|Sonic R : Sega Saturn & PC : Sonic Team / Travellers Tales 1998|
In 1997 the Sega Saturn which had made little impact in Europe was about to enter its final phase in retail. Sonic was to make another appearance on the short lived console but this was still not the traditional style 2D platformer that people dreamed would grace their Saturn.
This time round, Sonic Team would have only an involvement in the creation of the game and not see the whole process through themselves. Instead, Travelers Tales, a programming team based here in England would get the honor again of creating a Sonic game for Sega. Travelers Tales had previouly assisted with Sonic 3D. Sonic Team themselves at the time were busy on other projects.
The idea of Sonic appearing in a racing game had been explored already with Sonic Drift and Sonic Drift 2. These were on the Game Gear and released on in Japan. The games were basically Sonic characters pasted into a track racer. The usual Sonic content that usually makes a Sonic game was not existant.
Sonic R is a full 3D polygon racer with Sonic and related characters in a game with plenty of game elements that make up a Sonic game.
Sonic R scored only minor success due to the lack of Saturn's popularity, but it did show the machine, again, had enough power to create good games given the chance dispelling some of the anti-Saturn propaganda. Travellers Tales, in an interview with Official Sega Saturn Magazine described how a game such as Sonic R would be near-impossible to reproduce on the PlayStation with a decent enough frame rate to make it playable.
Sonic R was laster relased for the PC boasting a few improvements over the Saturn
Sonic and Tails are out wandering. Tails spots a sign for a Grand Prix and suggests to Sonic it would be a good idea to enter. Sonic not being particularly bothered about proving how fast he is does not really show any interest until he spots that Dr Robotnik has already entered. Sonic with the intention of trashing Eggman enters into the race.
Miles above the sign Dr Robotnik is watching with a spy satellite. Robotnik has learned the location of the Chaos Emeralds and now he will have them as well as beat Sonic. Knuckles, Sonics long time rival, learning that Sonic has entered the race, also enters not wanting Sonic to reap all the glory. Amy enters after discovering Robotniks plan to collect the Chaos Emeralds.
The basic goal to Sonic R is the same as any other racer. Be the first to complete a set number of laps around a course. For Sonic R you have to imagine the characters as cars rather than figures leaping from platform to platform.
Sonic R can be played with the standard Saturn controller or the NiGHTS analogue pad. Characters accelerate by pressing Up on the D-pad or holding down the B button which is easiest. The D-pad is also used for steering left and right. Pressing A, C or Y will make your character perform their skill move. The L and R triggers make your character drift in that direction while pressing both simultaneously puts of the brakes.
You can have a choice of two camera angles in the Saturn version; Up close (pressing X on control pad) puts you just behind your character similar to a third person view and overhead (pressing Z on control pad).
The main mode of play is the Grand Prix mode. The object is to be the first person to make 3 laps of the track. You have four opponents and coming in 1st, 2nd or 3rd results in a win. To begin unlocking the prizes hidden throughout the courses and indeed the game you have to come in first place.
Each track has a route to follow but you are free to deviate although you will be gently hinted if yu go backwards. By exploring you will find that each level has a variety of shortcuts.
Scattered around each of the courses are a collection of goodies to aid you in your race.
From the start you have 4 characters to choose from, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy. There are a total of 10 playable characters. The other 6 are unlocked after completing the courses with the criteria mentioned above. See the information below about each of the characters.
Tracks - Click on image for more info
Other modes of play available are Time Attack and the 2 player split screen mode. Time
Attack itself has 4 modes of play ; Normal where you race 3 laps against the clock,
Reverse making 3 backwards laps against the clock, Balloon where 5 balloons have to be
found as fast as possible and Tag Battle with four opponents racing around the course
avoiding you. All of these modes are available in the 2 player split screen also.
Sonic R is one of those inevitable Sonic titles - Sonic and characters in a racing game. This usually is just that but typical Sonic Team though improved upon this formula. Sonic R is almost as much as an adventure game as a racing game. Winning each race in first place is just part of the game. Finding the secret characters and collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds brings an extra element to the game. At first play its a racing game but collecting the aforementioned items is where most of the replay value is.
The 2 player split screen is a much welcome feature adding some more longevity to the title.
The graphics are top-notch for the Saturn. The frame rate is very good and there is no slowdown. The Radiant Emerald track is a brilliant achievement as it was assumed that the Saturn was unable to do transparent polygons.
The music is a colection of pop-dancey tunes which are ok, however, you must turn off the vocals because they are enough to make you never play the game again.
The loading times for each track are a tad longer than liked but all other sections load quickly.
In summary Travelers Tales did an excellent job programming for the Saturn. It is a relief that Sonic Team did have an involvement and this shows. It is unfortunate that this title did not come much earlier in the Saturns life. A follow up Dreamcast version with more levels and online gameplay would have been ace.
I would reccomend Sonic R if you like a blast at a racing game rather than being serious about them because tere is more to Sonic R than racing. I you want a copy then CEX is the place to go for a PAL version. The game is slightly more scare than the other Sonic titles on the Saturn as it came late in the machines life and therefore not as many copes were sold.
|Cheats and Stuff|
Play as same character in 2 Player mode
In versus mode on the player select screen highlight the same character on both controllers and hold down X. With X still held down select that character with both controllers. Player 2 will have the same character only in a slightly darker shade.
Play with the Title Screen
At the title screen the moving R can be changed in side with the D Pad and the colours with buttons A, B, X and Y.
On any of the selection screens the L and R flippers on the pad can be used to zoom the polygon model in and out.
Europe: Nov 97
Later Sega released an update for the game that allows network play. Simply place it in the installation/program folder and run it.
This is a picutre of TJ Davis, the voice behind Sonic R's lyrics. And yes the offender in question is still at large!
Sonic R has recently been released on the Sonic Gems compilation for Nintendo GameCube and Playstation 2. You can get all the details from the Sonic Gems Collection page.