Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is the newest attempt at finding a roster spot in the kart-racing genre. Arcade racers have always had a substantial following from those who prefer wacky, over-the-top action to the more realistic simulators out there. In recent years, dating back to the original on Nintendo’s oldest systems, Mario Kart has been the king of kart racing. Nintendo’s lovable characters, colorful worlds, and fast-paced action have kept the series on top for years. What Sega has tried to do with All-Stars Racing is to take that formula, and insert Sega style environments, Sega characters, and new features, weapons, and vehicles. If you’ve been a Sega fan at all over the years, you’ll feel a nostalgic pleasure from playing this game. While I can’t deny that what we have here is essentially Mario Kart, Sega edition, I must say that this title is a wonderful game in its own right, and deserves more than just a look from racing fans.
The first thing that will jump out at you is the awesome character set here. Now, I can’t say that I’ve played every Sega title over the years, but I’ve sure covered a lot of them. You’ll have a blast reminiscing as you try the different characters. Some of the highlights are Amigo from Samba de Amigo, Beat from Jet Set Radio Future, Joe’s cab from Crazy Taxi, Ryo from Shenmue, Alex Kidd, AiAi from Super Monkey Ball, and so many more. Plus, on the Xbox 360 version, you’ll get to race as Banjo and Kazooie. Seeing all of these characters in one place, racing against each other, is really a treat, and gives Sega fans a way to enjoy that nostalgic feeling in a way that only Nintendo fans have up until now. Getting sick of the characters? You can even drop your Xbox 360 Avatar into the kart of your choice and take off.
The choice in vehicles is pretty much what you’ve come to expect from this type of racer. For each character, you’ll be able to choose some standard and some personalized vehicles, and there’s a decent selection. They are not really customizable, but if you want that, play some Need for Speed. Here, it’s all about the weapons and fun. The sense of speed in the racing is fantastic. Flying around the track is more fun than ever, and you’ll have a blast battling it out for position. The controls are tight and responsive, and allow you to feel in control even when the action is crazy.
Obviously, this wouldn’t fit neatly into the kart-racing genre without the tricks and weapons. On the track, you’ll find all kinds of items to pick up, from missiles to bombs. What is unique about this title, as opposed to Mario Kart, is that each racer has a personalized “All-Star” weapon that no one else can use. My favorite is AiAi. He transforms into his monkeyball and rolls down the track, spitting stuff out that messes up the other drivers. It’s a lot of fun, and you’ll get a kick out of figuring out what all the personalized weapons are.
So how will you be spending your time in All-Stars Racing? As you’ve seen before in other games, you’ve got the standard Cup modes in which you complete a set of racing and earn points for placing, leading to a final placing. Of course, you can also just play one race at a time, or compete in Time Trials and go for course records, which is always addicting. If you want some real competition, hop on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network and go against the best in the world. The online races I played were very smooth, and only had a few hiccups—none of which really affected the races.
Specific to this title is the Missions mode, which gives you various conditions for winning in different races. You may have to avoid obstacles or go through checkpoint gates in the minimum time, or the person in last place may be eliminated after each lap. These extra modes are not complicated or extremely deep, but they do a lot in terms of adding another layer of gameplay to the formula. Add this to the online play and standard game modes, and you won’t get tired of playing any time soon.
With all of the ways to play, vehicles, environments, and all-around fun, Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is a top-notch arcade racer for any fan of the genre. It looks great, sounds great, and is a joy to play. But where it really shines is the fantastic cast of characters picked from Sega’s illustrious history. If you are a fan of the arcade racing or kart-racing genre, I heartily recommend this title. It will keep you busy for hours and hours of fun.