"Sonic Ought to Call a Mechanic"
My first thought upon starting up the 3DS version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was something like, "Couldn't they afford to 3D-ify the opening movie?" Feeling, though, that a mere technicality like that was hardly indicative of the overall experience I was preparing myself for, I let it go and went on my merry way with the game.
Oh, but what a fitting foreshadowing that seemingly innocent technical technicality turned out to be.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed for 3DS is pretty much identical in the way its plays to its big brothers on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. This means you race as classic SEGA characters, ranging from Sonic the Hedgehog to Golden Axe's Gilius, through a number of tracks in vehicles that can transform into boats and planes. This also means, as previous reviews will show, that the gameplay experience as a whole is pretty solid, with a fun cast, strong and accessible controls, and a good selection of modes (even if the track list was a tad small in my personal opinion).
However, something happened in transitioning all that to Nintendo's portable. Whether Sumo Digital was more lax in its work on this version or just didn't give it as much funding or time (though the three months between the port's launch and console versions' should have been time enough), the fact remains that Transformed is a bit of a technical mess on the 3DS. Issues abound here. The most immediately noticeable of these is the game's frame rate, which is surprisingly weak. The game's visuals, though they never slow down to a rage-inducing crawl, they are never smooth and perform like something from a decade ago, even after being scaled down for the 3DS.
While the gameplay is otherwise pretty strong and entertaining, there are moments when the port of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed for 3DS comes and trips things up. As I played, I came across multiple instances where a transformation gate (through which vehicles change into their different forms) would make me veer off to the side without warning as I passed through, leaving me to smack into a wall and slow me down. These moments of unexpected deviation weren't limited to transformation gates, no sir. There were times during the boat segments where my ride's direction would actually flip upon landing after a jump, stopping me dead in my tracks. Whether that's an intentional part of the game is impossible to tell.
Also of note is the fact that the game, at one point, actually crashed on me, like a jalopy without a steering wheel. Never before had a 3DS game sent me back to the home menu without warning before. Luckily, it occurred while I was simply menu-hopping, though I cannot say for sure that the game couldn't crash in the middle of a race. The mere thought of that… Oooh, how unsettling.
Problematic as the technical issues in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed are, they are not the only aspect in which the 3DS port misses the bar. Another is that some elements from the console version are missing here. While all of the characters and tracks made it to the portable side, the game lacks some of the event types from the console version's "World Tour" mode (the Career Mode equivalent), limiting the events to time-attacks, solo speed challenges, 1-on-1 races, and select variations of the standard race. Additionally, I happened to notice that the game's final track happened to lack the plane segment that is present on the consoles. Considering the 3DS version is labeled as a "Bonus Edition," it's especially ironic.
Despite these issues that I've spent this review writing about, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is still a solid game on the 3DS. To reiterate what I said above, the gameplay is strong, and the controls are excellent and accessible for gamers of all skill levels. But thanks to the frequent technical shortcomings and unfortunate content omissions, it fails to be the definitive iteration of SEGA and Sumo's kart racer, or the definitive 3DS kart racer. If 3DS kart racing kicks are what you're looking for, stick with Mario Kart 7.
GameDynamo's Score for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (3DS)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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