Sonic has evolved the racing game but is it best experienced on Wii U?
Published on Dec 11, 2012
We know SEGA have fallen on hard times since the decline of the Dreamcast, but their contributions to the games industry cannot be denied. From platformers to action/adventures and even unique genres that remain uncharacterised, at one time or another, they have been at the forefront of innovation, quality and style.
In recent years, they’ve relied extensively on their back catalogue, hoping to relive the glory days, banking on the insatiable desires of retro-enthusiasts the world over. Yet, it is with Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed that they’ve beautifully bottled that ‘bit-era’ more than any re-release, and ironically, seen that work further enhanced through Nintendo’s newest system.
Transformed may seem like an ordinary kart racer when you first start your engines, but as players pass through blue gates, their vehicle changes form into either a boat or a plane and follows a separate pathway along the track. What may initially seem like a quirky gimmick actually sets the tone for a relatively deep, strategic racer that puts pressure on its players to learn the circuits and adjust to the unique handling of each of the three vehicular forms in order to be successful. They’ll also need to be a pretty decent drifter.
Each track is designed to be faithful to classic SEGA series, from Panzer Dragoon to Jet Set Radio, and each manages to create an environment that will be instantly familiar to anyone who knows and loves those games.
While essentially the same game seen on other formats, the Wii U offers both minor and magnificent additions to Transformed. For starters, your Mii can be unlocked and used as a racer in all features of the game, from career to battle mode.
Transformed is also one of the first games to show the incredible multiplayer opportunities Wii U can offer and enables 5 player local multiplayer, instead of 4 only available on other formats. One person can play on the gamepad, while 4 others split on the TV. What’s more, all 5 players can go online with each other.
Unfortunately, only one profile can be signed in at any time during Transformed, and so the other four will have to play as guests. This is an issue with the Wii U system as opposed to the game, however.
While certainly a major disappointment, and frankly inexcusable on a home console in 2012, it shouldn’t completely overlook the amazing technical achievement accomplished here.
Transformed is also a fantastic introduction to the Nintendo Network, and each game we’ve played has flowed wonderfully with no slowdown or lag. The online is stable and there even seems to be somewhat of a community developing on there, which is more than can be said for other online Wii U titles.
When playing alone, the Wii U gamepad displays a constant mini-map of the action, revealing kart positioning throughout the race. Players will also be able to see a rear-view mirror at the tap of a button, which isn’t a particularly effective way of playing, and not a feature that’ll be used often, but it can help to see how close a kart is to player’s proximity, and perhaps plant a weapon that will cause the opposition to lose momentum.
The Wii U also has two exclusive multiplayer modes. The first is Banana Heist that will place a player in a Monkey Ball and see them try to roll opponents over before they collect fruit. The other mode is known as Ninja Tag which sees the gamepad player trying to recruit other players as ninjas to their clan.
Additionally, Transformed enables off-TV play with a quick swipe of your finger and the game even offers equal, if not superior, frame rate and graphical quality to other formats.
Transformed is an unexpected, but welcome surprise, making excellent use of the Wii U’s functionality, while remaining an engrossing, addictive title, bolstered with depth and longevity. A fitting tribute, wonderfully realised, and best experienced on a former rival’s system. Something we definitely wouldn’t have said back in 1990.
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Sonic's All-Star Racing is Transformer for the better on Wii U, save for the profile issue that Nintendo needs to rectify.