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February 20, 2007
Sonic Rivals - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
6/12/2006THQSegaBackbone Ent.
Save Size Difficulty Players Rating

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The levels are pretty massive.
Sonic is one of the most well-known video game characters nowadays. Dating back to the days when Sega released consoles, the franchise had more than itís fair share of up and downs. Recent years have not been too kind to the blue hedgehog, and so with each new game the expectations seem to be lower than the last. Sonic Rivals, the first outing for the series on Sonyís PSP system, was never really given much hype. Part of this lack of excitement could be put down to the fact that the game is developed by Backbone Entertainment, and not Sonic Team who usually take development reigns.

Like any Sonic game, the plot in Sonic Rivals is background material at most. Basically Eggman is up to no good, again! Using a special camera he has somehow come across, he has been able to capture Amy and Tails into cards, and is making Sonic and Knuckles compete for them. Meanwhile, Shadow and Silver (the new character from the PS3/X360 game) have their own story going. Silver is chasing Eggman for some reason, and Shadow has come to his aid. Thatís really about it Ė there are a few fairly predictable plot twists, but for the most part thatís it.

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Many levels are quite spectacular.
What this bare-bones plot does is set up the perfect situation in which for the levels to take place. Whereas the Sonic of old was a fairly straightforward platformer, Rivals' main focus is speed. Sure, there are still plenty of insane labyrinth-like levels for players to navigate through, and players will still need to platform their way to the end, but if you take your time, your rival will beat you and you lose the level, having to restart. Think of it as a mix between the old Master System and MegaDrive games and the more recent Sonic Riders, but much better than the latter.

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What you can't see is how fast this game is.
Sound simple? In theory sure, but actually getting through the level and coming out in first place is a different story. Itís unlikely that players will get through any of the levels on their first attempt, that is, unless youíre some sort of Sonic god! Youíre rival (be it Sonic, Knuckles, Shadow, Silver or Metal Sonic) is going to give you a good run for your money from the first level through to the last. Even in boss stages you will have to beat your rival to the kill! Itís great fun, but at times quite frustrating Ė in particular when they attack you only moments from the finish line then soar by. However, this all adds to the games longevity, as we all know Ďpractice makes perfect.í

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One of the boss encounters.
Sonic Rivals also comes with a 2-player ad-hoc mode, allowing you to take on a friend one-on-one. Not only this, but you can wager your cards against your opponent in order to try and get more of the unlockables. Unfortunately no online play is included but ad-hoc still does the job nicely.

Unfortunately, the game itself is fairly short, and I managed to finish all the story levels in about 2-3 hours (for each character). Luckily, there are plenty of challenges to complete and tons of cards to collect, but with no sign of unlocking anything special at the end, thereís not a huge incentive to do so. Nonetheless, Sonic Rivals will provide avid fans with plenty of game time.

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Heading around the loop.
Other than its short game-time, itís hard to find faults in this title. AI can seem a bit cheap at times, catching up quickly and the like, but itís not too bad. There is little variety in the power-up weapons available, but given that each race will only last, at most, about 5 minutes, thatís forgivable. Other than that, Sonic Rivals is a very solid release.

The area in which this game shines is the visuals. This is probably one of the fastest-moving and smoothest games to hit the PSP to date, particularly the later levels. As the game has a 2D look to it but is actually 3D, the camera, mostly, is at your characters side, but in certain sections it will move in front/behind the characters and when it does its quite spectacular. Some of the on-rail sequences, particularly in the carnival level, are amazing to watch and never drop a frame! The game certainly feels fast graphically!

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At last, a very good Sonic game.
Now, one thing that has made Sonic games hard to sit through for years has been the horrible voice acting. Luckily, the voices in Sonic Rivals have been kept to a minimum, and even story segments barely have a single word for each character. Music is fairly predictable Sonic tech-rock and sound effects to match. Sonic still doesnít sound amazing, but the removal of character voices is a nice change.

So basically what you have here is a hybrid between racing and platforming with a Sonic flavour to it. And why not? Sonic has always been a fast series. It makes sense and also makes for a good game. Sonic may be on a comeback, but even if he isnít, Sonic Rivals would make a nice addition to your collection. Go on, buy it now!

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSBright and colourful as always with very fast and smooth visuals.
SOUNDYour standard Sonic affair minus the horrible voices.
GAMEPLAYFast, frantic platforming with just a hint of frustration.
VALUEShort story, but four-fold (for each character), heaps of collectables and 2-player ad-hoc. Not too shabby indeed!
OVERALLItís the Sonic game youíve been waiting for!

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