With the recent Steam sales and the even recently-er addition of Steam Cards, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed Rising Revengeance Return Revisited Die Harder has received much more well-earned attention. Many have said that it’s the PC version of Mario Kart that everyone has been looking for. But they’re wrong. Racing Transformed is far, far better than Mario Kart. Why? Give me a change to get out of the opening few sentences and I’ll tell you.
The items don’t break everything
Mario Kart is well known for its iconic items. Bananas, mushrooms and, of course, the Blue Shell have been staples in the series since its beginning, albeit with a few changes here and there. However, the biggest complaint with items in Mario Kart is that they can completely remove the racing aspect of the game. If you fall too far behind, you suddenly start to get more items which allow you to speed up, ruin the lives of those in the pole positions, and even jump the queue straight back into the race. If you’re out in the lead, the most you can hope for are some items to hold behind you to help maintain your lead. It’s not uncommon to see people purposefully lose the lead just to get better items to ruin the day of other people.
Sega All-Stars takes a different approach: the items are there as added flavour to the race rather than its main focal point. First off, there’s no Blue Shell equivalent in this game. The closest thing to the Blue Shell is the Swarm, a number of giant wasps that sit in the path of whoever’s in first place. if you fire it forward. It materialises behind you if you fire it backwards. Should you hit one of the wasps, you get slowed down significantly and your speed stays lowered for a time. Should you fire a weapon at the wasps or skillfully dodge around them, you’re home free. I’m not saying it’s easy to always evade the swarm but it’s a damn sight easier than waiting for it to get right on top of you, praying the planets are aligned properly and then desperately trying to boost away from it.
The other major improvement is you don’t get weapons circling around your vehicle as a defensive measure. Instead, all weapons can be dodged with skillful driving and an item unique to All-Stars: The Glove. The Glove is a baseball mitt that negates damage from any source once. If that happened to be an item fired by another player, you can steal it and use it yourself. Things stop being fire-and-forget as you run the very real risk that the rocket you fired at someone will get blown back in your prematurely giggling face.
Transform and Roll Out
The main mechanic of All-Stars is the vehicle transformations. After all, it’s in the god damn title of the game. On most of the tracks, there are a number of giant blue rings, and moving through them will switch your vehicle to one of three forms: Car, Boat and Plane. Cars are run-of-the-mill Mario Kart-y vehicles, Boats feel a bit slower and tend to handle like shit, and Planes are fast with high maneuverability. Doing a stunt when moving through one of these rings earns you a small Transform Boost (unless you’re transforming into a plane because that would just be silly). Due to how each different form behaves, a decent amount of consideration has to be given to the path you choose to take.
You could transform into a boat and take the slightly shorter route but it’s super twisty and windy, so it could be better for you to stay as a car. Staying with four wheels on the ground gives you access to more boost pads, but there are items that could be useful up in the air. There’s so much variety to be had in terms of routes to take and how you’ve modified your vehicle. When selecting your character it feels so much more rewarding to you steal first place by taking a decent route. In Mario Kart you have to memorise where every little shortcut is, and then remember to have at least one mushroom on you at all times.
The game modes in All-Stars are pretty standard; Grand Prix, Multiplayer, Time Trials, Custom Game and World Tour. Wait, World Tour? Holy shit it’s a challenge mode! Yes! Finally! There is a god!
The most you get in terms of challenge in Mario Kart is a Time Trial set by a member of Nintendo staff. In those, you essentially end up copying their vehicle and following their ghost around hoping that you boost in the same places slightly better than they did. All of it just so you can earn a little gold star next to the track name. Not so in All-Stars!
All-Stars has a number of challenge maps ranging from boost challenges (15 seconds to get through checkpoints, the timer stops for a few seconds every time you boost) to chasing down and destroying a future-tech tank. For each challenge you complete, you earn a number of stars based on the difficulty you chose. What do you get with stars? More challenges, harder challenges, higher difficulties for the rest of the game, new vehicle modifications and new characters! Not only that but each challenge helps you to perfect different techniques in the game. Drift Challenges show you where the best places to drift in a course are to earn boosts; Boost Races shows you how to get around a course quickly if you keep on missing the item pick-ups; Tank Destruction teaches you how to avoid/destroy enemy weapons whilst still being a force to be reckoned with. Best part, all of them are fun and challenging!
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. “Bin, why are you saying the All-Stars achievements make it better than Mario Kart? Achievements are so invasive nowadays and you don’t even have to actually earn them. At least Mario Kart doesn’t waste our time on them”. Remember that time you played on Rainbow Road on Mario Kart 64 years ago and you found that jumping off the bridge at a certain point allowed you to skip most of the track, kick ass, and win the race? Pretty awesome, right? Remember how you weren’t able to recreate it on purpose and no one really believed you? That sucked hardcore. Wouldn’t it be nice if the game kept track of something like that being able to dodge a Blue Shell at the last minute? It’s be even more awesome if there was a way to show it off to other people, right? If only there was some game out there – oh wait, that game is All-Stars.
Each achievement is tied to a sticker, and you can attach up to three stickers to your license so other people in multiplayer can see. Even if you don’t play that much multiplayer, you still have bona fide actual proof that you did something awesome and/or crazy and/or stupid and no one can doubt you. Not only that, if it was especially awesome and people ask you about it, you get to tell them the story of how you did it. All the while, you’ll be playing it off all cool like you didn’t even mean to do it. It’s exactly what every gamer wants.
If you like racing games, try All-Stars. If you like Mario Kart, stop wasting time and just buy Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed. You’ll enjoy it, thank me for it and make me marvel at all your stickers. It also has the oldschool ‘SEEEEGAAAAAAA’ start-up which means it wins at everything forever.