Shin Force | Sega Saturn Review

Shin Force > Systems > Sega Saturn > Reviews N-Z

Shin Force ~ Saturn ~
Sonic R
Geoffrey Duke
Traveller's Tales
1x CD
Import / Domestic
1997 (Japan)
1997 (USA)
3rd person
3D Pad
Backup 6
     > Sonic R is the first Sonic game specifically programmed for the Saturn. As you may deduce from the name, it is a racing game. And similar to other 3D racing games, you race through locales via a third person perspective, but instead as a variety of Sonic-based characters. The innovative game was conceived by the legendary Sonic Team, responsible for creating the classic Nights, but coded by Traveller's Tales, a skilled British company. The game produces some of the best visuals ever to grace the Saturn. 

     > The typical Sonic gameplay survives Sonic's transition to 3D; the sheer speed prevalent in the older games is all too familiar. The game retains the distinctive art and colors of the Megadrive/Genesis Sonic games, easily serving as a reminder of its heritage. The first track, Resort Island seems like Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1, which is a testament to the blue hedgehog's humble roots. 

     > Five characters are initially available, including Sonic himself, and there are five hugely complex circuits to race around. Just like Nights, there's far more to the game than merely finishing each course in first place (though you might be tempted to rush towards the end like you would in the older games). Each beautifully detailed track offers multiple routes, adding an element of exploration and making the overall racing experience less linear. Some alternative routes require knowledge of the track layout, and some require skill. You can collect rings in order to access otherwise hidden shortcuts, power ups and chaos emeralds, while racing against four computer opponents who are all intent on winning.

     > If only Traveller's Tales' 3D engine had been used in more Saturn games; it uses every 3D trick in the book whilst maintaining a very fast frame rate. Transparencies (such as the trail of light left in a racer's wake after passing over a speed icon), reflective water effects, and dynamic light sourcing are but a few. Some of the shield power ups are transparent, too, but 2D. Sonic R runs at a fluid 30 frames per second, and thus keeps the exhilarating sensation of speed super-smooth. The scenery fades into view, seeming misty at first but becoming more solid the closer you get to it, as opposed to the ugly pop-up seen in other Saturn titles. Yet another awesome new effect present in Sonic R. The 3D environments are densely packed, rock solid, detailed and covered in very colorful, seamless textures. The well-animated character models are also, colorful, solid and sharp (especially Sonic's hair -- check it out). The level of detail is unprecedented for a Saturn title.

     > Believe it or not, but the hidden fifth race track, Radiant Emerald, is constructed out of transparent polygons!

     > The two player split screen mode retains the amazing levels of track side detail and special effects of the single player game with no slowdown whatsoever. The scenery mists into view slightly closer than its does normally, however, but all the stunning special effects remain intact.

     > The camera angle will sometimes veer too far to the left or right of the track when making sudden turns, breaking the illusion of solidity. I only noticed this on the first track, though.

     > The controls are sensitive and therefore difficult to get to grips with at first.

     > Each character has unique abilities that facilitate racing. For example, Knuckles can jump and glide, which is handy indeed for navigating around water, or finding certain shortcuts. Amy's car can float over water and speed along at an even faster rate of acceleration (but your choice of direction needs to be accurate because you have no control as soon as you hit that nitro button). Doctor Robotnik's hover vehicle can fire missiles at racers when enough coins have been collected. Sonic can double jump etc.

     > The game music is dance music supported by vocals. Remixed instrumental versions of the songs are available if the female vocals annoy you. The tunes are quite catchy if you like what I'd call something akin to pop music. Apparently, Yuji Naka personally requested the music renditions from Sega Europe's Richard Jacques. It's met some criticism, but what do you expect from an upbeat Sonic game?

     > Familiar Sonic sound effects make a welcome return, such as jumps and rings chiming. All are crisp and clear.

     > Apart from the obligatory Grand Prix mode, there's the standard Time Attack mode where you can race against your previous best times in the form of a ghost. The tag mode is quite interesting too: you must catch up with other racers, make contact with them, become them and then repeat the process all the way to the end. It's trickier than it sounds, as the other racers are elusive. Five courses may seem like too few, so a reverse mode was added. This basically allows players to race through each course in the opposite direction. It really does inject longevity into the game. 

     > The power ups include blue shields that allow you to travel over water, to gold shields that draw rings to you like a magnet. The classic speed power up seen in the old Sonic games is present too, doubling your current speed rate. To say the power ups are helpful is an understatement.

     > Once you've collected all five golden coins hidden throughout a track and managed to finish in a reasonable position (third or above), you get the opportunity to race one of the four hidden characters. Beat them, and they'll be available on the character selection screen. All are recognizable Sonic characters, such as Metal Sonic from Sonic CD. Seven Chaos Emeralds are also hidden in the first four tracks. When you find one while racing, you must finish in first place to keep it. A much sterner challenge than just finding them. Collecting all will make Super Sonic, first seen in Sonic 2, a playable character. He's extremely fast, but of course difficult to handle.

     > There are locked doors that require a prerequisite amount of rings to open up (20 or 50), making the accumulation of rings a priority. Passing over speed icons will zoom you along a path uncontrollably, and lasting according to however many rings you have (the rainbow-colored transparent trail left behind you as you move is beautiful).

     > The two player mode is great. Not only can two players race one another, but a quest mode has been added whereby both players must collect five balloons before racing to the finish line.

Bottom Line
     > Simply put, Sonic R is one of the most visually impressive Saturn titles to date. Not to mention that it's an enjoyable racing game in its own right.
Overall: 9.3 | Graphics: 9.6 | Control: 9.3 | Sound: 8.8 | Fun: 9.5
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

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