Sonic has drifted across the roads for many years, starting on the Game Gear in a humble tribute to Mario’s karting adventures. But he soon raced on his feet and later, rode a hover board across futuristic landscapes. It wasn’t until 2010 when Sumo Digital took the wheel and helped Sonic drive across SEGA roads. A new sub-series was born and Sonic’s racing adventures continued in 2012 with the release of Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed.
The game made a pit-stop on many systems, including the PlayStation Vita. With a large-scale racing title that pushes for land/sea/air racing, how does it fare on the PS Vita? In my first official review for LatestVitaGames, we will find out together through this review, I hope you all enjoy!
Design This title is split up into a few different modes. The first is the World Tour mode where you play a number of race types for stars (can earn up to four of them) and you use these stars to unlock new branches on the mission select screen. Some of these missions include things like racing through rings, drift and boost challenges, and more! They are quite varied, ensuring you are always doing something different.
You can unlock new racers if you have enough stars, so you are pushed to play this mode if you want to unlock every playable character. Other major game modes included the Grand Prix where you race across four different tracks based off iconic SEGA franchises. If you win, you can continue on to the next one. Time Trials also pop up, as they are a kart racing game stable. You race a ghost and try to get the best time across three laps. These can be very challenging and they are a lot of fun when getting good times.
But neither of these modes unlock new characters, only the World Tour mode. That is one of this games issues, as progression is more linear compared to the original Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing. In that game, you earn SEGA Miles which can be spent on anything; race tracks, music, and even playable racers. So the progression being more linear can be an issue I see people having and I feel it is a shame you have limited choices regarding progression when the first racing game had so much flexibility.
The last major game mode here is the online mode which doesn’t really have a high population base currently. So you might have issues racing online unless you set up a game with a few friends. But online racing works very well, with little input lag and glitches effecting things. So if you find a game online, you will have a lot of fun! Multiplayer also includes battle arena’s where you use items to take out other races and ‘Find the Chao’ where you race on the track to collect X amount of chao before the other racers.
So design and feature wise, Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing Transformed offers a healthy selection of race types to ensure you have a great time.
Sonic and friends race across the road through controls that heavily mirror arcade racing games, rather than a traditional kart racer. This leads to every turn, drift and action with your car having a lot of weight to it, giving you a great feeling when pulling off a great trick or drift around the lap. Each track is built with this control in mind, encouraging you to successful drift around sharp corners. But you aren’t just racing on land, but you are doing so in the sky and sea.
Note the name ‘Transformed’ in title, as every racer can morph their car into a boat or air-craft. This changes how you play the game completely; the boat moves across shifting waves with real water physics while the air has you carefully pulling off rolls to get ‘risk boosts’ when getting close to objects.
I loved this transforming system, as it give each track so much life. One track that comes to mind that really pulls this off wonderfully is called ‘Dragon’s Canyon’ inspired by the SEGA Saturn classic Panzer Dragoon. You start out racing on dirt roads and inside caves but soon find yourself racing across lakes of the area. But once you are about the race off a cliff, you transform into a air-jet to fly through the vast canyon. It is a wonderful track and these kinds of level design continue throughout the entire game.
Racing across lava in the Golden Axe track, flying through one of the most iconic area’s from Sonic 3 & Knuckles and even racing through an underwater lab from the Saturn cult classic Burning Rangers. The gameplay matches up with the tracks perfectly and almost every track is a joy to race through. Almost every track has you turning into at least two different forms, you aren’t just racing. But four returning tracks from the original All Stars Racing pop up and they are still fun with the new control style this game offers.
You have items you can use as well, with them ranging from snowballs that freeze your foes in place or a turbo boost to get a sudden burst of speed. They are great to use and with the ability to look behind you, the game offers great control on your aiming with the different items. One part of kart racers that I find very annoying is item balance sometimes and Sonic Racing thankfully has wonderful item balancing. If you are struggling though, you have the All Star, which your car turns into the plane form and you have a special attack you can use for a short while (in addition to going at top speed for a short period of time). These are never unfair to the race and are simply tools to help you get some footing during a difficult race.
Regarding control, one issue is performance, as on the Vita version of the game, the frame rate dips a bit when a lot is happening on the screen. This isn’t much of a problem, as it shift right back to a stable 30FPS often enough, but a racing game lives and dies on control and any dips with the frame rate can be a major issue. So I wish the Vita version was a bit more optimized. But I personally enjoyed the gameplay a lot despite this one issue.
Your characters also have a leveling up system, where you can unlock mods after playing through races. Each mod changes the base stats for your car and they are a lot of fun to unlock. They can make Sonic even faster or Tails have even stronger handling. It takes a while to fully upgrade every character but the game having this mode ensures that if you love a specific SEGA character you can continue playing as them and learn how they work, with the mods being tools you can use to costumize your play style.
Overall, the core gameplay here is very strong and while there are some issues with frame rate impacting input the racing is great on Vita.
This title offers a lot of content for the single player gamer. You have over four World Tour mision maps to complete (with one unlocking once you complete all of them) and each one has a number of race types to complete. Masting with four stars for every single mission will take quite a long time fully completing the World Tour is rewarding; you unlock two final racers, with one of them being a love letter to any SEGA fan.
Trying to get every sticker (which you can put on your SEGA Licence, which is something people can see on your user name) will take a long time too and they function similar to trophies or achievements (with some even being directly linked to trophies). I feel that fully experiencing everything will take a long time and overall, you will have a great time trying to see everything this game has to offer.
Also special tip; if you set the Vita’s date to Christmas Eve, you will unlock a special kid linked to SEGA’s history.
The visuals on offer, while a step down from the console version of the title, still look great on Vita. Every race track feels ripped out of the many SEGA games they originate from and they have a lot of strong visual design elements. The colors also pop off the Vita screen, ensuring the everything looks clear as you race on the tracks.
Character animations are mostly okay but the characters themselves took the heaviest hit in this version of the game though. There is less detail on the character models and when you get a clear look at them after beating a race, they look low quality. The cars themselves look great though and some visual elements from the console versions like Sonic’s quills moving in the air are clearly visible in the Vita version as well.
As mentioned during the gameplay portion, the frame rate is not the most stable despite mostly sticking with it’s 30FPS target during races. Sometimes, they drop heavily but they go right back up after the mild slowdown. It is not a major issue but for a racing game where inputs are very important, I feel it is worth mentioning.
One of this games best aspects regarding presentation is the soundtrack. They are remixes of iconic SEGA games and it sounds fantastic. Hearing Super Sonic Warrior from the JP version of Sonic CD play in the Seaside Hill track or a wonderful remixes of Shinobi III play in the Seasonal Shrine track are some examples of the strong soundtrack at work. This ties into sound design as well, as all the characters and sound effects are crisp and do not sound compressed.
Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10
+High Replay Value with Lots of Content
+Tight and Rewarding Gameplay
+Great Soundtrack and Audio
-Frame Rate Issues/Slowdown at Some Points
-Character Models look a bit Rough
-Online Play has limited Community
Sonic Racing Transformed is one of the best Kart Racers on the PS Vita and despite some issues popping up when the game drifted to the platform, the game still is very enjoyable to play. With its blend of strong arcade racing gameplay and lots of SEGA love, you will have a great time with this racing title.
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: SEGA of America/SEGA of Europe
File Size: 1.4 GB
Format: Retail and Digital Release