Review: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PS3 & Wii U)

UPDATE: Patch is in, so the WiiU score will be changed.

Last year, SEGA released Sonic Generations. A celebration of Sonic’s history showcasing some of the greatest parts of Sonic’s past and being a celebration of all things Sonic in general. It gave you a strong feeling of nostalgia while offering new kinds of gameplay and a great, remixed soundtrack.

This year, SEGA releases Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. A game showcasing and glorifying the greatest parts of SEGA past and being a celebration of all things SEGA in general. It gives you a strong feeling of Nostalgia while offering new kinds of gameplay and a great, remixed soundtrack. Deja-Vu!

But does this game hold up to 2010’s offering? And how does the Wii U version compare to the others? I’ll be going  in depth about the game and discussing its greatest strengths and weaknesses. Is it a champion or does it stall out the gate? Get Ready. 3…..2…..1…..GO!

Gameplay

Right off the bat, it’s easy to see why Transformed is a much better offering than its predecessor. It’s not just the ability to transform into three different vehicles, it’s the great and wonderful design done on the tracks themselves. They are not simply Mario Kart clones. They have a ton of energy and unbridled speed to them. As someone who loved the first game, the tracks this time around make that game look like junk by comparison. Some of the highlights include driving up the steps of the ancient temple in Shinobi’s Seasonal Shrines, flying across dangerous lava and amongst dinosaurs in Golden Axe’s Adder’s Lair, racing on laser bridges in outer space in Sonic Colors’ Galactic Parade and racing at insane speeds in Jet Set Radio’s Graffiti City. It’s fast-paced and incredibly thrilling at times. There seems to be a bigger emphases on boosting this time around which helps give the game its visceral feel. Not only that, every track is a great tribute to the game it’s representing. NiGHTS is probably the best example of this. Soaring through rings which gives you a light boost, then flying through a boss world only to end up boating through some rough waters, then flying through another set of rings. All while listening to a lovely remix of Spring Valley.

Of course, part of the reason these levels have such great design is the new “transforming” feature implemented in the game. Your normal car mode works just like in the first game. Drift in tight turns and get some extra boost. Boat mode give you that “Hydro Thunder” feel while still giving you plenty of control. Diddy Kong Racing fans will feel at home with the plane mode which controls well and makes it easy to bank turns. You can thank Sumo Digital for doing such a great job at combining three different sets of physics into one game but making them still feel like a whole. In all three you can still do tight drift turns for extra boost and in plane mode it’s necessary for getting through tight spaces.

The developers have also ramped up the difficulty. If you were having a fairly easy time getting through the toughest difficulty tracks, you’re in luck as medium difficulty in this game may be tougher than the hard mode in the last game. In fact, it may be too tough. It’s the “Ninja Gaiden” of kart racing games. Which is great! Buuuut…..while I always welcome a good challenge, this does present one problem. The main single player area of the game is “World Tour Mode”. Here, you earn stars to unlock more challenges which in turn help you unlock racers. You get one star on easy (C Grade), two on medium (B Grade), three on hard (A Grade) and when you finally unlock it, four stars on expert (S Grade). It takes 165 stars to unlock all the racers. (Except for one. Hint: if you wait a month, you’ll get a Christmas surprise). This means you’ll have to race some challenges in hard mode no matter what. If you’re not up to it, you may never see those final racers. This is compounded in the Wii U version which is currently glitched so you can’t pass some boost challenges unless you fail them four times on easy. Contrast this with the original game which awarded you with SEGA Miles on your license. You got those miles no matter if you were doing missions or just the GP, so they kept building them up and you were rewarded with new characters, music and tracks just for playing the game a lot. Reward the player for playing, not because they can pass a super difficult challenge.

That being said, World Tour offers you a nice, long single player campaign with plenty of different mission options that will keep you from getting bored anytime soon. Each type of event is smartly used to hone your skills. Even a challenge you may not like “COUGH!”  Traffic Attack “COUGH!” makes you a better player in the end. There are dozens of challenges strewn over five worlds with a map-like interface that lets you use the stars you collect in challenges to unlock new parts of the map or new racers. Of course there’s also a GP mode, online races, time attack and more, but World Tour is where you’ll be spending a good chunk of time in this game.

Another little perk is unlocking stickers. This is done by making accomplishments during the race. They can be rewarded by doing the simplest tasks or the most complicated maneuvers. Trust me, half of them will be rewarded just playing the game as you normally would. The stickers themselves are unimportant as they are a superficial thing you can add to your license. Your license is even more unimportant this time around as it’s just for showing off a selected trio of your stickers online for others to see. It’s a fun little addition, but it doesn’t provide much to the actual game itself.

The power-ups are some of the best and most unique I’ve seen in a kart racer. Some of them (like the swarm) are deadly enough that you have to be careful that you don’t end up getting caught in them yourself. My favorite is the glove. A giant catcher’s mitt that is one of the best defensive power ups I’ve seen in any kart racer. When deployed, it not only shields your racer, but any weapon fired at you gets caught in the glove and you can fire it back at the racer who tried to get you in the first place. Awesome stuff.

I will say that the All-Star move seems a bit gimped this time around and is not nearly as powerful as it was in the original game. Also, the circumstances on how you get an All-Star move is confusing. I’ve gotten an All-Star while in first or second place, but never knew how exactly. The game never really teaches you.

Character Roster

All-Stars Racing Transformed has both a bigger and smaller roster of characters than the original. Despite being advertised as a Sonic game, it has no new Sonic characters and actually has one less as Big has once again been let go. The SEGA roster does have some new characters into the mix such as Joe Musashi, NiGHTS and Vyse, but subtracts other characters from the original including Ryo Hazuki and Opa-Opa. I don’t think anyone’s gonna miss the Bonanza Brothers tough.

Outside of new SEGA racers, the others have been replaced by what I like to call “clones”. Very similar racers that use the same basic model as their game counterparts, but with a fresh coat of paint. These include Gum (Beat), Reala (NiGHTS), Mee-Mee (AiAi), and Pudding (Ulala). In addition to these SEGA stars, we get two unrelated racers added to the mix mostly for advertising and cross promotion. One is a welcome addition that fits the game well (Wreck-it Ralph) and the other is Danica Patrick. If you like her, fine. But I think most will agree that she doesn’t fit into this roster at all. Frankly, I’d rather see Vanellope Von Schweetz in the game. She is a kart racer after all. But hey, if Danica Patrick is what’s helping pay this game’s bills, I’m all for her. In addition, there are some hidden racers in the game as well. One appears to be PC exclusive while another will release on a certain date.

One other great addition is that you can level up each individual racer to give them mods that suit your personal racing tastes. Do you like Ralph, but find him hard to control? Keep playing as him and building him up and you can find a mod that will give him a good balance between handling and speed. This is great for those who have a particular favorite that they want to tweak. I hope Nintendo follows suit in this idea.

Music and Sound

I’ve got two words for you: Richard Jacques. One of the greatest video game music composers. The man who gave us the great Sonic R and Sonic 3D Blast soundtracks of the Saturn era. He brings his great musical style into this game with some wonderful remixes. One of my favorites is in Sanctuary Falls. It starts out as the main theme from Sonic and Knuckles, then goes into a remix of the theme from Sky Sanctuary (of which the track in the game is taken from) and goes into “Back in time” from Sonic R. While I feel it doesn’t quite offer the remix goodness that Sonic Generations had, I would kill for a Soundtrack of this game to wind up on iTunes.

This is also where there is a difference between the Wii U version and the consoles. On the Wii U version, the engine sound and voice also come out of the gamepad itself. If you adjust the audio, you can give it this awesome surround sound feel to it. This is also a good way to pump up the music while not losing the other effects.

WiiU/PS3 Comparison  

Okay, let me settle this right now. I’m playing both the PS3 and Wii U versions of the game and when it comes to frame rate, I cannot tell the difference between the two. They both play at a steady 30fps and I haven’t seen much in the way of hiccups in either version.

Graphically, they are identical. As far as loading goes, the Wii U is noticeably faster. Levels and menus can load up to 3-5 seconds faster than on PS3. That said, I doubt it’s something that’s gonna make or break your decision on either copy.

The biggest advantage that Wii U has over PS3 is the gamepad itself. It gives you several benefits including a overhead map right on the pad instead of blocking part of the screen, a rear view mirror just by holding up the pad, playing the game right on the pad itself with just a swipe down and local two player without having to split the screen.

So what advantage does the PS3 version have? Well, for one thing, ACTUAL PEOPLE ONLINE! At the moment the Wii U has such a small online userbase that getting an online game going with five or more people takes several matches. With PS3, I can get an online race going right away. Of course, the biggest advantage that the PS3 version has right now is that the Wii U version is currently glitched in several areas. In World Tour mode, there are no checkpoints on certain boost challenges so you can’t finish the mission. The only way to get around it is to fail the challenge on easy three times. Then there’s online arena modes. Me and GX Echinda had to just laugh at certain arenas that would either stick our cars together or constantly drop us into deep space.

Until Sumo digital fixes these problems, I cannot recommend the Wii U version over PS3. If you’re going from Wii to Wii U, go right ahead. It’s still a great game regardless.

Overall

Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed is the best, most well designed kart racer I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. On top of that, it’s a great tribute and honor to SEGA’s past franchises while also just being an amazing game on its own. The tracks have at least double the quality of its predecessor and the remixed music is pure bliss. If you liked Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing, you will absolutely LOVE Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. I cannot recommend it enough.

Oh, and as far as which version to get? While the Wii U version has some amazing features, I cannot recommend it over the PS3 version due partially to Wii U’s lack of online players, but mainly to its current state of glitches. That said, if these problems get patched soon, the Wii U version will triumph as the best version to buy.

Positives

– Excellent track designs.

– Great physics and control.

– Bigger, better roster.

– Awesome remixes by Richard Jacques.

– A love letter to SEGA’s gaming history.

– Solid single player campaign.

– Great online play (on PS3 anyway).

– Only $39.99!

Negatives

– Currently, the Wii U version has some serious glitches and not enough people playing online.

– The star system feels like a punishment for not playing well.

– Danica Patrick sticks out like a sore thumb.

– How exactly do you do an All-Star move?

Both Versions

With the patch now out, the WiiU’s superior features bump it up an entire letter grade. However, with a sparse amount of people online, PS3 is still the better version for online play. This equals out the letter grade in my book. An A for both!

Regarding the XBOX 360 version: While we will not be reviewing the XBOX 360 version of the game, consider the PS3 rating to apply to the 360 version as well. The game, on the 360, is fantastic and is one of the best kart racers I’ve ever played. Also worth noting, the 360 version has the Avatar as an exclusive racer. -Barry the Nomad

 

12 responses to “Review: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PS3 & Wii U)

  1. Sonicchaos333 says:

    I think you get the All Star move by collecting stars during the race but I could be wrong.

    • SegaSonic27 says:

      you collect the stars then when you go over a power up you will get the all-star but im not positive how many stars you have to get i think it is 4

  2. Shigs says:

    The coins are for using in a slot machine later. I’m still not sure how the All Stars work now.

    • CrazyTails says:

      Every character has an extra stats bar for allstar chance. I do think chances are stronger when your behind, but it gives an indication of how big the chances are in general

  3. DCGX says:

    Very comprehensive review. For now I’m just getting the Vita version, but once I get a WiiU that will be my console version of choice.

    You may want to add, because Sumo just came out and said it today, that a patch for the WiiU version is forthcoming and is just awaiting Nintendo’s approval.

  4. SMT Xero says:

    You forgot to mention that the wii u and xbox 360 versions of the game have an exclusive character each (mii and avatar)

  5. Pira says:

    VERY nice review! Big difference in comparison to the one in Sonic Stadium for sure. One small (but still pretty big for people playing the game) error: It’s 165 stars in order to unlock all the racers, not 160.

    Love the modding in this game, truly the best idea for a kart racer there is. Way too often I would have a character I want to play (Ulala in the last game) but I had no idea how to control them (floating instead of wheels makes drifting really confusing for me), so to mod them and fit them to my playing style is SUCH a good idea.

  6. Geed says:

    I don’t see why some of the racers from the first game had to be removed. Maybe I miss the Bonanza Bros! (or not :P) but if the DLC from the last game is any indication, we’re not going to get much this time around either (regardless that Sumo is asking who else we want). I’ve give them props for Hornet. They just really could have gone deeper with the roster and perhaps even more into its history. Then again, being Sega, unless it’s Sonic, they have always had a big problem representing their past. Now gimme Vectorman and Sketch!

  7. Amrith says:

    Nice review.
    The game-breaking glitches of Wii U version came from the first patch, not the disc itself, am I right ?

  8. Great review! I went in and changed the 160 star bit to 165 stars and added a mention of the 360 version.

  9. jingoi says:

    I miss the bonanza bros, they were my main in the original.

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