Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity starts out with Sonic, Tails and Knuckles all cruising along in their futuristic hover car in a futuristic transparent full-pipe, probably listening to futuristic indie music while thinking how futuristically pretentious this whole situation is. Tails is talking about a strange meteorite which fell in a CGI clip just before this CGI clip, in which a meteorite entered the Earth... Wait, is it Earth? Well, the Planet's atmosphere, this meteorite turned out to be a strange bracelet-like object which upon tapping the foot of a strange, futuristic robot, caused all other robots to go completely mad. Back to the cutscene I was mentioning before and the said robots are now attacking Sonic and co, trying to take the bracelet off him. Upon losing the robots in the futuristic hover car elevator, which didn't work as these robots were intelligent enough to assume that eventually the doors of the elevator would open again somewhere down the pipe and they can fly. Things get a little ugly as Tails tries to run over the robots to no avail and they eventually cause the car to tip over, the trio thoughtfully take their futuristic hover boards out of the car before the vehicle explodes, though. You know, priorities and all that. Unfortunately, a design fault of the futuristic transparent tube road-system is quickly highlighted in this action as it appears that if your futuristic hover car breaks down in the transparent futuristic pipe-shaped highway, you're basically screwed, as there's no where to run out of the way of speeding futuristic hover cars and you're elevated several hundred feet off the ground. Sonic discovers this the hard way by plummeting while Tails and Knuckles, either of which could actually make an effort to save Sonic at this point in time, helplessly watch.
Girls don't like men who rush them".
Either way, the whole plot gets rather stupid at this point. Basically, the whole story is based around the Babylonians (remember, first game? No?) being aliens, these gravity bracelets are actually parts of the engine that powered the Babylon Gardens, which is actually a space ship that when its engines went critical, they had to eject the engine and hope that once the engine had cooled down, the parts would re-enter orbit so they could reconstruct the engine and continue exploring the cosmos. Sadly, the engine didn't just "cool" down and if at any point the parts of the engine were put back into the ship, it would cause a huge black hole. Since the characters in the game prevented Dr. Eggman from doing anything evil before the final boss, the story randomly throws a robot into the mix, who steals the engine parts, takes them to the ship and thus, causes a singularity which starts eating everything around it in a very expensive looking CGI scene. Ultimately, the robot who had somehow integrated itself with the ship's engine and grown exponentially in size for completely unexplained reasons in the space of a minute and a half, is taken down and the black hole just sort of stops. The game then ends with Dr.Eggman tried, convicted and executed for the crimes he's committed. The end. Well, no, actually, of course not. Instead, Sonic and Jet have a race inside the damn futuristic car-pipes and the credits roll, but not before Tails explains away all the plot holes in the story by answering the question of "who wrote the program which made the robot gather the engine part and take it back to the ship, put it in the engine and cause a black hole? Also, how come it was compatible with a robot from a completely different civilisation?" with "I don't know." Well, great. Good job we got that plot smoothed out, 'cause remember kids; there's no such things as plot holes if you make it seem like they're part of the story. It's like Independence Day all over again when they put the virus into the alien computer...
Controls. Now, there's some good news here... But why would you want to hear that first? The default control scheme the game lumps you with is absolutely horrendous, mostly because for some unfathomable reason, someone, somewhere decided that a racing game about dudes on hover boards should have a control scheme as if you were driving car. Yes, the game employs the use of motion controls while the Wii Remote is held sideways and you tilt the remote like you would a turn a steering wheel. There's something completely disjointed about the way the motion controls work. I mean, they work, you can play the game with the controls as they are... But perhaps not for very long. It took me until the second stage in the game to give up and see what other control schemes were on offer. Like in Sonic Riders, you start off the race by running up to the start line to get a good speed boost out the gate. Unfortunately, with the motion controls being so loose when tilting the Wii Remote nearly 180 degrees in order to walk backwards, as demonstrated by Sonic and the Secret Rings not too long ago, this can be a bit tricky to get a hang of. Another control scheme, which involves holding the Wii Remote like a remote and pointing at the screen was so damn unplayable that I managed to perfectly execute two dozen doughnuts without so much as actually doing anything. The game seems to just have a mind of it's own in this mode, that or the remote is possessed by a demon in this configuration and I need to exorcise it at the earliest possible convenience.
You know your game has difficulties when the generic press shots of the game have screens like this.
You know your game has difficulties when the generic press shots of the game have screens like this.
Of course, much like most SEGA games on the Wii, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity includes a handy Gamecube Controller mode which works a treat. Once the motion controls are removed from the situation, the game becomes immeasurably better. Although one wonders why exactly there's no "Wii and Nunchuck" option within the game. Surely if there's already a control scheme which utilises a control stick, the Nunchuck would be a viable option for a control scheme. Especially since there's 4 buttons available within easy reach on the remote and nunchuck (A, B, C, Z) and the Gamecube control scheme only uses 4 buttons... No, instead they'd rather implement a control scheme which doesn't work at all. How kind. But to be fair, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is a game far improved over it's predecessor... Well, in some ways. Things they fixed included the stiff controls... Well, I think they have. I hardly ever bumped into a wall this game, which really can't be said about Sonic Riders in any way.
Thing that really gets me about the upgrade mechanic is the lack of abilities when you start out. In Sonic Riders, your "type" of character, a choice between "Speed", "Power" and "Fly" all had individual gimmicks which they could interact with. For instance, the Speed type could use Rails, Power could smash through weak walls and punch objects out of the way and Fly could use in-air shortcuts. And while this is still true in Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, unfortunately, you need to level up twice in order to use said gimmicks. But, of course, these rules only apply to player characters. The AI is already fully powered when they start out, meaning that it's more a race to collect as many rings as possible rather than race for 1st place, as no matter how much skill you have, it's hard to beat AI which can use cheap, type-only shortcuts and have a speed advantage from the out-set, although I do think the AI is limited in speed for the first lap, usually by then you do have the "speed up" upgrade. But either way, trying to jump onto rails on the first lap and failing was extremely frustrating, especially since, once again, you're never told about these specific upgrades by the game's pathetic tutorial mode which is extremely poorly written.
But let's talk difficulty. The game isn't very difficult at all. Where as Sonic Riders was a extremely infuriating game which was a mix between down-right tedious and honestly difficult, Sonic Riders Zero Gravity actually ends up being only mildly annoying in difficulty. In Sonic Riders, it would take a lot of painful practice and trial-and-error to get enough skill down to clear a segment in the story mode. In Sonic Riders Zero Gravity, the most tries I had to complete any given mission was 5 attempts. Two of those were restarts instigated by myself because I got off to bad starts or got stuck on a wall. This lack of difficulty highlights a real problem with the game, the two story modes; Hero and Babylon are about 1.5 hours a piece, meaning that your average completion time on a first-run will be about 3 hours. That's catastrophically short. I can see why Sonic Riders had such a steep difficulty curve, to hide the short story mode. 3 hours isn't the extent of the game, however. After you complete a level in the story mode, missions are given for you to complete from the story level-select screen. These missions are generally one of two things, collect a certain number of rings/perform certain number of tricks or complete a race in less than some given time. Grinding through these challenges will unlock you a special gear. And, of course, there's the multiplayer aspect of the game, which may have been a good idea if there was at least some sort of online multiplayer... Alas, there is not. And good luck trying to convince friends to play this game with you over, say, F-Zero GX?
Visually, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is rather impressive looking... But there are a few problems. The team behind the visual effects were obviously very proud with their rain and water effects... So proud, they act like a kid who's found the preset render tools in Photoshop and have gone to town trying to throw as many as possible into an scene. Some stages are so busy that it's hard to clearly see what's going on. Other than this, everything's quite visually clear in most cases... Not quite as colourful as the original Sonic Riders, it seems like a lot more stages are darkened or just don't use as many vibrant colours as the original. Story scene choreography has been improved immensely, it's still rather hammy and doesn't look in any way natural, but it's very cartoon-like and fluid. Perhaps one of the big problems with the visuals is the lack of clarity in which you can make out some of the hexagon-shaped path markers which tells you which types of characters should take which path, it's not very clear at all, but once you learn the colour-coding, you're pretty much good to go. I should also mention that, unlike Sonic Riders, there's no clash of artistic styles as Sonic Riders seemed to suffer, everything's all CGI-like now and more relatable to the in-game visuals.
Overall, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is a much improved, better-playing racing game over Sonic Riders... However it's still lacking in polish and execution. The single player is criminally short and the difficulty is pretty much non-existent. It's mediocre at best, and it's a shame, because at points in the game I really enjoyed playing it. Ignoring the mind-boggling "Survival Mode" and overlooking some dodgy AI and glitches, the game isn't so bad. But the core mechanics are betrayed by awful, but optional motion controls and an upgrade system which makes you buy into what should be default character stats. Sadly, this is as far as I go into the Sonic Riders series. There is another game in the Sonic Riders lineage; Sonic Free Riders, sadly the game is for Kinect, the Xbox 360 attachment which has a grand total of 0 compelling titles and a price tag of £99 to £130, so good luck convincing me to buy one just to rip apart a Sonic game. I have my limits, people. Go look up someone else's review of the game, it'll be overly negative anyway, so just inject some bland, unimaginative sarcasm into their words and you can pretend like I wrote it.
Awful, as usual. Although, again, it's not all that bad for a racing game. Still, if you're going to do a job, do it right.
Sadly, despite being better than Sonic Riders... Zero Gravity fails to impress, too loose and too clunky. Let's not even talk about the motion controls.
I verge on disliking the visuals, but they do come across cleanly and other than being visually busy, I can't fault them.
Soundtrack is bland, save a few tracks and the voice acting is dire. What else do I need to say?
3 Hours3 Hours through the story, about an extra two to three hours on missions, although most are hair-rippingly insane as far as difficult goes.