Reviewed: January 26, 2008
Released: January 8, 2008
Whenever you hear the name Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s safe to say you’re in for a wild ride. Sonic has been a big part of my childhood and my gaming experience for a long time. Over the past couple of years Sonic has been making a comeback with rereleases of the classic side scrolling titles to the new 3D adventure seen on the Wii not that long ago. Back in 2006, we were graced with the hover board racing game "Sonic Riders." Here it is nearly 2 years later and we are presented with Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity for the PlayStation 2.
In Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, you play as Sonic and his pals in an effort to stop the out of control robots of MeteorTech. It is your job to find the legendary "Ark of the Cosmos," an artifact that can control gravity. Only you’re not the only ones out to get the "Ark." Soon you run in to Babylon Rogues, the avian thieves from the previous title, and throw in Dr. Eggman and you end up with a wild adventure to basically save the world again.
I've played a majority of the Sonic titles over the years and up until this point the original Genesis versions have always been my favorites.
The interface of Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is pretty much like every other racing title out there with a few exceptions. In the upper left hand corner is a Ring/Max Rings counter. The rings, like in every Sonic title ever made, can be collected by racing around the track. These are in turn used to upgrade your Gear Types, but I’ll explain this a little later on. In the bottom left of the screen you have a GP (or Gravity Point) Gauge. This gauge is filled up by getting a good running start and by performing advanced tricks via Trick Zones, Grind Areas, Catapults, Barricades and Springs.
The GP that you accumulate by doing tricks is used to perform any one of the 4 gravity actions. These actions will either use a little of your GP up or wipe them all out completely. The Zero Gravity functions are a new addition from the previous title and I personally think it really makes this title.
Often times in a race you are faced with obstacles that require a little direct intervention. I quickly found out that there are a few turns that are near impossible to take without using the Gravity Control feature. By holding down the Square button your character will rise up off the ground and using the Left Analog stick to redirect him to the desired path.
Along the winding tracks there are often quarter-pipes. Behind these pipes are alternative paths in the form of walls. When you launch yourself off the quarter-pipe you can enter Gravity Control mid air and change paths entirely.
But perhaps my favorite Gravity action has got to be the Gravity Dives. Whenever you have a long straight path on a course you can activate Gravity Dives. These are essentially black holes that lift you up in the air and send you on your way at high speed until you release the L1 or R1 buttons or you run out of GP. Depending on the course, you can perform Meteor Bursts while in a Gravity Dive. By using the Left Analog stick you can guide your character into objects that are now floating. Ricocheting off objects will make you go faster and sometimes give you that much needed edge on your opponents.
As I mentioned above, collecting coins will allow you to upgrade or GearShift your hover board. Each board has 3 pre-installed gear parts, but you have to unlock them during the races. You do this by collecting 100 Rings for each gear part. These gear parts will do everything from speed you up to allowing you to use grind pipes and rails to gliding through the air through Dash Rings.
And on the same note as the gear upgrades, there are also item boxes placed in various spots on the tracks that will aid or hinder you or your rivals. You have the classic Boxes with various amounts of rings and Magnetic Barrier that draws rings to you as you go by them. There are item boxes that will either slow you to a crawl or give you extra burst of speed for a limited time as well. There are even some quirky item boxes such as Explosion, Colorball and Attack to mix things up.
There are a number of things that I really liked about Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, but a few stick out as my personal favorites. I highly enjoyed the dual story modes, so you got the entire story from both Team Sonic and Team Jet. A lot of times in games you are restricted to just seeing the “heroes” side of the story and not the villains. But then again this is a racing title and it only seems fair. Also after beating each story mode you can go back and do missions on every track to unlock the hidden characters available. There is a shop where you can buy more gear with the rings you earn throughout the different modes for an added incentive to unlocking the title completely.
I also like the track designs quite a bit. Mind you some of them are downright frustrating at times, but still nicely done. Each location has two tracks, one for each team and are variations of the other occasionally. A lot of the Babylon Rogues’ tracks take place at night so that changes things up a bit. The character AI in Zero Gravity is also nice…I mean evil. The AI racers are not really pushovers but they’re not so tough as to drive you insane. However certain characters, namely Jet, get in your way during crucial parts of a race and end your victory real quick. A perfect example is in the final race on the Rogue storyline. I won’t spoil how you beat this race but I will say that if you are not in first most of the time Jet will always get in your way.
There is a multiplayer mode to Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity so you can play with up to 4 friends; however, you must have the Multi-Tap adapter for 4-person play. You can do a normal race on any selectable track or you can step it up and try one of the Special Rules modes. The Special Rules modes are Survival Relay, Survival Ball and Survival Battle.
In Survival Relay you can play 2P (2 Human vs. 2 CPU), 3P (3 Human vs. 3 CPU) or 4P (4 Human vs. 4 CPU.) In Relay, you start off with the first player being the only one that can start until that character can hit a special zone where the second player will take the Gear and continue on, much like at a real relay race. Survival Ball is where you must use Gravity Control to shoot a ball through colored Rings. The first person to get to the defaulted 100 Match Points or the player with the highest score at the end of 3 minutes wins.
In Survival Battle, players must launch missiles at each other using Gravity Control. The last player standing or the one with the highest remaining Hit Points after 10 minutes wins. I really had a blast playing this mode. It was nice to see the developers finding ways to implement Gravity Control.
The graphics of Zero Gravity are actually pretty impressive on the PS2. Everything from the racetrack environments to the character models themselves is impressive. There are two water tracks in Zero Gravity to mix things up and the water in both is pretty good. Not that you really have time to stare at it while you’re flying over it at a 100+. There were also parked cars and moving rail cars in many of the track to add a touch of realism to the title. The only downside I saw while playing was that some tracks are really dark and often times hard to see where the track is going.
While the world of Sonic looks good, the cutscenes between every race are better. The detail in the cutscenes is impressive. I would expect this type of animation more in PS3 or 360 titles than a PS2 title given the, no pun intended, track record of the graphics on many of the PS2 titles on the market. I felt like I was watching sections of a very good CG cartoon throughout the storyline.
The music of Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is much improved over the previous title. The last title had a lot of techno-based music and didn’t really feel at home in a Sonic title. This time around the music while still energetic is toned down a notch. I especially like the theme songs of both Sonic and Jet. Jet’s is actually my favorite…forgive me Sonic, and is actually a remix of his theme from Sonic Riders.
While not really well-known outside of the world of anime, cartoons, and video games the voice cast of Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is top notch in my opinion. Most of the voices actors, including Jason Griffith, Amy Palant, Dan Green and Lisa Ortiz have been providing the voices of our beloved Sonic characters since 2005. All I can say is that they do an awesome job and to keep up the great work.
As mentioned above, the soundtracks are awesome, but also the little sayings that each character says before, during and after each race. The sound effects are pretty good especially the sounds used when you enter Gravity Control. Also you can always tell how well you tricks were when you hit the ground because the characters go “Aww man” or “All Right!”
Zero Gravity took me roughly about 4 hours to complete both story modes. Of course part of that time was spent replaying a few tracks more than a few times, due to the difficulty of some of the tracks or objectives. I also spent a lot of time doing the missions and unlocking all the special gear and characters.
You can have more than one save profile so more than one person can play the story, so there is no worry about overwriting each other’s progress. While there is really no reason to play the story modes over once you’ve beaten them, there is an incentive to beating all of the missions with an Extreme Ranking. Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity retails for $29.99 and I would pay every penny.
I was fairly impressed with Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity. And that’s not just because I love the blue hedgehog. I literally played the game non-stop until I had both story modes beat and over half of the missions complete. I love racings games like Need For speed and the new Burnout Paradise, but I’ve always had a place in my heart for the fun cartoon racers, like Mario Kart and the original Sonic Riders. I highly enjoyed the cutscenes and the excellent voice actors and the awesome soundtrack.
Team Sonic delivers an awesome game and I can’t wait to see what they do next. If you are a diehard Sonic fan or someone just looking for a fun racer, look no farther that Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity.