|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|
For the most part, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity represents an improvement in the Sonic Riders series. They got rid of the air meter and the frustrating pit stops, the annoying announcer, and the double-tap in order to grind. Those were major disappointments in the previous title, and I'm glad the developers took the critics as constructive and made the necessary changes. It's too bad the game comes with new flaws because it would have been perfectly fun otherwise.
The game looks just like Sonic Riders: not better, not worse. It seems to make sense for the PlayStation 2 version because it's a last-generation console. However, just average graphics on the Wii is not acceptable these days. They've showed us what's possible, and SEGA has two perfect examples of what can be done, even if they're not quite there yet; Sonic and the Secret Rings and NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams displayed beautiful graphics. Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity should be envious. Sure, it's colorful and cool-looking, but it needs to be smooth and full of detail. The textures are tough to swallow, especially in stages like Botanical Kingdom or Gigan Rocks that contain more natural elements. Other tracks are full of futuristic, colorful, and inspiring architectural elements, and they look okay. I still think much more could have been done, and hopefully they'll realize that eventually and apply that point of view to future games. The characters are cute and look sharp, especially compared to everything else. I love their vibrant colors, inventive looks, and gear. With 18 of them you're sure to find a favorite, and you'll get to choose it in normal, grand prix, and survival mode, just not in story mode.
There are several gameplay modes you can play with other three friends: Normal Race includes Free Race and Time Attack; Survival Mode has three modalities: Survival Relay (gear is used as the baton), Survival Ball (shot and score: use gravity control), and Survival Battle (slam foes with gravity action). Some of these modes, like Survival Ball, are not easy or fun to play. The modes that are just based on racing are the best the game has to offer, and even though there's a learning curve you'll eventually understand what to do and time it right. I have to say the tutorials in Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity don't help. They are bad and may cause people to lose interest in the game; everything is explained with text and not an actual demonstration, and failing in the tutorial never leads to a better explanation - it just makes the character repeat the same "Gotta try harder!" kind of comment. Wonderfully frustrating, isn't it? At least you can leave the Tips turned on, which shows the controller motion you should do or button you should press on the screen so you know what you could do to gain speed.
Being able to play against your friends is one of the best things this game has going for it. Playing against the omnipotent A.I. is a rather frustrating experience, and only unlocking new gear, movies, game modes, and characters will entice you enough to continue playing. However, playing against your friends brings the game to a whole new level. Now your skills are measured against theirs, and those who utilize the power-ups like they're supposed to will succeed. How much more fun it is to engage in furious competition against friends and to be able to show off your mad skills!
The Wii version also supports Wi-Fi connection - Great! Unfortunately, it's not what you might expect: you can download high-scores, and you can race against a "ghost" competitor. The ghost isn't someone playing against you at the same time; it's just a replay of someone's attempt in that same stage. Every time you obtain a new personal high score in a stage, the ghost data is saved and your ghost might eventually appear in someone else's race. You can even choose to race against a ghost of the same character, similar, faster or much faster speed. In any case, it's not real online competition, and it's just a gimmick that not many of you will appreciate.
The soundtrack is similar to that of Sonic Riders and even the F-Zero franchise. It sounds like one of those European techno discos full of neon lights. It's actually an appropriate rhythm for the fast-paced gameplay of the game - it provokes a need for speed. You can listen to all the tunes in the extras section too, which is nice. The voice over is better for some of the characters than others. I personally think characters like Tails could sound a bit more masculine... but you know what cartoons sound like, right? We all know that Bart Simpson's voice actor is indeed an actress, so I bet there's a woman behind Tails' voice as well! In any case, it's all pretty good overall and I enjoyed the sharp sound effects of the game.
All in all, the game is good. It's a new and improved Sonic Riders with plenty of new tracks and characters to enjoy. It's a must-have for Sonic fans and a "might-enjoy" for aces of the racing genre, especially for those who like F-Zero and Wipeout. If you're not sure you'll like it, give it a rental or wait until the price drops. And remember: I'm not responsible for your frustration! - All I can say is: Have Fun!
CCC Site Director