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Sonic Riders Review

Developer: SEGA Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: February 21, 2006 Also On: GCN, PS2 and Xbox

Sonic the Hedgehog’s legacy started in 1991 with a game of the same name, taking its place as SEGA’s competitor to Nintendo’s popular, portly, platforming plumber Mario. For years, Sonic’s thrill lay in his speed, loops, and attractive 2D visuals. All of the sudden, 3D happened and I personally don’t think SEGA ever realized the proper way to reinvent Sonic for the next generation like Nintendo did with their mascot. I still think they’re missing their jump by a mile. Sonic Riders is not a good game by any stretch, and I think that someone in the development squad at SEGA needs to learn what unemployment feels like, because they’re losing a lot of lives by missing that same jump.

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Sonic Riders puts you in control of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and a few of Sonic’s enemies as you race through several different levels on a hover board. Of course, as always, Eggman is up to no good, but he sets up a seemingly harmless Grand Prix with the entry fee of a Chaos Emerald from each contestant. He has a hidden agenda that our heroes are far too ignorant to catch (yet again, e-gad!) and it’s up to Sonic and company to save the day. Only this time, it’s all done on hover boards.

I want to emphasize that final sentence of the previous paragraph. This is where the SEGA developers should have felt that initial “something isn’t right here� feeling. Sonic Riders is a hover board racing game. SEGA needed to take a lesson from Kirby Air Ride. You race each other on slippery, uncontrollable hover boards rather than the speedy feet that got Sonic into popularity in the first place. The result is a few hours’ worth of frustration with slippery controls, a cheap trick system, and downright annoying tracks. Few of the tracks even showcase some of the things that made Sonic so exciting, like loops and corkscrews. In fact, Sonic Adventure’s levels had several more of these obstacles than Sonic Riders does. It makes me wonder why SEGA didn’t go somewhere with the levels creatively, because it would have made the game a lot more exciting.

The biggest problem in the game is how the boards control. Imagine putting a surf board on a frozen lake, running full-speed at it, jumping on, and trying to control yourself as you skid uncontrollably across the ice. It’s hard. It’s not fun. It’s not what a video game should feel like. If I want to do something “fun� without control, I’ll cattle prod a rhino and hop on, not spend $50 on a video game. There were times where I actually had to pause Sonic Riders or take it out of my Xbox console because the controls were becoming so frustrating.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t look or sound much better than it plays. Sonic Riders has the same colorful scheme and the same flashy neon signs, the same green forests, the same sandy deserts, and the same fiery volcanoes as Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. It makes me think that SEGA took the latter and designed their graphics engine around it. Keep in mind, Sonic Adventure 2 was a Dreamcast game. Anyway, the music also sounds the same as always; aside from a few tracks, most of the music is sleazy, cheap, back-alley techno. The voice acting is decidedly childish, with Tails being as relentlessly annoying as always. Even the sound effect for picking up coins is the same familiar “ching� but I have to say, I’m getting a little annoyed with that these days.

SEGA is 0-for-2 on good Sonic games in the last few months. Aside from Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS, they haven’t put out a fantastic, or even acceptable, Sonic game for years. What’s the deal? Is it really that hard to take such an iconic, impressive, and lovable character and make a good game out of his speed and intensity? Is it really a better idea to throw a hover board underneath him and his friends and take away any feeling of control? Seriously, what were they thinking? Sonic’s creator Yuji Naka should be so ashamed. I really don’t like being so harsh on a video game, but Sonic Riders isn’t worth your money. It isn’t worth your time, and it isn’t worth having Sonic’s name and image plastered on the cover. If you want to play a mean trick on your kids, buy them Sonic Riders – they might enjoy it just as much as Shadow the Hedgehog.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 4
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 3
Final: 5
Written by Cliff Review Guide