When it comes to a solid alternative to Nintendo’s own Mario Kart there was little doubt that Sonic & All-Stars Racing was the next best thing as a zany and fast-paced racer. With so many imitators SEGA and Sumo Digital have done a good job with bringing much of the fast-paced racing action of the original HD versions to Nintendo’s 3DS edition of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Unlike those console versions there’s already a great kart racer available on the platform in Nintendo’s own Mario Kart 7, meaning the competition is a bit steeper. But thanks to SEGA’s unique blend of insanity + familiar franchises, there should be more than enough here to keep even the most exhausted fan satisfied.
Editor’s Note: Portions of this review – where applicable – originally appeared in my colleague Peter Skerritt’s original review of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U, originally published last November. Check out Peter’s full review for that version right HERE!
In typical sequel fashion there’s more of what made the first game attractive from the detailed tracks, power-ups, and all-things SEGA. More than 25 characters from popular franchises like Sonic the Hedgeghog (including guest stars Wreck-it Ralph, Danica Patrick, or the Nintendo-exclusive Mii avatars) can be leveled up with experience from races to unlock various mods which can affect performance in areas like boost, drift, and handling. Certain race types may be easier to clear using these unlocked additions, so they add an element of strategy to the game. There’s a nice mix of power-ups to collect during races, including Hot Rod, a new pickup that acts as a limited speed boost that must be detonated before it overheats, taking out surrounding racers as well.
The track design is quite good and the transforming bits are what really help this game stand out. Similar to Diddy Kong Racing of eons past karts, boats, and aircraft are the three vehicle types that most of the tracks will switch between during the course of a race, and each handles much differently than the others. Karts handle as you’d expect with plenty of emphasis on drifting. Boats don’t drift quite the same as karts do, and the addition of waves for certain tracks add to the challenge of handling. Flying an aircraft provides more freedom but also adds the challenge of experimenting with makeshift shortcuts and avoiding more hazards.
If you’re playing alone then the World Tour mode is the main draw of the game, as it pits players to complete different challenges across all of the game’s tracks. Some events are standard races, while others challenge players to drift through certain zones or activate boosts to stop the clock. Head-to-head Versus events pit players against a series of opponents, and they are not as easy as they sound. Traffic Attack events challenge players to clear checkpoints against the clock while colliding with as few vehicles as possible.
These various events each have up to three stars that can be earned, one for each level of difficulty. Easy difficulty is a breeze and good practice for the tougher difficulties and perhaps too much so at times. Earning these stars is important, as some event and completing the game in general requires you to accumulate enough stars to progress. This includes the game’s final race. Aside from World Tour, Grand Prix and Time Attack modes are also available for solo players. Playing against others, whether it be friends or other online varies for the 3DS. You’ll probably be spending much of your time in a matchmaking lobby however, there’s just a lot more competition over the Nintendo Network.
With each course bustling with activity on the track and in the background the graphics are vivid and distinct, though they have been toned down to fit the limitations of the 3DS hardware. The After Burner track, for example, takes players across a crowded canal full of naval vessels doing battle and also skims the decks of a couple of aircraft carriers. For the most part almost everything seen on the console versions is present with a few caveats, most notably the overall look is scaled down but good enough to appreciate on a handheld. This game is also enhanced (more or less) with 3D, and while the auto stereoscopic effect is appealing there’s nothing in this game that takes advantage of the immersion.
Overall, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on the 3DS is easy to pick up and even easier to enjoy in short spurts, which help make this mobile edition an ideal fit for those fans on the move. Despite some issues that made the transition from HD consoles, such as quickly ramped up difficulty and stripped-down visuals, the new tracks and vehicle transformations help the racing stand out among other racing games on the platform. It may not replace your copy of Mario Kart 7 in your 3DS slot, but if you’re a diehard SEGA fan or just looking for a different franchise-based kart racer you should have a good time here.
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