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|Developer: Sonic Team, Traveller's Tales|
|System(s): Sega Saturn, Windows PC|
|Save file size: 2.16 KB (PC)|
Sonic R is a racing game played from a third-person perspective, where players take control of one of ten Sonic characters racing around one of five courses against up to four other players. While never released in arcades, it is structured similarly to Sega arcade racers such as Daytona USA and Sega Rally Championship, however also includes (limited) platforming segments, power-ups and hazards.
Keeping in the tradition of earlier Sonic games, rings are scattered across each of the five courses, which in this game regenerate over a period of time. However, while in previous games rings act as hit-points to protect Sonic from damage, in Sonic R they are used as currency; either to use on "accelerators" (which will consume all of a the characters' rings (up to a maximum of 50) in exchange for a short, computer-controlled period where the player moves roughly three times as fast), or to open doors (which typically require 20 or 50 rings) to access new areas of the map.
While some characters can attack other players, all obstacles in the game serve only to slow characters down, rather than eliminate them from the race. This includes water, which in this game causes certain characters to continue the race off-camera, rather than drowning them after an alotted time. Racers will also merely "bump" off each other if a collision occurs, and rings cannot be lost in the same manner as earlier Sonic titles (i.e. they do not scatter everywhere when hit).
Secondary to racing computer (or human) opponents in Sonic R, the player can find and collect chaos emeralds (usually hidden behind doors), in-turn unlocking Super Sonic when all seven are collected. Each track also houses five Sonic tokens, which if collected allows the player to challenge the computer (as one of the unlockable characters) in a head-to-head race, where winning unlocks the opponent character. The player needs to finish in first place for any of these conditions to count, and has only three laps to collect the required enough rings/tokens/emeralds.
Also featured throughout the levels are floating "Item Panels", which if touched awward the player with one of multiple possible rewards, including multiples of rings and water and lightning shields (which first appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog 3). The water shield allows the racer to walk on water (until he/se reaches dry land once more), while the lightning attracts rings, disappearing of the player touches water. Item Panels do not disappear, but there is a pause between rewards.
Aside from the main game, there are three special gameplay modes: reverse, in which racing occurs facing the opposite direction, breaking five balloons scattered around the stage, or tagging the other four players in the quickest possible time.
Sonic R features ten racers, six of which are unlockable:
|Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Sonic the Hedgehog is the fastest of the four initially available characters, but is the most difficult to control. He can spin dash and double jump.|
|Miles "Tails" Prower|
|Miles "Tails" Prower is a slower version of Sonic with his trademark flying ability, allowing him to fly at a fixed level for a short period of time. The technique is not very useful in Sonic R, as the tracks generally lack any sort of "verticality" to them, and paths are usually enclosed by invisible walls.|
|Knuckles the Echidna|
|Knuckles the Echidna fills the role as the all-round character, with average speed and handling. Knuckles can spin dash, and while he can still glide, is robbed of the ability to latch onto walls and climb up them (though there is never any need to do so).|
|Amy Rose is the slowest of the playable characters and drives a car which can hover over water. 10 rings allows her to boost for a short period.|
|Dr. Eggman/Dr. Robotnik|
|Dr. Eggman (Dr. Robotnik in the West) appears as an opponent from the start, however is only made playable after finishing first in Radiant Emerald. Driving an Eggmobile, Eggman can hover over water and fire a short-range head-seeking missile at other racers at the cost of 10 rings. The missile temporarily slows down its target or removes the person's shield, but is otherwise harmless.|
|Metal Sonic has a higher single jump than the rest of the characters, and can temporarily hover over water while travelling at faster speeds. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Resort Island.|
|Tails Doll, unique to Sonic R is the only character that can travel over water without decreasing speed. It can also float slightly higher for a short period of time without losing momentum. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Radical City.|
|Metal Knuckles is a faster variant of Metal Sonic with the ability to glide. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Regal Ruin.|
|Eggrobo, first seen in Sonic & Knuckles, behaves similarly to Eggman, though is easier to control and slightly faster. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Reactive Factory.|
|Super Sonic is unlocked by collecting all the chaos emeralds and pressing while hovering over Sonic on the character selection screen. As is usually the case in Sonic games, Super Sonic is the fastest character in Sonic R, though the increase in speed (and jump height) makes him more difficult to control. Super Sonic shares all of Sonic's abilities, but can now hover over water.|
While arguably many of the characters have pros and cons, differences in handling and special moves are often negligable, and the majority of the action involves travelling forward on the ground. This means the initial five characters, from fastest to slowest, are Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Eggman, Amy, while the unlockables rank as Super Sonic, Metal Knuckles, Metal Sonic, Eggrobo, Tails Doll. The computer does not always follow the numbers - Knuckles is usually faster than Sonic when it is in charge.
During normal play, the computer controls four AI characters for the player to race against. Due to the passive nature of the game, most act as glorified pacemakers, rarely interacting with the player and following a predictable path along the course. In most cases, the computer selects the four "best" unlocked characters and never varies its choices - that is to say, as soon as one (non-Robotnik) character is unlocked, Amy Rose will never be chosen by the computer to race again, as when controlled by the computer, she is the slowest character in the game.
The computer follows all the same rules as human players, so will collect rings, run through emblems and make use of doors and accelerators (if doing so offers a shortcut). Computer-controlled Robotnik or Eggrobo will fire at opponents which are close by, but will not actively hunt down other players. The computer also has no interest in collecting emeralds or tokens.
The AI opponents only ever run (or drive/float) around a track - they do not jump, use Amy's speed boost or capitalise on certain characters' ability to hover over water. With the exception of Radiant Emerald, large sections of the track are ignored by the computer, either due to the routes being longer, or presumed difficulties in overcoming certain obstacles. The stage designs coupled with smart-enough pathfinding means that the computer is unlikely to get stuck unless forced into a corner by a human player, but as its strategy never changes, the player has a huge advantage over the computer in most cases.
Computer characters move at an almost constant speed, hard-coded for each character which does not vary significantly between races. As the computer does not appear to be affected by character handling differences, this usually means it is easy to predict which order the computer characters will finish a race in. Sonic, for example, will always beat Amy in a race regardless of the chosen track, unless the player interferes in some way. While slight variations in the computer's racing lines could give Amy an advantage (i.e. she collects more rings to use), the length of the track and the time taken to collect these rings usually means that by lap three, each character has an unassailable lead over the next.
While the specifics are not understood, computer players do appear to "learn" better routes as the game progresses. One of the more obvious examples is the loop in Resort Island - when first playing the game, the computer will use the loop, but later will discover that it is quicker to avoid it on the right-hand side. Many (sometimes obvious) shortcuts are never taken by the computer, however.
When playing as Super Sonic in Radiant Emerald with all characters unlocked, Metal Sonic, Tails Doll, Metal Knuckles and Eggrobo will travel faster through the stage and become more competitive as a result.
Sonic R was designed with the Sega Saturn in mind, but was subsequently brought to Windows PCs a year later. The PC version exists in two forms; one which uses software rendering (i.e. graphics are handled by the CPU), and another which uses hardware rendering, taking advantage of 3D accelerator cards which were becoming more commonplace at the time. The version of Sonic R which appears in Sonic Gems Collection is derived from this hardware-accelerated PC conversion.
On the Saturn, Sonic R uses the console's VDP2 graphics processor to render an infinite, textured plane which acts as the "floor" of each stage (save for Radiant Emerald). 3D polygons are then positioned on-top by VDP1, though to maintain a steady frame rate, the draw distance for these polygons is very short. To partially overcome this, Sonic R uses "fogging" techniques, rendering polygons which are further away with more transparency. 2D backgrounds then help to give the illusion that more of the scene is being drawn than what actually is.
While the software-rendered PC version attempts to emulate these Saturn quirks, 3D accelerators were designed differently, meaning that here, everything is a polygon, and fogging therefore applies to the entire scene. The hardware-rendered PC applies this effect to each individual pixel, leading to a less "choppy" effect than on Sega's console, where it is applied per polygon.
Draw distance is also configurable on the PC, and defaults to further away than on the Saturn (meaning more of the scene is rendered at any one time). It can be adjusted in the software-rendered PC version in real time by pressing the F1 and F2 keys. In Sonic Gems Collection, draw distance is not an issue, with the entire stage being rendered at once.
While the core content remains the same across all versions, the PC version introduces random weather conditions (either normal, rainy, or snowy) which can affect play. It is also able to operate at higher resolutions and frame rates than is possible on the Saturn.
Sonic R was also designed with "additive" lighting (blue light on red shows blue), meaning light sources dramatically change the colour of textures during play. In the hardware-rendered PC version, multiplication is used for the lighting calculations (blue light on red shows black) instead, creating more subdued tracks.
In the Saturn version, the Radiant Emerald track is rendered with semi-transparent polygons, and uses a transparent overlay to simulate multi-texturing. This technique comes at the expense of the fogging effect (meaning the track suffers from more abrupt polygon "pop-in". The PC and Gems versions opt instead for solid polygons and textures which pulsate with bright colors.
Backgrounds in the Saturn version use smaller textures, mirrored four times to wrap the screen (and in so doing, causing suns/moons to appear twice). The PC and Gems versions eliminate this problem by using a 1664*128 bitmap for the entire background.
The water for the Saturn version appears different, with light shading on the wave reflection of the background (a palette effect) and a faintly visible water surface. The software rendered PC version has ripples done that same way as the Saturn version, but is missing the visible water surface and wave shading. The Gems Collection version animates water in a similar way. The hardware rendered PC version is missing the features that the software version misses, as well as the background reflecting by a slightly darkened, wobbling texture.
The Saturn version uses 4-bit textures whereas the PC and Gems versions have 24-bit textures, though despite these tweaks, texture resolution is roughly the same. Polygon counts for player models were increased for the PC port (Knuckles being one of the most noticeable imprvements), though tracks were left unchanged. The software rendered PC version is also the only version with texture alpha blending (per texel transparency, with all other versions using per polygon transparency).
Collision differs slightly between the Saturn and later versions, such as ropes in Reactive Factory which are solid in the original game. Items also have different probabilities of being received in the Saturn version; shields and speed shoes are far more common for racers in top positions. All non-Saturn versions support up to four player races, versus just two.
In addition to all of this, the PC version makes a number of graphical changes, often as a result of supporting higher screen resolutions. The balloons in the balloon mode are blue in the Saturn version, while other versions have randomly colored balloons. Audio is generally worse on the PC, however - sound effects are often played in lower quality, and instrumental tunes are mysteriously truncated in the PC version. The Saturn and Gems versions have ambient sound effects for torches, waterfalls, and seasides; these are missing in the PC version, and are played too loudly in the Gems Collection port.
Credits are different in the Saturn version in that there are no 3D characters.
The Sega Saturn version of the game makes use of the Saturn's internal battery back-up as well as the Sega Saturn Back-Up Ram Cart to save progress and unlockable content.
|87||Sonic Retro Average|
|Based on 4 reviews|
|PC, UK (Xplosiv)|
|PC, UK (Xplosiv; alt)|
|PC, UK (Xplosiv; alt 2)|
|PC, UK (Xplosiv; alt 3)|
|PC, FR (Xplosiv)|
|PC, DE (Xplosiv)|
|PC, DE (Xplosiv; alt)|
|Sonic games for the following systems|
|1996 Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island 1997 Sonic Jam | Sonic R|
|1996 Sonic the Hedgehog CD | Sonic the Hedgehog The Screen Saver | Sonic's Schoolhouse 1997 Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island | Sonic R 2003 Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut 2004 Sonic Heroes 2006 Sonic Riders 2010 Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing 2011 Sonic Generations 2013 Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed 2017 Sonic Mania | Sonic Forces|