Tuesday, October 23, 2012

3RM @ NYCC 2012: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed

Sonic and Aaron Webber Commentary

Danica Patrick and Dragons


Sumo Digital and Sega have been working well together for the last few years to bring us games starring a multitude of Sega characters, and this year, the two are releasing their second racing game starring Sonic and a collection of other Sega favorites: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed.  While Sega itself did not have a booth at this year’s New York Comic Con, two demo units of the racer were at the Archie Comic booth, and we even got Associate Brand Manager Aaron Webber to chat with us about the game.  After my brief hands-on and some examination of the demos there, I can see the potential this racer has at the starting line.

Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed is the sequel to 2010’s Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing, but the game adds a very significant twist to the gameplay this time around.  Initially, the game plays similar to that of its predecessor; players choose Sonic and Sega characters to race in vehicles along tracks designed from the worlds of Sega’s lore.  However, at particular moments in the race, the vehicles can transform from cars to boats or planes to accommodate changes in the track.  These other vehicle forms control very differently from the original form; whereas boats are affected by the flow of water physics, the planes add aerodynamic elements into the game.  The vehicle changes help break up what might otherwise be a simple course, and the changing track allows players to experience more of the environments around them.

Transformed appears to take content from its previous game while adding in a collection of characters expected and unexpected.  Returning are a number of characters from the original, such as Sonic the Hedgehog, AiAi, and Beat, but Sumo Digital is adding in new Sega favorites such as NiGHTS, Gilius Thunderhead, and Vyse.  The odder additions to this game are Ralph from the upcoming Disney movie Wreck-it Ralph and Danica Patrick, a JR Motorsports NASCAR Nationwide Series racer who will be driving in a Sega-sponsored vehicle in future NASCAR races.  I will admit, it was very odd seeing someone play through Panzer Dragoon’s stage with Danica, but at the same time, the gameplay does not get pushed aside simply because she was included in the game.  I was more concerned about how many reused environments we might see in the final release.  Sumo seems to be focusing a lot on the Sonic Heroes motif for Sonic’s world, and from the looks of it, we might be losing certain characters from the roster who were more niche, including Opa-Opa and Alex Kidd (but maybe I’m biased toward the latter).  We still do not know the final roster of courses or characters, so I might be wrong, but it is a concern to have now, regardless.

I got to play as Sonic in his franchise’s stage, and on the PlayStation 3, the game looks as good as ever.  I had only played parts of the first game's Xbox 360 demo before, and even then, I saw issues with the game’s framerate.  In this playthrough, however, I could see a definite improvement in the framerate, which remained mostly consistent throughout the playthrough.  The shading and color were very crisp in this game, as well.  The Xbox 360 demo showed a little weakness when it came to larger environment changes, but I imagine it will have been optimized in time for release.

I found Transformed to control fairly well, even if I made a few mistakes here and there at the beginning.  In the air, the car slowed down a bit too much in my eyes, but on the ground, the car turned and moved well around curves and through loop-de-loops.  On the water, I could feel the controls shift and really emphasize the water below me, and coupled with a giant octopus attacking me and a multitude of water mines throughout the final stretch, it felt a lot more action-packed than I expected when the race began.  As for weapons, there are the usual power-ups one can use to attack other racers such as snowballs or a tornado to flip them around, but there are also special All-Star moves which can be used once racers collect enough coins and do enough tricks in the race.  I did not get to use an All-Star move, but I got to use a few weapons and boosts to stay with the pack.  Even though I ended up in third, the experience was a fun one, and I wish I got to play it again during my time there.

Alas, only the PS3 and 360 versions were playable at the event, but the Wii U version is promising to have unique content to it, using the Wii U GamePad for asymmetric gameplay modes as well as five-player offline multiplayer.  I was unable to get any further details from Aaron about these modes, but hopefully more information will arise before it releases.

I found my experience with Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed to be quite good, and my concerns and nitpicking aside, I walked away more interested in the game than when I approached it.  Transformed should be releasing November 18th for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U, and the handheld editions of the game will release sometime in December, as far as we know.

Oh, and Ristar is the flagman.  So, that’s cool.

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