Sega has become synonymous with San Francisco. Station Square and the City Escape level from Sonic Adventure are loosely based on it as well as the first Crazy Taxi game. Even Sega of America itself has its offices based in the city by the bay. So it’s only natural that here is where they show off their latest game in the All-Star/Superstar series that includes both the blue-blur and B.D. Joe.
Just off the 101 freeway in good ‘ol San Fran is a Go-Kart tracing track which for one Tuesday afternoon, was taken over by Sega. In a meeting lounge, me and Nux (check out his preview at TSS) and other press were presented with the first preview of two tracks from Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. (Sega, if you’re going to shorten the title, wouldn’t “Sonic and Sega Racing Transformed” have been better? You’re cutting out your own name!) Anyway, onto the preview!
The game was shown only on PS3 systems and was a very early build, so the A.I. wasn’t great and the framerate suffered a bit, but these were all minor issues as we only played in local mutiplayer. The first track Sumo-Digital showed was from Panzer Dragoon. This made Nux nerd the @#$% out in front of everyone. It was a glorious thing to see. The track is one large canyon level with an airship and the Blue Dragon (for the first time in glorious HD) from the original game perched near the beginning of the level. The racers shown in this build include Sonic, Amy, Knuckles, Tails, Eggman, B.D. Joe, Beat, Amigo and two new additions. Gilius Thunderhead from “Golden Axe” riding a transforming beast and Vyse from “Skies of Arcadia” riding a tiny version of his airship.
As we take off, the first curve we drift by has some stars on the track. These stars, along with how you perform during the race add to a meter on the bottom right corner which, when filled, allow you to use your All-Star move. This replaces the “drop behind and get an All-Star power-up” from the original game. This also means you’re gonna have to have good skills (or a super missile) to stay ahead. After the first lap, we turned that corner again only to have the airship blast our track away! At the end of what was left of our road, a large glowing arch appeared. As we passed it, we found out why the game’s subtitled “transformed”.
The train Amigo (my racer) was riding changed from a little train into a tugboat as our vehicles splashed into the river. The gameplay changed a little from your traditional kart racer to something more like Hydro Thunder or Waverunner with wave and water physics that match those games. As my craft hit a large wave due a bridge collapsing, I was able to do a few flips with the L1 button which gave me a bit of a speed boost. As we get back onto the remains of the track, I get back to the starting point only to have the track destroyed again! This time it’s by a Yondo Worm.
Now, our vehicles once again go past a glowing arch and transform into a flying vehicle. The gameplay in this part is reminiscent of Diddy Kong racing’s flying sections. Now, we’re swooping under archways and caverns and flying into floating booster pads. You can even do a barrel roll! Since you know have 360 degrees of movement, getting a bead on a rival is a bit harder.
We finally landed back on what remained of the original track and raced to the finish line. I ended up fourth while Nux ended up seventh. (BTW, he only beat me in one out of four races.) The race on this course is truly epic and is a great showcase for this game. Unlike Mario Kart 7 where it’s the occasional dip in the water or hang glide in the air, every race around the track changes the dynamics greatly, from not only where you race but how. While the framerate on the course still needs work, seeing Panzer Dragoon in HD for the first time is an incredible sight to behold. If more of the courses are like this, it could be one of the best kart-racing games ever. Now onto the second race!
The other course in the preview is from Super Monkey Ball and is much more traditional than the spectacle that is the Panzer Dragoon level. It starts with you in your watercraft and you almost immediately drop out of the water onto the track below which is high in the air as you approach three paths. The middle one being the easiest while the two on the side are thin and you can easily drop off into the sky if you’re not good at drifting. However, these other two tracks offer a shortcut in comparison. I manage to navigate one of the thinner tracks which then takes me on ANOTHER branching path. There’s a giant monkey target I can drop onto and shoot out for extra speed at the risk of falling off the side or I can go around. Frankly, trying to hit the target is the easiest and best choice.
Now, I’m starting to go downhill in a half pipe dodging giant monkey balls (you know what kind I mean you dirty-minded person) while drifting in a fairly tight turn. I then have to dodge past Tiki statues that are in my path (or destroy them with one of the more common items like the snowballs) as our racers head towards a large, tropical river. Once in the river, I’m once again dodging floating Tiki Statues left and right as they bob along the river. At that point we’re being bombarded by giant boulders falling into the river and causing huge waves as I escape into a temple. But you’re not out of trouble yet as there’s a large whirlpool in the center of the temple. You can steer around it, but it’s best to stay near the inside as it’s the shortest distance. Plus, once you pass the whirlpool, you have to exit the temple through a fairly narrow path. I sucked at this part and kept bumping into the walls by accident on my way out costing me my 1st place spot in the race. Once out, it warps us back to the starting point to do it all over again.
This track is definitely the weaker of the two courses. It’s pretty good, but feels unfinished at parts. The game has to warp you back to the beginning and you start in the water, but immediately drop onto the road, so why start there? Also, for a level that starts you high in the air it seems to be missing the flying part. My guess is that it’s still an unfinished track and they just tied it together for the press demo. Still, there are some great moments during the race.
Sonic and All-Stars Racing: Transformed is looking great in its early form. The different ways to race really have me hyped for its coming release. With 16 tracks that don’t repeat the same game theme (except maybe Sonic), multiplayer arena courses, all new characters, courses and more, Sega and Sumo Digital seem to be on the right track (pun intended) for another racing hit.
…But they seriously need to do something about the title. Because “Sonic and All-Stars” does NOT flow well at all.