Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed is released today, and SPOnG will be giving you the lowdown on the entire game when our in-depth review hits next week. But, this release is a rather significant one for both SEGA, Sumo Digital and fans of the company alike.
For this isn?t just the House of Sonic?s big play for the family Christmas stocking, and neither is it just a Mario Kart
clone with a blue hedgehog on the cover. Transformed represents a love letter coveting SEGA?s illustrious history, from its heady arcade days to the fall of the Dreamcast.
As such, there are many nods and winks to many franchises and game series. We wouldn?t dare be so callous as to spoil all the surprises that await you in this cartoon racer - but for anyone on the fence, consider this an introduction to the characters and levels that await you when you boot up the game, and just why they are so important.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991):
This blue bugger really needs no introduction, does he? Usurping former SEGA mascot Alex Kidd following his official debut in 1991, Sonic has been the platforming face of the arcade company for more than 21 years. Just like most people of this age, he?s had a few ups and downs, including some turbulent teenage years.
Other characters from this franchise include: Tails, Sonic?s sidekick who has been following the blue git about since 1992, (Sonic the Hedgehog 2
on SEGA Mega Drive and Game Gear); Knuckles, who started life as Sonic?s rival in Sonic the Hedgehog 3
but then became best buddies following the events of 1994 follow-up Sonic & Knuckles
; and Amy, who?s Sonic?s self-professed girlfriend and is generally a bit useless (first appearance: Sonic CD
Super Monkey Ball (2001):
Originally released on the arcade before seeing a port on the Nintendo Gamecube, Super Monkey Ball
was a tilt-and-tumble puzzler that saw monkeys in balls being hurtled towards checkpoints.
AiAi and MeeMee, two of the game?s protagonists who feature in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
, scrambled for bananas on their way to the goal in each stage. In the only sequel really worth talking about (Super Monkey Ball 2
), SEGA threw in switches and other challenging gimmicks to make your tilting life a living hell.
Jet Set Radio (2000):
Graffiti skater Beat hails from a true Dreamcast classic, recently re-released on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. In Jet Set Radio
, originally released in 2000, you played as a gang of young upstarts called the GGs. The city of Tokyo-to is in a state of cultural turmoil, with multiple street punks trying to claim blocks as their own. Using the power of skating (and tagging), you had to escape police and graffiti your art as a statement of intent. The game was notable for its pioneering cel-shading graphical style.
Crazy Taxi (1999):
Another arcade game that saw a home console release with the launch of the Dreamcast, Crazy Taxi
was batshit insane in its premise. In an open-world San Francisco, you assumed the role of a mental cabbie and drove passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible.
Points were racked up for dangerous driving and stunts, but you lost time and money if you crashed or screwed up on your route. BD Joe, one of four back-chatting drivers in the game, is in Transformed
with (naturally) maximum top speed.
Space Channel 5 (2000):
Tetsuya Mizuguchi now works as a teacher at Keio University, but before he did that he made Child of Eden
. Before he did THAT, he worked at SEGA, crafting sublime music experiences in Rez
and Space Channel 5
Space Channel 5
was a game that took the essence of pop and shot it into the galaxy. Top space reporter Ulala had to QTE her way to the rhythm of the game?s music as she thwarted an alien invasion. In Transformed
, she?s not got a lot of top speed but her acceleration and handling more than makes up for that.
Panzer Dragoon (1995):
One of SEGA?s truly rare, long-lost game franchises. Panzer Dragoon
was an on-rails shooter released for the Saturn in 1995, and stood out from the crowd with its interesting story and engaging gameplay mechanics. Plus, it had you as a nomadic child riding a dragon, and that?s just freaking cool.
As the Saturn console flopped, so too did many of SEGA?s IPs from this generation - but some sequels were made regardless, the most coveted release being Panzer Dragoon Saga
. In Transformed
, the classic game is remade as a morphing track that takes you through land, sea and air.
After Burner (1987):
Everyone forgets about After Burner
! And yet it?s so good. Just one of SEGA-AM2?s legendary games, this was an on-rails shooter that took place in the skies. You controlled a fighter jet, and had to survive waves of oncoming enemy planes as they tried to stop you in your tracks.
As the game series evolved, you could perform barrel rolls, launch rockets as well as machine gun fire, and perform tricks to raise rankings. After Burner Climax
was the most recent game in the series, released to arcades in 2006, and forms a heavy influence in track design for Transformed
Samba de Amigo (1999):
A game like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
is a bit of a SEGA party as it is, but Samba de Amigo
predates that by some 13 years. An arcade release, before landing on the Dreamcast (and enjoying a sequel on Wii in 2008 courtesy of Gearbox), players controlled a rhythmic monkey called Amigo and had to shake maracas in time to an assorted mix of latin themes and pop songs.
Perhaps Sonic Team?s biggest accomplishment/crime was the inclusion of a cover of Ricky Martin?s Livin La Vida Loca
. Upon startup, Transformed
honours Samba de Amigo
in the form of a race course.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed is available now. SPOnG's review will go live next week.