worst Sonic games has Sonic 2006 at number 5 instead of number 1 is enough for me to discount the list outright.

For the record, I love



See above.

+ If the game had online multiplayer, leaderboards, and achievements, it would extend the lastability to a 5/10. That's a solid 7.5 game that I'd gladly spend $5 on!


Diamond in the Sky: Unlock the Radiant Emerald Course
I am the Eggman: Unlock Dr. Robotnik
Can You Feel The Sunshine?: Unlock Metal Sonic
Living In The City: Unlock Tails Doll
Back in Time: Unlock Egg Robo
Work it Out: Unlock Metal Knuckles
Super Sonic Racing: Unlock Super Sonic
You're it!: Play a game of tag on every course
POP!: Pop the Balloons on every course
Mirror Mode: Complete every course in Time Attack Mirror Mode
I'm Special: Use every character's unique ability
Use the Boost to Get Through!: After unlocking every character, place 1st as Amy on Radiant Emerald

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