Thanks to several gameplay refinements, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is a huge improvement over the first game.
In case you didn't know, Sonic Riders is a racer in which you use the horrendously named "Extreme Gear" to hover around and beat your opponents in futuristic race tracks. It's an exciting blend of fast-paced action you'd expect from a Sonic game, with thrills you'd find in racers like F-Zero.
Replacing the awful "turbulence" system found in its predecessor, Zero Gravity now gives the player a Gravity meter, which is filled depending on the tricks you nail and the power-ups you pick up. Using your GP (Gravity Points), you can do a very nice drift maneuver that gives you a boost, activate a "gravity dive" which propels you into flight, and cling on to the wall to utilize an alternate path. Gimmicky as it is, it's a very exciting and unique feature which I haven't seen in any racing game before. It's very satisfying to see your character blazing ahead, giving off a G-force so strong that it sends every object around you flying! Using gravity also gives off this awesome slow-motion "DOOOOSH" effect, which is quite cool. You can also upgrade your Gear during the race with the rings you collect. This is essential to accessing the short-cuts available for Speed, Power, and Flight type characters.
Speaking of characters, there's 18 of them playable, and they range from your old favorites to some surprise guests (Billy freakin' Hatcher!). They all control very well, and there's 3 styles to choose from. One is holding the wiimote to the side and tilting to steer. It's a simple yet effective setup that doesn't feel tacked-on. You can also hold the wiimote forward like a pointer. This doesn't feel quite as natural as the sideways style, but different strokes for different folks I guess. Lastly, if you're a traditionalist you can opt for a gamecube controller.
The story mode is lackluster, but that's to be expected. The actual plot is really simplistic and childish and brings nothing new or interesting to the table. Why SEGA decided to keep the lame "Babylon Rogues" characters is beyond me. The voice acting is pretty solid, but expect some corny lines. The tracks this time are more numerous and varied than the last game, and overall they're just designed better. Ultimately you'll want to play through the story just to access goodies like gear, tracks, and characters (and there's a lot of them, too). You can also complete challenges like Survival mode, or just do a single race. Multiplayer is offline only, but you and buddies will have a blast nonetheless.
The graphics are alright... but merely alright. This still looks exactly like the gamecube version, which is understandable since it's released alongside a PS2 version as well. While the game moves at a fast clip, the wii can do much better and it's a shame because it had the potential to be visually striking like Sonic and the Secret Rings was. But the graphics aren't BAD, so it's not that big of a deal. It's also worth mentioning that the game supports widescreen, which is always a welcome feature.
The music is all electronic and technoey, which is fitting for a futuristic racer. However it comes off a bit generic when compared to other Sonic games. Even so, the music is still GOOD, but it's nothing special.
The Wii version features Wi-Fi that allows users to upload their scores and download other people's ghost data. While that's all fine and dandy, where's the online multiplayer? This game would easily be a must-own if it did.
Fans of Sonic are going to rejoice over the various improvements, and racing fans will likely find the game's mechanics to be engaging and fresh. Excite Truck had the potential to be the wii's best racer, but a lack of content and personality really held it back. Seeing how SR: Zero Gravity fixes both of those problems, I can't NOT recommend it. The game simply packs in a lot of fun, which is what Sonic games are so desperately needing.