|System: Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sonic Team||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
Two years ago Sonic signed up for a new kind of heart-pumping racing that made plenty of people jump for joy. Sonic Riders didn't come without its flaws, but the real fans didn't have much of a problem with that and made the best out of it. As a reward (or a way to make some more ca$h), SEGA is back with a new Sonic Riders that fixes the blemishes of the previous title and comes packaged with its own new defects. Don't make early conclusions though; it's a much better game overall, and it should be able to please the fans once again.
Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity includes 16 brand new and dynamic courses, 18 sharp-looking characters, and 60 different vehicles, which gives players more than enough reasons to make them jump into the Sonic Riders adventure all over again. Take the word "adventure" with a grain of salt because they tried to throw in some sort of story line, but it doesn't really make it an Adventure with capital A. In fact, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but at least it brings in some nice cutscenes that most Sonic fans will appreciate.
This is basically the plot: A rain of meteorites starts falling from the night sky and impacts the ground right at the feet of a security robot. The next morning Sonic and company listen to the news and find out robots are roaming freely all over the place, disobeying commands as if they had their own minds. To make matters worse, Tails has a piece of that strange meteor that seems to attract the robots and makes them really angry. They don't have a choice but run and escape! Somehow that fragment has anti-gravity powers they weren't expecting; that might just be the reason for the whole robot craze! But wait, it's not only the robots chasing them; it turns out the Babylon Rogues, a band of legendary thieves seen in the previous title, is on the run as well and they're ready to do whatever is necessary to get a hold of those powers. Things are looking ugly indeed. And that's the whole reason why you'll be racing all throughout the game.
Don't think of Sonic Riders as a Mario Kart kind of game; this series has much more resemblance to games like F-Zero or Wipeout, mixed with some Excite Truck elements that up it a notch or two. The tracks are futuristic and were built for high speeds. You'll race in Sonic Riders as if you were in a roller-coaster full of turbo pads, loop-de-loops, vertical drops, and more. All your character needs is one of those powerful hover-boards! The rhythm is insane, and you will barely have time to plan your moves; this is the kind of racing you get used to and soon enough your brain will just send impulses to your hands so you perform the right moves. However, as smooth as it sounds, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity has a few too many spots in the race tracks where all the magic of the high-speeds is destroyed; sharp corners followed by narrow doorways, huge gaps on the sides of the track, and numerous oversized obstacles will slow you down and hinder the otherwise exciting game pace.
The controls are actually pretty good and make a lot of sense; if it wasn't for the booby traps mentioned above, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity could appeal to a wider audience, not just Sonic fans. The Wii version offers three types of controls: holding the Wii remote horizontally (classic mode), vertically, or using the GameCube controller. The PS2 version controls simply relay on the DualShock controller. There's nothing wrong with any of these controls really, although the gameplay with the horizontal Wii remote is a blast once you get the hang of it, just like in Excite Truck. The GameCube controller or the Dualshock in the case of the PS2 version are just as good but maybe not as fun.
In Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity your character will grind on rails like Tony Hawk, pull cool stunts thanks to the zero gravity effect, ride cool vehicles, use turbo boosts, find hidden paths, and more. There are lots of possibilities depending on what vehicle you're using at a given time. You can easily swap your gear and vehicles by picking up the power-ups on the road. My complaint here is that sometimes it's tough to realize what gear / vehicle you're using until it's too late. For example, if you have the Air Ride, you could take advantage of the catapults that rise up, fly through the shiny rings, and obtain a nice speed boost; if you have the skates, you can access grind areas and ride even faster; and with the bike you can burst through obstacles like a bullet, etc. Only true masters of the genre will be able to take advantage of these power-ups and maximize the experience to the limits. For the rest (more mediocre racers) the game will become a battle of survival where your goal will be to stay on track and at least avoid falling into black holes or crushing your character against the walls.
The vehicles have similar color patterns and are not easy to distinguish; the symbols for each of the power ups are a bit too generic, and you have to look at the top-left corner to see what you have. It's a small complaint, but it should be heard. The rest of the power-ups give you with special attacks, high speeds, etc. Some of them will have negative effects for you though, like the splash of colored paint that obscures vision, the parts-lock that deactivates your gear abilities, and more. You can also pick up the typical Sonic rings which you can trade later for new gear.