Theo’s Waste Basket: Sonic R (Saturn, PC, Playstation 2, Gamecube)

Theo’s Waste Basket will be an ongoing addition to my normal posts. My friend Thelonious finds old games that are commonly considered to be bad and gives them another look.

Introduction

If there’s one thing I know about video game franchises, it’s that outside of the core series, everyone likes to race. Mario and the gang have 8 games, Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing ganged up all its cute anthropomorphic pals and put together a unique racing game that had some semblance of a plot if you played it right, and in the last few years, Sega released their “all-star” kart racer. I guess driving is a lot of fun when you don’t have to save the world. But we’re not driving.

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Why the hell would sonic need a car?

 

History

Sonic CD was the second game developed by Travelers Tales. It’s a familiar name. If you’ve played anything with “Lego” before the name of a movie series, they developed it. But back in the far-off land of 1996, Sonic Team began talking with the company about making a second Sonic game, the first being 3D Blast, which was a monument to the mega-drive’s processing capabilities. Like Sonic 3D Blast was for the Mega-drive and Genesis. Sonic R was meant to show the processing power and ability the Sega Saturn was capable of. On Halloween, Sonic R was released in North America.

A lot of VERY good games were released in 1997, so let’s look at just the big titles released around the same time. These games were: PaRappa the Rapper (PS1), Curse of Monkey Island (PC) and Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (PS1) with Diddy Kong Racing not far behind, released November 24th. The PC version I played was released the following year.

Nostalgia

I barely even remember when I played Sonic R the first time. It certainly wasn’t on its original console. I was obsessed with Sonic, though. I don’t even remember where it came from but my youth was spent playing Sonic, Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 on the Genesis because damn did I love going fast and the color blue. I don’t have much memory of when I first played it though. I just borrowed a CD from a friend, and played it on our first computer, back in…shit, the early 2000’s?

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At least it came with MYST.

 

The first time I played it, I was so excited. Sonic! Racing! I could play it! Unlike Myst with its prerendered, 3d pictures, I could run around a bunch of colorful, detailed courses. After a few races, I spent a lot of time in time attack exploring the maps.There was Flicky Island, which I remember from the comics, a Casino Night Zone/City streets area, A robotic stronghold, ancient ruins and a shining gemstone track in space you unlocked by coming in first on the four other tracks. Five maps isn’t all that impressive, even for 1997. I was a bit disappointed then, but I loved Sonic and I would take what I could get, dammit.

 

Gameplay

Like most early sonic games, the control scheme was simple, just brought into 3d. the up arrow went forward, left and right turned, but back let you crouch and instead of jumping when you pressed the spacebar you’d charge up a spindash and speed ahead. Mercifully, the left and right arrow keys were bound to drift, and not turn, making cornering possible.Turning normally I found out, playing with a friend on the Gamecube’s Mega Collection, is bogus and awful.  I found drifting mapped to the shoulder buttons on the controler and smoked him every race. Even on the gamecube though, the movement felt floaty. turns, even when i was drifting were very wide and sapped your speed immensely. Collision with walls and other characters was fine, but you would bounce and ricochet off of other racers like they were balloons making the beginning of races very chaotic and left me in last until i caught up.

There were also weather controls where different weather caused different track conditions. Rain made tracks slick, snow froze water that you could then walk on. It was a thing. There was a pretty big cast list, each racer had an unlockable alternate if you collected the 5 coins hidden on a stage and beat them in a head to head race. If you collected all the emeralds hidden across the first four stages, you could even be Super Sonic! All the characters have their own traits too; Tails flies, Knuckles glides, Sonic is faster, Amy drives? (sure why not) and Robotnik has the Egg-1 which fires a missile. I guess there was also back-story somewhere, but no one told me about it and it’s not ever brought up in the game. Pick a map, race, I guess Robotnik is there. Ho-hum.

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Tails doll is a meme now, I presume everyone else faded into alcoholism.

 

The Salvage

You are wrong. I know what you’re going to say and you are wrong. The music is well produced and in ANY non-video game setting, a CD perhaps, it would have had its fans. I still listen to the credit music sometimes. Music aside…

 

The Scrap

It has not aged well. At all. The characters are low low polygon, with very minimal detail, the maps have even less polygons. The ruins, fortress and city stages are pretty graphically detailed, but every map but the last feels very short. Control issues are there, even on drifting, I found myself hitting walls on tight turns. Collecting emeralds and coins can be a nightmare. You had to get all 5 coins AND come in first to even have a chance of unlocking the new racer. The same goes for emeralds. Come in first, or get nothing. You can collect rings for a speed booster that for a price will accelerate you for a bit but it’s nearly useless. You’re better off using the rings to open up a ring gate that provides a better shortcut or opens up an emerald to collect on your next pass. Some gates are literally just a gate without anything else. It just sits to the side so you can open it later and have an emerald just out in the open. It’s weird and feels unfinished. There are a lot of characters, sure, but the unlockables are only better versions of their non-robot selves and Amy’s car is slow, sounds like someone giving you a constant raspberry and the boost you get in place of being able to jump didn’t last long enough to make her a viable racer in any circumstance (I still won with her). Speaking of slow, after you unlock Super Sonic, there’s no chance of you winning as anyone else. None of the maps are very well designed and the final map is just rainbow road. They didn’t even try to hide it. Is there more? Probably…

 

The Decision

I downloaded a .rar trying to get some nostalgia and it happened to have the entire soundtrack. If you want some 90’s R&B, find a download of that. I can’t get the .iso file to play so I’m gonna delete it.

 

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