The one caveat we’d add here is that the game doesn’t stoop so low as to include its own version of the dreaded blue shell. While Nintendo’s racer uses weapons more effectively on the whole, it also penalises skilled drivers by spamming them with inescapable attacks. Sega’s game does the opposite by helping out weaker players with Allstar moves: special abilities that are unique to each character and are handed out when you’re beginning to lag behind the pack. They’re entertaining and effective without feeling over-powered. They’re also a much fairer way of levelling the playing field and Nintendo should take note.
As with any game of its type, SASASR comes packed with more extras than a Hollywood epic. The expected multiplayer follows the convention set by the rest of the game by bringing little new to the track. As such, we’re treated to a variety of events that are only ever as much fun as the people you’re playing against. Thankfully, Sega have had the foresight to include a local multiplayer option, which, in our view, is a better bet than online play. This is a game best enjoyed while crammed onto a sofa with some mates and an extra large pizza.
Another addition is a mission mode. As in Sumo’s excellent Outrun, each challenge is a bite-size chunk of gameplay that demands you excel in a particular discipline. From targeting, to refining your racing line, to power-sliding your way to wrinkle-smoothing speeds – every aspect of the core gameplay is covered.
Winning any event (including missions) awards you with Sega Miles, a form of in-game currency that’s used to unlock bonus content. It’s here again that the game comes unstuck – or at least falls unfavourably under Mario Kart’s shadow. There are lots of stuff to purchase, which is great, but the selection does serve to underline that competing with Nintendo’s hugely popular icons is always going to be a tough race to win. The inclusion of well known faces such as Shenmue’s Ryo Hazuki, Virtua Fighter’s Jackie Bryant and Jet Set Radio Future’s Beat, for instance, is inspired. But some of the other unlockable racers – most notably The Bonanza Bros. and Fantasy Zone’s Opa Opa – are only likely to please raving fanboys or gamers of a certain age.
It’s a close race between SASASR and Mario Kart, and far from choking on Nintendo’s dust, Sonic and co. clock in a respectable second place. This shouldn’t reflect poorly on the game however. So far, this generation has been dominated by serious racing titles more concerned with realistic glare and paint jobs than accessibility and immediacy. There’s nothing wrong with that but SASASR epitomises pick-up-and-play fun, and it’s a game we can easily imagine being enjoyed by hardened racers and newcomers, kids and adults, and – yes – Sega fans and Nintendo fans.
Feb 23, 2010