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Sonic Rivals 2

Platform(s): PSP
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Release Date: Nov. 13, 2007

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PSP Review - 'Sonic Rivals 2'

by Aaron "Istanbul" Swersky on Dec. 27, 2007 @ 6:21 a.m. PST

Sonic Rivals 2 is the sequel to Sonic's 2D action platformer, featuring a revamped rival “jostling” gameplay system for tighter head-to-head competition. A brand new Battle mode allows two players to jump into six different multiplayer challenges by sharing just one disc using the PSP system's Wi-Fi function.

The year was 1991. The Nintendo Entertainment System had the lion's share of the home console market, with Sega barely managing to stay afloat and definitely bringing up the rear. Their attempt to claim Alex Kidd as their mascot had met with abysmal failure, and Sega was in desperate need of one that could sell systems for them. As if out of the blue, someone had an idea: Mario was seen as slow and plodding at times, according to some polls. What if Sega could be the "fast" system, the one that left the plumber in the dust? Maybe it was time for some re-imagining of Sega's image. And so, in a flurry of inspiration and graphical finesse, Sonic the Hedgehog was born. After several forays into the world of 3D with results ranging from "mediocre" to "atrocious," Sonic Rivals 2 brings the series back to its 2D roots in an attempt to recapture the glory once held by the world-renowned series. Is this sequel good enough to stand up to the originals on the 15-year-old system? In a word ... no.

Sonic Rivals 2's saving graces are its audio/visual accomplishments and its multiplayer mode. As fast as the action sometimes gets, there is little to no flicker or slowdown, thanks to the PSP's processing power. Characters are readily identifiable even at a distance, and some of the backgrounds are visually stunning, even if you'll have precious little time to enjoy them. Sounds are also clear and crisp, whether you want them to be or not; the sound effects are quite faithful, but the voice acting is equally faithful to the older titles in the Sonic franchise, with irritatingly saccharine voices. Still, the developer can't be blamed for this; the characters simply sound a little too enthusiastic at all times, so as aggravating as the voices may be, they're entirely accurate. For what it's worth, the music is actually varied and somewhat engaging, serving to provide a driving soundtrack to the fast-paced action.


The multiplayer mode is no slouch, either. Should you happen to find someone who's interested in playing a round with you, you can choose from a variety of options, including: ring-collecting, straight-out racing, Hot Potato and King of the Hill. Two players can definitely get their money's worth from this title, as long as the other is interested in further exploring the effort that was put into making it fun. This is how multiplayer portable action should be.

It is unfortunate, then, that the single-player mode in Sonic Rivals 2 is so dissatisfying. One important fact to note is that, despite the tired, overused plot saying otherwise, your real enemy is not Eggman. (And no, he doesn't have a walrus sidekick.) If anything, Eggman makes brief, irritating cameos, and your real opponents are the other characters who have been sent to stop Eggman. Apparently, the state of heroism these days is such that cooperation toward a mutual goal is much less important than personal accomplishment, as you can and will attack people who are ostensibly on your side to slow them down and make them less effective in combat. This culminates in a battle with Eggman at the end of each area, where your goal is not to defeat Eggman but to land a certain number of hits more quickly than your rival; even your attempts to save the world are secondary to your attempts to show up the other character against whom you are pitted.

Worse yet, there is the putrid tumor that is the Knockout Mode. You are pitted in what is evidently intended to be some kind of fighting match against your rival, but the execution is deeply, profoundly flawed. Attack icons are spread throughout the field in certain spots, each granting you a special power that you can unleash upon your foe. The execution of those attacks is a wretched thing to behold, though; each of the attacks can't be dodged, it follows you around until it triggers, and it can kill you if you're out of rings. Couple this with the computer's knowledge of where the attacks are and how to get to them, and you're faced with a fight that you'll wage over and over again — not because it's fun, but because you simply have to keep playing until the game decides that you can proceed.


Even the level design for these areas is poor, reminiscent of Joust in earlier areas and simply lacking any surfaces of a useful size upon which to actually fight your opponent in the latter levels. The casino level is a particularly blatant violator in this regard, often leaving players circling over and over through a loop in an attempt to find some solid ground. The computer player's "god" mode is not limited to that sub-game, either; don't expect to win a race without knowing the course fairly well (which means that you will almost always lose at least once), and even once you do know what you're doing, the button presses necessary to get a lead are available for a fraction of a second at a time. Add to this the complexity of having two different buttons to press, and it rapidly becomes clear that getting the badly needed boost is largely a matter of guesswork.

There is one additional perk to Sonic Rivals 2, for those who are willing to look past the odious single-player mode: anyone who is inclined to have an obsessive-compulsive personality may go in for the card collection system. There are 150 cards to obtain, with requirements ranging from "collect 30 coins" to "get an S rank on this particular mission." For the player who is dedicated enough to slog through the game, this offers a great deal of appeal; the prospect would be much more endearing were it not tacked onto such a sub-par game. The ability to play through each character's "story" may also add a little bit of value, but the prospect of different character plotlines is greatly devalued by the realization that one would have to play through this title repeatedly to unlock the content. I'm not convinced that the compulsion to play through this game eight times is actually a good thing; I could collect exotic diseases too, but that doesn't make me want to do that!

All told, Sonic Rivals 2 is yet another disappointing offering from the folks on Sonic Team. They're starting to get back onto the right track, focusing on 2D speed rather than 3D worldcombing, but the inclusions of the fighting mode and the all-powerful AI are a definite detraction from the title's quality, and really, can't we get the characters some new voices? It's true that Sonic Rivals 2 is better than most of the recent Sonic franchise titles, but that's sort of like saying that you're slightly less on fire than your friend.

Score: 6.7/10



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