Sonic R

Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Platform: Sega Saturn
Also on: PC, Gamecube, PS2
Release Date: Nov 1997

*Before reading any further, check out the incredibly aggressive Japanese advertisement for Sonic R. Gotta love those Japanese!*

Well, this is pleasantly retro eh? It may come as a shock to some, but Sonic didn’t actually have that many racing titles back in the 90s. It’s pretty strange that a character whose principal selling point is speed didn’t really cash in on this sooner. There were one or two titles called the Sonic Drift series, although these had Sonic and his friends in cars rather than on foot, and they felt only vaguely associated with the character.

The Set-Up:
Sonic R is as simplistic a game as they come. There is literally no story line, it’s just a racing game with a bunch of familiar looking mascots. Oh dear, I hear you say. I know. At least other crappy racing games made an attempt at a story, to show they were serious. But oh no, not here…

Frankly, this is one of the most shameless attempts to sell a franchise you will ever see. And this is something Sega is known for, especially when dealing with their speedy blue mascot. But often they are forgivable acts, because we all remember those good old days when playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive, killing robots to free the animals that were trapped within (and never questioning how the hell that kind of technology worked).

Let’s get one thing out in the open, Sonic R sells itself entirely on the fact that it has Sonic the Hedgehog. Take that away, and this game wouldn’t even be remembered for the pile of smelly vomit that it is. When you look at some Sonic games that are released nowadays and think “This is the lowest point for Sega”, be thankful you never suffered the slap in the crotch that is this game.

There are a grand total of 5 tracks, one of them being unlockable. When you consider the fact that Super Mario Kart, a game on a previous generation console, had twenty tracks, you can’t help but feel pretty ripped off. And the tracks are lacking considerably in originality!

Example: one track is a city based course, while another is an industrial based course….how different could they possibly be, really?! In order to ‘make up’ for this, the game implements different weather conditions randomly on each track. Again, this hardly makes any difference at all, the only major change being that the water freezes when it’s snowing. Innovation, thy name is not Sega.

So what else is wrong with this game? Well, there’s the characters. You start with only four, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy. If you clear the game, the can unlock Robotnik. If you collect five special ‘Sonic coins’ hidden on each track, you can challenge and unlock 4 more bonus characters. And if you can collect all 7 chaos emeralds, you unlock a Super secret bonus character (three guesses who that might be).

Now this probably all sounds fine, and in theory it is. Respectable amount of characters there for an older generation game. My problem is thus: Characters are either A) painfully useless or B) identical. Characters like Amy or Robotnik SUCK! Why is Amy in a car?! She’s got legs hasn’t she?! And how is a car, or hoverthing (whatever it is Robotnik flies in) slower than everybody that’s just jogging away? Even Sonic, who zooms about at high-speed most of the time, is barely trotting along, like a pig in runners. Regardless of how old the game is, I feel that in more capable hands, the developers could have found some creative way to fool the player into thinking they’re going faster than they actually are.

The other problem I mentioned is that characters are identical to previous ones, and this is true. The four characters you can unlock are either robot or doll versions of your original players. Robot Sonic, Robot Knuckles, Robot Robotnik and Doll Tails. Worth unlocking? Well, let’s put it this way: It’s like being mugged and then paying to have some similar looking muggers to do the same thing, only while reminding you what a terrible game Sonic R is!

Oh and another thing? What the hell with the music?! It sounds like Disney being tortured by my local DJ! Every single course has its own variation on some of the most odious music ever conceived. Don’t believe me? Here, have a listen to the first track. You tell me if you don’t want to go out and kick a kitten after listening to this.

When it comes to the actual gameplay, I admit, it is semi-playable, but only just. Annoyingly, there is no reverse button, and it takes forever to turn a character around on the spot. The only real challenge the main game offers is in finding the Sonic coins and coming in the top three. But if you have the patience to, you know, look for them, it shouldn’t take long.

There’s also time trial mode and this has standard enough games in it. As well as the standard time trial, there is also Balloon mode (grab balloons) and Tag mode. I have to admit, Tag mode is a fun concept, and it’s a shame it isn’t seen in other games. Essentially, the tracks are treated like giant playgrounds, with characters going in all directions to try and avoid you. If the AI wasn’t so bloody thick (they basically either go forwards or backwards), it’d be an excellent addition. It’s a shame there isn’t a multiplayer mode.

Because when you get right down to it, multiplayer is one of only two minor saving graces that Sonic R has (and that is a term I use exceptionally loosely). It isn’t so good that you’ll keep coming back again and again to it, but multiplayer is far far FAR superior to single player mode. You have a race and a balloon mode and, provided you and you friends are competitive enough, this can keep you entertained for up to twenty minutes.

The only other saving grace is the last secret character that can be unlocked. Once all chaos emeralds have been collected, you gain access to, of course, Super Sonic. The only reason this is a good thing is because he is the fastest character in the game and reflects what Sonic R might have been. While playing as him means that there is absolutely no challenge whatsoever, there is a strange sense of satisfaction (NOT EXHILARATION!!) to be had hovering at top speed over water and through streets. If other characters could attain this kind of speed, Sonic R may have been a semi enjoyable title.

It’s a shame when a much-loved franchise begins to churn out spin-offs that bear similarities in name only rather than quality. Major Sonic fans will probably try to convince themselves, and others, that this game is passable. But tear away the blue hedgehog-y disguise and you will see the festering corpse beneath. It is a shallow and pointless game, made only barely playable when in multiplayer mode. Fans may give it a passing glance, simply to see how far the series has sunk, but everyone else should steer well clear.

Rating: 3/10

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • As a young lad, I was once quite ill. My parents eschewed modern medicine and instead opted for a tried and tested method to restore me to health. They said I could buy two pc games. I bought this and another woefully awful game, Sonic 3D. Local doctors were rushed to my aid immediately as my health rapidly deteriorated.
  • Sonic R was more or less the flagship for the Sega Saturn and probably a major contributing factor to why it failed so very badly.
  • Most Sonic the Hedgehog racing games tend to suck. But if you’re desperate to play a half decent one, Sonic and Sega All Star Racing for PS3, Xbox and Wii has received generally positive reviews, even if it is even more of a shameless cash-in. For the best Sonic racing experience however, players would be advised to play the two player mode in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.


This game is kind of like:

  • Milk that has gone 3 months past it’s sell-by date


  • Vomiting underwater
Published in: on April 27, 2012 at 11:06 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hello! I realize this is sort of off-topic but I needed to ask.
    Does building a well-established website like yours require
    a lot of work? I am completely new to operating a blog but I
    do write in my diary every day. I’d like to start a blog so
    I can share my personal experience and thoughts online.
    Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for brand
    new aspiring blog owners. Appreciate it!

  2. I played the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog and, while not great, I didn’t think it was as bad as people say. I think the big problem people have with it are, apparently, it’s full of glitches. I was lucky enough to avoid them.

    The only game worse than this so far has been Sonic the Fighters. There was another one that I played briefly where Sonic and Tails are stuck together by some chain ring, and that was also pretty bad, but I can’t remember its name.

  3. Is this game even worse than the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog? I’ve never played either one, but that one’s actually considered the worst.

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