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Game 45 of 52: Sonic Rivals - 02/06/24



Finally, a quick, short game that I can go over! Why is that? Because I just plainly do not have a lot to say about Sonic Rivals beyond the fact that it is a not very good game.

It is, in fact - a bad game. A pretty bad game. But why? Well, let's get into it.


Despite that rather blunt start to the blog, I actually have some history with Rivals, as it was one of the first PSP games I received the same Christmas as I got my PSP, alongside Daxter. Back then, I distinctly remember having difficulty getting past even the first few races. No matter what I did, it felt like opponents got ahead of me super easily, but I always assumed that was just a problem with me, and not the game. I do remember at least finishing one of the campaigns, even if I don't remember which. However, that Christmas - Daxter was easily my favourite of the bunch, so that's about the only major memory I have with Rivals 1.

I suppose the one major thing I can give Rivals in terms of interest is it's just such a plain intriguing game for the unique era it was released. Rivals dropped literally two days after Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. That means this game was made in that exact same era, and the fingerprints is all over it. From the general style of the renders, to the fact Silver is here as the next 'major' rival of Sonic, the fact it acts as a direct follow-up to Sonic 06's plot, giving us the true canonical introduction to Silver following the retcon at the end of 06's plot, and even just the plain general aesthetic, it feels like this bizarre half-step that has one foot in traditional Sonic and one foot in 06's planned reboot. For such a forgotten game, it's really funny to me how it feels like such a time capsule back to a era where SEGA well and truly thought 06 was going to be the next big series direction.

Anything else?

I uh, guess this is the first time we've got Metal Sonic back since Heroes.

yeah that's it

I like to think I give Sonic games a fair shake, that I give them some leeway, but holy shit, I've never seen a game manage to just be so bad by one big gigantic blunder. 


The gameplay is simple - it's 2D Sonic with a twist, you're going through 18 levels, racing a opponent along the way, while picking up items and power ups along the way, attempting to avoid obstacles along the way, and finding shortcuts whenever you can. That - to me at least - is not only a decent concept on paper - but it's a great one. I used to have a great time playing Rush's racing mode over DS Download Play with my friend, and a game based on that concept with all of Sonic's rivals? That's super cool! 

But in execution? Oh dear god, it's bad. It's so bad. The locales you traverse through is painfully boring - which is a fucking shame because technically - it's Angel Island - with fully explorable zones for the first time since Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Future Angel Island, sure - but all the same. You can see the inspiration with a Sky Sanctuary style zone, and Carnival Night style zone. But the locales are just so plain and boring. None of them is memorable, and for a good number of the Act 2s, you're going through the same tracks with minor modifications. The only memorable and arguably cool level is just straight up the final zone, which is something similar to Egg Gate from Forces where you're weaving in and out of outer space, meteors, and a space station, and it's the only traditional level in the game.

Otherwise, it's the same monotonous levels over and over with little changes. What doesn't help this is that the game wants to take on a Sonic Heroes structure where the game wants you to play through it four times over - once with each character, excluding Metal Sonic - which amounts to playing the same exact stages 4 times over, with no changes or alterations. Beyond each character having a signature move, there's no change, and it's boring.


But when it's not boring? It's utterly infuriating. It's worse than that - it's downright bullshit. All because of the rubberbanding in this game. No matter how good you are, how skilled you are, how many QTES you hit, how smart you are with item placements and use - no matter what you do, the opponents will somehow always be on your heels no matter what. Even a few minor mistakes on your part is enough to doom a race for you because of the awful rubberbanding. It's insane just how much perfection the game wants of you, and it means even when you're doing great, you don't feel properly rewarded. There's times I was outright taking the right paths and the shortcuts, and somehow the AI would still get ahead of me. Even with a 60fps cheat enabled, it did very little to help fix the gameplay. It's just outright unfun to play, outside of the last two levels, and even that's just because it's a regular Sonic stage, rather than a race.


Then there's the bosses - frankly the most drawn out bosses seen this side of Sonic Rush or Sonic Superstars. Again, the idea is solid enough - having it be a contest between you or the opponent to hit a boss' weak spot enough times to win. But the bosses are so painfully drawn out, forcing you to wait ages before they drop down to expose their weak points, and if the opponent hits first, your time is even more wasted again waiting for another chance. Worse than that, the hit detection is shaky at best, meaning you'll fall through or slide though the platforms repeatedly, and you have to once again do the same six bosses four times over. It gets old, massively.


Then there's the story. Good lord the story - the story is one of the downright shittiest in the entire franchise. Every character acts like a immature idiot all to justify the racing theme. Knuckles wants to screw over Sonic and beat him despite the fact Tails and Amy are his friends too. Sonic wants to screw over Knuckles despite the fact he knows how important the Master Emerald is. Let's not forget Sonic outright forgetting about Amy until just the tail-end of the story for no reason.

Shadow is just outright confusing in terms of how he's written. One moment, he's a goon working for Eggman, bizarrely concerned for his well-being and threatening to kick Silver's ass if he dares endanger him, and the next moment, they try to pretend Shadow is piecing together some kind of mystery. It's like they wanted a Team Dark dynamic from SA2 while forgetting the fact Shadow isn't just someone who blindly follows the orders of Eggman and Rouge. Silver is about the only thing that could be lightly described as 'competent', and even then - it's not great. I can at least understand why he's unwilling to trust Sonic, Shadow and Knuckles at least.


Eggman Nega's story has been randomly changed so that he's Eggman's descendant from the future, rather than his counterpart from another dimension. Which on one hand - I can get for wanting to tie his plot to Silver's appearance, but it means his appearances in the Rush games make zero sense. His plan is utterly idiotic - pretending to be Eggman so he can use a future camera to turn everything into cards. Why? Because apparently Eggman is a failure who puts a stain on his family name, and no one will take Nega seriously as a true scientist - because that's somehow Eggman's fault rather than the fact Nega is a mad evil scientist. 

Either way, the fatal flaw in this scheme is pretty obvious - if he erases Eggman from his family history, his family doesn't exist and therefore Nega has successfully erased himself from history. Nega is just so badly written. His plan makes no sense, his pretending to be Eggman is entirely pointless, and his schemes just change on a dime. His grand plan literally only comes into being because you defeated one boss too many apparently. Also, Metal Sonic is just used as a lackey to distract you and buy Nega time. 

It's just a mess. It's a complete and total mess. One of the worst Sonic stories I've experienced, which is a pretty sad thing when it's meant to be Silver's new canonical introduction to the series.

Then there's the music. One of the most downright forgettable Sonic soundtracks in existence. I cannot remember one single song from this game and I played it a grand total of four times, which goes to say a lot for how bad it is. The best thing I can really give it is the game looks nice enough, although even then, not nearly as good as other PSP games, even from around the same time.

That's really just how it all comes out. When it's not being bland, boring and forgettable, it's being downright embarrassingly bad in terms of story, and infuriating to play. It's a miracle Rivals 2 managed to release given the state of this game. 

I really hope Rivals 2 is at least as fun as I remember it to be, because this? This was far worse than I remembered, even as a kid.

  • Thumbs Up 5
  • Absolutely 1


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