A few notable fan-favorite characters and franchises may not be in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but the game is still amazing thanks to gameplay that is balanced and visuals that are delightful. Opting not to simply make a sequel that has an incremental increase in quality, Sumo Digital have delivered a game that feels like a true sequel as it has loads of content and increased production values. If you enjoyed Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing or are a fan of kart titles all together, then Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a game that not only does the Sega world justice but is a welcomed addition to the somewhat sparse kart racing genre.
+ Vehicle alt modes are executed well and feature some amazing stage sections.
+ Controls still feel spot on.
+ Stages maintain their franchise identity while being fun to race on.
+ Graphics are insanely colorful and do an excellent job at balancing the different franchise art styles.
- Certain character/franchise omissions are disappointing.
- Online matchmaking is hit & miss at times.
Even though there are dozens of major game publishers and developers out there, only a select few hold a special place in our hearts for various reasons, most of which are personal. For the people out there who have been gaming for such a long time that it’s almost embarrassing that they’re as old as their favorite gaming franchise, Sega likely has a key place in their hearts. Personally I can tell you in great the specific moments in which I played Sega titles like Virtua Fighter, Die Hard Arcade, L.A. Machineguns, and of course Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time since each moment was forever engrained in my mind due to how wonderful the game was.
For years I’ve always adored Sega even though it has been hard to see how the company has evolved, or in some cases devolved, over the years. With only a scant few new properties released amidst a collection of HD remasters, Sega may not have the same immediate magic as they once had. However, the release of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed does inject some of the classic Sega magic we all love in a kart racing game that is nothing short of brilliant.
Members of the Sega nation may still be annoyed, if perplexed, as to why Sega has done something such as All-Stars Racing Transformed, more-so since it’s a sequel to the first kart racing based exploits that was released in 2010. It was certainly odd seeing Sonic in a themed kart vehicle and racing alongside notable characters such as Akira Yuki and Billy Hatcher in stages based on Jet Set Radio. The existence of a kart racing game fueled by Sega’s key properties may have been a tough pill to swallow but the end result was a game that was fun and engaging.
There may still be a level of “WTF is Sega doing with this game?” amongst certain people, but All-Stars Racing Transformed is far from being a grave injustice in the world of gaming. With no forced storylines involving Sonic falling in love with a human girl, no crappy camera system, and no cliffhanger ending that won’t be resolved due to the game failing to recoup its monumental budget, All-Stars Racing Transformed is pretty much the complete package when it comes to giving us classic Sega in the perfect arcade environment.
Maintaining the same kart racing core which involves drifting to gain boost opportunities, All-Stars Racing Transformed has a few notable additions which are obviously hinted at via the title extension. Instead of just driving on the ground in a series of ever twisting courses, the cars of Sonic and friends also turned into both boats and air based vehicles. Yes, this time out Tails and B.D. Joe would take to the skies at times to fly through things such as asteroids and giant flowers.
It may sound like All-Stars Racing Transformed is gimmicky in it’s design and approach, but the game is just sheer arcade style brilliance. Seriously, I really can’t implore how much fun the game can be since it’s not stuffed with needless features or things meant to “boost” the overall experience; it’s just straightforward arcade racing with a slight twist.
Part of what made me enjoy this second outing of Sega based kart action was that it can be so ludicrous at times in the best possible ways. Starting out an event by seeing Sonic sitting in a boat that somehow is surviving despite resting in a sea of lava is amusing, as was seeing my character do backwards vehicle flips after getting a bit of air in a massive Japanese temple, as inspired by the classic Sega title Shinobi. The addition of flight and sea based action in the game does add a rather major element to the game since it’s something that isn’t just thrown in for the sake of it.
A quick lap showcasing some transforming action.
At first I did feel like the vehicle transformation sections did feel a bit too predictable, but over time each level had a specific vehicle segment that was worked in wonderfully within the context of the level without feeling too forceful. Taking to the skies for a good chunk of the stage based upon Nights Into Dreams was the perfect way to represent the topsy turvy nature of that classic and the same can be said of the Skies of Arcadia stage.
The balancing between flight, sea driving, and regular driving is perfect yet it was disappointing that certain levels didn’t allow me to switch things up more often. During certain stages it’s possible to take different paths leading to either more driving or sea based action yet I couldn’t switch to the other; even if I could see the alternate path or have “access” to it by the lack of a barrier. I guess not being able to immediately switch up between vehicle modes was done for certain design purposes, but it would’ve been nice if there was a tad more freedom within certain stages to encourage more driver skill and further up the ante more or less.
As existing fans of the series may now, each stage within All-Stars Racing Transformed is based upon a specific game from Sega’s past. No franchise mash-ups are featured within the game similar to PlayStation All-Stars as it’s instead all about adapting a specific game or level from a game into an amazing kart racing experience. The vast array of styles found within the various franchises are maintained well since the game has a look that’s visually consistent and that looks rather well. It may have been odd to see the world of Jet Set Radio and Beat not presented in a cell-shading style, but the look used for that franchise doesn’t look like it’s missing an edge nor does it immediately clash with the worlds of Sonic or the more realistic Afterburner stage.
The visual style utilized in the game may have had to balance different styles into something that wouldn’t translate into a hot mess, yet it ultimately doesn’t suffer from a lack of character. It may have been assumed that certain levels would be a bastardization of the source material, but Sumo Digital have really hit it out of the park with how each level is laid out and how it looks. Amidst the few stages that return from the first title, which have gotten a makeover, All-Stars Racing Transformed features a wonderful collection of games whose core elements have perfectly been encapsulated into a race course that can be completed in five minutes.
A lot of the visual delight in the game comes from how alive it feels thanks to moving elements like robots created by Doctor Eggman, or giant bosses roaming about in the House of the Dead stage. During a few times, such as the completely psychedelic trip experience that is Nights Into Dreams, some of the environmental actions were a bit distracting but overall things are balanced well and the stages certainly do justice to the franchises they’re based upon.
Driving around stages based on Sonic or Nights may not have provided any feelings in the disappointment department yet I did have a feeling of wanting more. Each franchise that’s in the game is represented well as it’s more a case of which games aren’t represented, either in the form of a racer or a vehicle. The franchises that did make the cut in All-Stars Racing Transformed are top notch but it suffers from being too predictable in a sense. The arrival of the Panzer Dragoon and Skies of Arcadia stages was a nice surprise, but other than that it’s business as usual with the presence of Sonic, Super Monkey Ball, House of the Dead, and Shinobi.
It’s to be expected that certain franchises would appear in the game, yet it seems like Sega has ignored a good chunk of their classic franchises and the few modern efforts that have actually gained a following. Not having a stage from a Sega game released in the last few years is rather odd as is how legendary characters such as Vectorman continue to get the boot, despite their concepts being perfect for a kart racing game. Certain character omissions do have more of a sting to them since All-Stars Racing Transformed has bonus characters such as Wreck-It Ralph and Danica Patrick. Seeing Ralph is certainly odd in some cases, despite his video game origins, and Danica Patrick is simply an oddity that I will never understand.
In some ways All-Stars Racing Transformed comes across as a rock band going on concert. the fans want all the classics to be played just as they sound on the album, but throwing in a unexpected song is what can result in the roof absolutely being blown off the place. Having a stage in All-Stars Racing Transformed based on games like Rez, Vanquish, Yakuza, or even Virtua On is what could’ve made an already good game that more amazing and perhaps could’ve broken up the slight level of predictability found within it.
Having boats and planes in All-Stars Racing Transformed doesn’t present any major changes as to how the game plays since it still revolves around doing massive drift turns and occasionally messing up another racer by sending an ice ball or a swarm of hornets their way. After fiddling with the controls ever so slightly, boo to inverted flight controls, I had a rather easy going time adjusting to the element of flight and the accompanying learning curve that goes alongside driving a boat. When it comes to taking to the seas or a lava pit that somehow doesn’t kill all those in it, the only thing that needs some time getting used to is navigating the sometimes rough seas as waves do affect the control and direction of a vehicle. All together there aren't any nagging control kinks within the game since everything is responsive and has that perfect arcade feel to it.
Aside from the slight issues I already mentioned in regards to which franchises didn’t make the cut, the game obviously had a lot of passion poured in it which paid off. I did find a few minor disappointments in how the weapons were handled as some of them lack a distinct impact, both in the visuals and their actual premise. Shooting some ice balls is cool, but I wished the game would’ve gone totally off the wall and have a weapon that would unleash a Virtua Fighter character for a brief moment. Sure, it may sound a bit much but it’s the perfect crazy thing to include in an already mental, yet fun, kart title.
A few other minor issues were also present in the otherwise enjoyable multiplayer offerings. Featuring the expected racing action alongside a few themed modes such as playing football with a Chao or doing a what amounts to being a deathmatch mode, All-Stars Racing Transformed suffers from slight matchmaking issues that results in some cases prolonged waiting when it came to hopping into a match. Nothing is terribly broken, at least at this stage, but often I would find myself being selected for a match that either just began or well halfway done, thus I could either do the waiting game for the next session or just leave all together. The matchmaking problems aren’t that much of a biggie in the end as it simply provides a small level of annoyance when wanting to hop in and improve my online ranking or merely have some more competitive fun.
Longtime fans of Sega will probably have a huge smile on their face since Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed combines both nostalgia and enjoyable gameplay in an experience that isn’t a slightly prettier rehash. The addition of flight and sea based action adds a lot as do the more interactive levels which at times have totally transformed by the end of lap 3. With a few exceptions such as spotty online matchmaking and some disappointing character/franchises not making the cut, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a near perfect kart racing game that should definitely be experienced by those who grew up as Sega fans.