It always fascinate me which aspects of Sonic’s game library engender nostalgia in fans. I got to say: I did not expect the Sonic Riders series to be one! This year’s SAGE plays host to not one, but two Sonic Riders projects, and I decided to take a look at one of them. I enjoyed the original and its weird, creative mechanics back in the day, though I didn’t love it (and I was never great at it). So while I’m familiar with it, I’m hardly an expert at its mechanics, so please keep that in mind!
Sonic Riders X is essentially a from-the-ground-up remake of the original Sonic Riders and Zero Gravity. The characters and the courses all have a gorgeous, high-poly HD makeover. Only the time attack, 4 courses, and four characters are currently available, but already it’s easy to tell that this is a faithful recreation of the mechanics of the original.
Mechanically, Riders X feels very accurate to what I remember from my time with the first game. Your board runs on a limited air gauge that can be depleted with boosts and refilled at refill stations and through randomized ring boxes. Rings can level up that gauge over the course of the race. You take tight turns by drifting, and you get a speed boost upon releasing the drift button, which also eats into your gauge. Certain elements, like riding the wake of other racers, aren’t in the demo since time attack doesn’t have them.
Riders X has speed, power, and flight characters, and just like in the original game, certain elements of a course can only be utilized by one of these character types. Knuckles can break through obstacle, Tails can use flight rings, and Sonic…well, he’s supposed to be able to grind on rails, but I should admit I could never figure out how to do that properly. As near as I can tell, that’s all in Riders X, and implemented well.
The demo has four courses, three of which are taken from the original Sonic Riders. One other is the Dream Racing course from Mario & Sonic 2020. On top of those, there is also a test course. The courses are a blast, naturally, and the Mario & Sonic downhill dream course works pretty well with Riders mechanics!
As I said earlier, Riders X is a visual stunner. Unfortunately, it is not terribly well-optimized for lower tier computers like my GPD Win 3, even on low settings, though I was able to get it running on my 1080ti-powered desktop! Unless you have a decently beefy set-up, you probably won’t be able to play this yourself right now. If you’ve got the hardware, though, you should definitely take this demo for a spin! You can check it out here.