Sonic Rivals 2 Impressions
Sunday, 9th December 2007, 5:12pm (UTC), 1 Comment
Unfortunately I have nothing new for you to see, still. However, there's only a week to go until my Christmas break, and I hope I can manage to at least put together the guide for Mystic Cave Zone, and perhaps start Oil Ocean too. Because I have such little time for this place, and that's not too likely to change in the long term, I have been considering whether it's worth just finishing off the essential Megadrive games, and then maybe handing over control of the site to another dedicated Sonic fan, or group, who would be willing to write further guides to the other games. It's not something I'm interested in arranging at the moment, but if your hedgehog-like spiky ear has just pricked up at the thought of spending many hard hours over indepth writing and eye-frazzling screenshot taking and map making, all for the sake of the clarity and quality that these games, and us fans, deserve, do feel free to register your interest by leaving a comment. It'll be helpful to know if there are people out there willing to continue with this resource, if I am unable to. But nothing is definite yet.

So, played Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games yet? I must admit, I've let this one slip by, despite how well it seems to be doing, which in itself is despite the fact that it hasn't been advertised nearly as well as it should have been. Admittedly I've seen its TV ad more often than I have the other Sonic games of recent years, but this is a very casual-gamer title, and as such, needs the absolute shit advertised out of it, like Mario Galaxy seems to be getting. Sega's budget doesn't seem to be able to stretch that far with advertsing for anything, and that always annoys me. Still, it does go to show how popular Sonic still is if he can regularly get into the charts with minimal TV advertising. Or it goes to show that TV advertising isn't that successful at shifting games. But it probably is. I probably won't pick up the game until it goes down in price, personally. I'm most interested in platformers that are single player focused, and Mario and Sonic is primarily a multiplayer spin-off that doesn't seem like it'll capture my interest for long. It does seem a more comprehensive experience to Wii Sports though.

I did however pick up Sonic Rivals 2 on Friday, and I think it's rather good. Its predecessor was a nice little, small-scale adventure, and this is still quite small-scale in the grand scheme of things, but with additional characters, more original and interesting levels, a slightly more complex story, and 6 different, arena-enclosed battle modes in addition to the level racing, it all adds up to a richer experience. Like with the Sonic Rush series, and unlike the Sonic Advance series, the basic mechanics of things like character control and the pace of the levels has remained mostly unchanged, so as was the case with Rush Adventure, it's very similar to its predecessor, but better.

So what's changed? Well, it's all about the levels with me, and we've got six more to add to our list here. They range from done-a-bit-but-not-to-death levels like Blue Coast, Sunset Forest, Mystic Haunt and Chaotic Inferno (clear throwbacks to the likes of Ocean and Water Palaces, Sunset Hill, Hang and Cryptic Castles and Crisis City), done-to-death-but-not-quite-like-this levels (Neon Palace, the thankfully alive and well bouncy Casino stage, inspired by BINGO Highway but looking even more colourful and even rather graphically impressive), and of course, the one that got me very excited, the completely brand new, fully wild west style Frontier Canyon Zone. 16 and a half years, over 200 different levels across the whole series, but there are still surprsingly obvious environments that we haven't properly covered before. These are a much more original bunch than the generally more obvious and less inspired choices made by SR1, and though the graphics are still quite polygonal, there seems to be a bit more decorative stuff in the levels, so it's not such a big deal.

The emphasis on racing and conflict between the two rivals continues to set limits to the level design, so the multiple routes are still numerous, but very close to each other and brief, and the pace means that there isn't much opportunity for objects and traps that stop you for a bit to make you use your brain. But in addition to the many common objects, there are also a fair few interesting level-specific ones to take advantage of too, and Mystic Haunt is particular good at that, with its picture-matching levers, portals and even a terrific nod to the dark-dwelling ghosts in Sandopolis Zone (with light switches and everything). Neon Palace of course contains the usual flippers and stuff too, and even an enemy that strongly resembles Crawl, from Casino Night. There's rolling around inside barrels in Blue Coast, and mine trolleys in Frontier canyon that require you to pump them by madly tapping away. It all adds up to a rich and varied experience, which is what a good set of levels needs to have.

Each stage contains three acts and a boss, but only the first and third acts are actual levels. Act 2 always takes place in an enclosed arena where the two characters have a battle, which usually consists of a three-round knockout, but sometimes extends into one of the other 5 battle modes such as a ring collecting challenge. The missions in the levels sometimes vary too, where you have no rival but are racing against the clock, or attempting to collect 100 rings. In story, the eight characters are paired up into four alliances. It would have been logical to only have one story per pair, alternating between the two partners, but instead, each individual character has a story, yet you still play as your partner during each third act anyway, with any given character always rivaling another particular character at each level. It means twice as much to unlock, sure, but seems a bit pointless to me, especially when every character controls exactly the same except for their own special move. These special moves, by the way, are now fuelled by ring power, and a full meter allows you to perform it by pressing square, but alot of them are nothing to shout home about. So expect little more than basic Sonic controls here once again, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Bosses are more challenging this time around, but also quite original and fun, and your rivals seem a bit smarter as to how to go about beating them. The game always remains a challenge and you'll find yourself losing quite alot, but the acts are usually less than 2 minutes long, and breeze along fairly simply, so to me at least, it never really felt like a pain having to try again. The point, afterall, is not getting to the end but getting there first. My biggest gripe with the first game was the highly uninspiring and bland music that robbed the levels of that real icing on the cake, which Sonic games generally seem to be so consistently able to provide. Thankfully, things have improved a bit this time around. Granted, we're not talking one of the all time best soundtracks here, but things are no longer just "meh", they're "good". Blue Coast Act 1 borrows the game's opening theme, which is an upbeat lyrical rock tune by the fella that gave us Escape from the City and Theme of Team Sonic. Not to everyone's tastes I'm sure, but it's far more appropriate and energising than anything in SR1, and Act 2's lyric-less variation is a bit of an instant semi-hit for me. The rest often feature bits of that bland rock style from before, but some actual melodies and appropriate styles make up for that. The only exception is Sunset Forest, Act 3 especially, which is a disturbingly inappropriate, factory style piece of dullness that puts you off the level a bit.

So all in all it's a neat little adventure with alot of variety, but still remaining quite comfortably where a Sonic platformer should. Ultimately I prefer the traditional obstacle-based challenge of other Sonic games than this racing-based one, and I suspect others do too, because it allows the level and object design a bit more freedom. Still, despite preferences, I've never been one to say "Sonic should always do this stuff and only this stuff, and everything else is worthless", and I always welcome different ways of doing things now and then. Sonic Rivals 2 is better than its predecessor in just about every way, and should be a fairly good one to come back to once in a while.
Comments   1 Comment has been posted.
#1. Comment posted by TheGuyWithTheGames on Saturday, 2nd July 2011, 1:52am
Rivals 2 is a good game although i like the first one more
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