Alright, if you’ve ever heard of Sonic R, you’re no doubt looking at my rating of 80% and thinking I’m out of my freaking mind. When I received it, people smiled and laughed, and told me that it was the worst game ever made.
Unfettered, I carried on, learning the game’s abstract and touchy controls, putting up with the crappy background music ("when you’re super sonic racing, there’s no time to look around" ... what the hell is that?), and that should really have been my first clue.
The fact that I would spend time trying to get to know the game, and putting up with what so many others refused to, should have let me know that its actually an enjoyable game.
Many people feel burned or scorned by their experience playing on the Saturn, and it’s likely I would too, had I purchased one at launch. But since I only acquired after it became a defunct console, I was under no pressure to make my console perform, or justify spending loads on money on it.
Maybe it was the fact that when I got the Saturn from a pawnshop, it was nothing more than the console. No controllers, no power cables, no nothing. And Sonic R was one of the very first games I got as well. So in some ways Sonic R was my prize for reassembling a Sega Saturn. But if it were such a terrible game, I would be more inclined to loathe my system, and that all my hard work at repairing it had been for naught.
But I didn’t feel that way; Sonic R reminded me a lot of playing Sonic Adventure 2 on my Dreamcast - a game I highly enjoy. Except now you don’t have to do those boring treasure-hunting levels with Knucles/Rogue, or stomp around in a robot. However, there’s only 5 stages to race around on in Sonic R, so although you JUST run like sonic does in SA2, its not like you get to do it more often than you did in SA2. One thing I do feel that I like about Sonic R over SA2 is the character designs. When the first Sonic Adventure came out Sega had kind of subtly changed Sonic and made him a bit more "cool" looking. Longer legs, a more stretched out body, etc. Now, I don’t mind the new version of Sonic, but I really love seeing his old design running around in 3D.
And yes, I said 5 stages, one of which you have to unlock. There’s a number of characters to choose from as well, each with their own unique advantages. Sonic can double jump, Tails can fly, knuckles can glide, etc. There’s also a bunch of characters to unlock, and doing so is nigh impossible. But for the greater part, you needn’t bother unlocking them, since all you get is really a mecha versions of all the existing characters, save Amy and her crappy suck-mobile. Dr. Robotnik is also an unlockable, which I kind of have mixed feelings over, since he’s one of the characters whom you race against.
As usual, you can collect rings, and power-ups, and find the hidden chaos emerald, and even unlock that wacky golden Sonic.
Multiplayer is fun, but good luck finding someone else who is willing to play it.
There are also time trials, where I learned all my skills to actually be able to play the game, and there’s a mode when you run around the track alone trying to find 5 hidden balloons, that can be fun. Also, if the terrible background music bothers you, and it probably will -but I have to hand it to Sega for actually going so far as to put in music with lyrics - you can turn off the vocals in the options menu. Me? I keep'em on, gives me something to laugh about while I run the course.
So there you have it. Sonic R is secretly a good game, but if you bother to pick it up, be warned. You’ll have to dedicate some time to it, and maybe even get laughed at by your friends, but in the end, you’ll have the last laugh, so long as you can trick them into picking up the second controller.