Whether you hate the bikes, last lap position shuffles, the cast or none of the above, there's no denying Nintendo owners do have an awesome exclusive feather in their gaming cap with Mario Kart. Enter Sega with a kart racer that's looking every bit as crazy and compelling, only better-looking and on multiple platforms.
The character roster may not be as widely known these days as the Mario, Donkey Kong, Toad and Wario crew, but that's not to say the quality isn't as high. Stars from the past such as Alex Kidd and Jet Set Radio's Beat are in, along with Billy Hatcher - star of the rather underrated Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg.
Above: Billy looks over his shoulder at Amigo in the Monkey Ball jungle
Each racer gets a ride based on their personality. Sonic's is predictably sleek and blue-hued, while Amy Rose gets a cute little pink convertible. Billy rides in a giant egg and Beat's ride is a fully pimped-out mod machine.
The racing itself has been designed to be accessible for as many people as possible. As a result, when the track features a drop-off, there are yellow hazard areas on the track that will push newbie racers back towards safer ground. It does sound a bit too much like driving with the stabilisers on (no-one needed it on SNES Mario Kart, now, did they?) but at least their effects seem understated. And let's face it, no-one likes falling off.
Above: Sonic's probably grateful for the car after using his legs in Sonic R
If you ever played Sonic Adventure 2, you'll be familiar with the feeling of movement in All-Stars Racing. The 45 degree slopes with large scenery gliding past and a decent depth of field effect are virtually identical and you immediately know you're watching a Sega game. It's a looker, too, with real-time shadows from the scenery and well-rounded vehicles and scenery.
As with Sega Superstars Tennis, the environments are all themed around Sega game worlds. There's a jungle for Ai Ai from Super Monkey Ball, a Green Hill for Sonic and even a Casino Park track, the latter of which was being shown for the first time at Gamescom. This features huge decks of cards and gambling chips towering over the racers (hmmm... wonder how PEGI will react to that – remember the Game Corner debacle in Pokemon?).
Above: The newly announced Casino Park zone has a gambling theme
While there have only been single tracks shown for each world, the existence of a track name under each world name suggests multiple tracks per world, but they're unannounced yet. Makes sense, though.
During the race, you'll be able to collect the usual weapons and defensive items from Sonic-style item boxes. There will also be special All Star moves that are character-specific, which will no doubt cause upsets on the final turn.
Above: Amy's All Star move sees her get out her trademark hammer
Officially, the game doesn't have Mario in it. However. Seeing as Sonic and Mario are such good friends now, we wouldn't rule out a cameo appearance on at least the Wii version of the game. Stranger things have happened - remember Mario's cameo appearance in SSX 4 on Gamecube?
The final roster of Sega characters has yet to be confirmed so there's plenty of scope for more Sega mascots to appear in the game. We'd love to see Tillis from Burning Rangers, Axel from Crazy Taxi, the Daytona Hornet (which appeared in Fighters Megamix as a fighting car after all) and Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue – perhaps driving a forklift truck. Who do you want to see?
The potential for Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is huge, both for Sega fans and for that damn 'casual gamer' everyone keeps going on about. And with four-player split-screen confirmed, this should be a party favourite when it releases early in 2010.
27 Aug, 2009