Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity Hands-On

We get our hands on Sega's Wii and PS2 hoverboard racer starring Sonic the Hedgehog.

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Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is the upcoming sequel to Sonic Riders and casts Sega's venerable hedgehog in a hoverboard racer with a selection of familiar faces. Yes, we know that Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and many other characters from the Sonic universe are a speedy lot and can even fly, but hey, it's the future and they need hoverboards now; roll with it. The original game was a multiplatform release for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, and likewise Zero Gravity is hitting the PS2 and Wii. We got our hands on work-in-progress versions of the game on both platforms to see what Sega is cooking up in the aftermath of the promising but uneven original.

After years of annoying appearances Amy finally gets smacked (okay not really).
After years of annoying appearances Amy finally gets smacked (okay not really).

If you missed the first game, Sonic Riders transplanted Sonic and company to a tech-heavy future and pitted them against Dr. Eggman, as well as a new set of avian foes dubbed the Babylon Rogues. The focus of the original game revolved around--surprise--retrieving chaos emeralds from the Rogues and Eggman. This time the action is a bit more mysterious, given that you find yourself teaming up with Eggman and the Rogues to discover what's up with meteorite fragments and robots rampaging in the city. As luck would have it, your investigation of the aforementioned mysteries involves much competitive hoverboard racing, as these kinds of investigations apparently do.

The game features a broad selection of modes, some of which are unlocked the more you play. The core of the single-player game is the story mode. When you first start the game, your only option is to play with Team Sonic through the heroes' storyline (no, not the acclaimed NBC sci-fi show). Once you work through it, you'll unlock the Rogues' storyline, which is called Babylon. Each story takes you through a series of races in which you'll need to place first to progress. Although you'll go through the same generally themed locales, there are some radically different tracks on each side that offer some variety. In addition to the story mode, you'll also have a normal race option that lets you choose free race, time attack, or world grand-prix races that support different configurations of players that run the gamut from two to four. The survival mode offers three race types--relay, ball, and battle--for one to four players. A world rankings option lets you see your standing against players around the world via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and also lets you download ghost data. (The PS2 game is obviously lacking the online support found in the Wii version.) An in-game shop offers a walk on the wild side to visit a Chao-run black market that lets you spend rings you earn during races on performance-enhancing gear for your assorted racers. (The game now features a roster of more than a dozen unlockable racers.) Finally, you'll find a comprehensive tutorial mode to familiarize yourself with the game.

You can upgrade your hoverboard over the course of race.
You can upgrade your hoverboard over the course of race.

The racing mechanics in Zero Gravity have been tweaked some since the original game, although they still hinge on gravity and air manipulation. The game's core mechanics still focus on you guiding a racer on a hoverboard through insanely designed courses. However, the new wrinkle to the action is the additional abilities made possible by the meteorite. You'll be able to perform special tricks at key points on the track, all of which help fill the GP meter you'll need to trigger special abilities. You'll also want to collect rings in order to power up your hoverboard's speed and abilities. The upgrades are permanent for the race you use them in and let you increase your speed, configure your board (to morph it into a vehicle), and refill your GP meter. Your big guns in a race will be the different gravity powers you'll be able to use to perform tight turns, earn massive speed boosts, and race along walls to discover shortcuts.

We found the controls for our riders to be decent enough if we stuck to the conventional options offered by the game. The PS2 game handled fine, with an intuitive button layout that made zipping around easy. The Wii was a bit more of a challenge because two of its control-scheme options revolve around using the remote. The first option has you hold the remote sideways, and you tilt and twist it to steer your racer and activate some of his or her abilities. The second option has you hold the remote normally, pointed directly at the screen, and lets you steer by twisting the remote left or right. Although both options are commendable for making use of the remote, they didn't quite offer the precision we were looking for as we tried to smoke the competition. Thankfully, the game's third control option lets you use a GameCube controller, which helped us considerably.

The game's presentation is shaping up well, with a good mix of sights and sounds that create the unique world you're racing in. The visuals in the game are solid on both platforms, with the Wii benefitting from more polish than the PS2 game. Sonic and company look good and sport a simplified, refined look as compared to their typical 3D platforming appearances. The Rogues are equally well done, although neither group of racers will blow you away. The tracks fare quite a bit better thanks to a fanciful design and a good amount of variety. There are some issues with the game's camera that make things annoying but don't really break anything crucial. The game runs fine on both platforms, but as you'd expect, the Wii game looks better. Finally, the game's audio provides a solid accompaniment to the visuals and serves up peppy voice acting and breezy, fast-paced tunes.

The various tracks in the game offer a good mix of environments.
The various tracks in the game offer a good mix of environments.

Based on what we played, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is shaping up to be a solid follow-up to the original game. There are some gameplay refinements that improve the experience over the original but, overall, Zero Gravity doesn't appear to be reinventing last year's wheel. If you liked the original game, you should be good with what Zero Gravity is bringing to the party. Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is slated to ship early next year for the PS2 and Wii.

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MegaSonicZX

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I'll probably use the Gamecube controller too. Either that or the Wiimote.

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Link_Destined_1

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Looks interesting enough, though I'd probably use a GameCube controller anyway. It's probably going to be somewhat better than the last one. Still, I'm going to be cautious and rent this one, if I decide to try it at all.

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MattJCorcoran

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This looks awesome. The gameplay movies make it look really exciting. The freezing, Matrix-like moves on the tight turns really seem to add an incredible sense of speed and exhilaration. I'm weird though. I get excited easily. :D

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XeroComplex

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looks better than its predecesor. I really hope this adds a much needed good game to the Wii's library.

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Zsaber24

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looks cool

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GSmashX_202

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Played Sonic Riders for GC it was good. Hope its better on Wii

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thesand212

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this series could have been good but ot's not and that's bad

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Larfe

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This game had better be good; because the first one SUCKED.

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IXIWhistIXI

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Pigman asks an excellent question.

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fon1988

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Looks like it might do a little better than the first one but that's not saying much. The original was boring, bland and offered nothing that hasn't been done better by other companies. Okay, Sonic and friends run fast, thats just what they do. So when you think of a Sonic racing game, it seems like it would be pretty easy to pull off right? Well it would be if we weren't dealing with Sonic Team, the laughing stock of the gaming industry.

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pigman239

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why the hell would they actually bother to make this game?

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Teddy2thaBear

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Okay i may get this..... i didn't want the first one

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BontraXenderKyl

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Too much Sonic games was out and because of that nobody wants to play that game...

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Captainintendo

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not impressed. Sega is making too many sonic games that aren't any good. Its sad to see.

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living_dead17

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Any chance of it heading to PC again?

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guertt

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the control is gonna be booring. again

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umcommon

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Why don't they use the nunchuck for steering and the Wii-mote as a trick stick? That makes more sense than using the Wii-mote for both steering and tricks. Sega devs are STUPID!

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kbaily

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I like what they want to do with the Wii controls but at least you can switch to a regular controller if needed and the game's visuals are actually nice.

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metaled2912

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is it really a hoveboard or a hoverbike? is got handles and all... i'll call it the submarine.

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godofwar0666

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sweeeeeeet!!

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link631

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omg that is so cool!!!!!!!!!!!! ....

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rhys_101

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I wonder how the online will play out, i would probably check it out if it has a decent online gameplay mode

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jtthegame316

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should be cool on the wii with the unique control system.

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xdude85

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The first was ok, hopefully this one will be better.

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Zero_Knight_X

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[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

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tuznecote

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I totally agree with the last comment. Mario gets it right keeping elements of nostalgia with game tunes, game elements and a constant style. I dont even think sonic team know what world sonic is based on.

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noudontidort

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IRC Sonic Riders was awful. I'm not expecting this to be any different.

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Yoshicon8

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I liked the first one so i might get it

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SteveXLR

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I might get this game, but it just isn't in the spirit of sonic. When i say that i mean, the origional wasn't racing it was running around getting coins.

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SonicFan019

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cool i hope i get this game! :)

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MuscleCarMan

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i wish the sonic team would take all this time and energy into making a true sonic game. Since i think the last great sonic game was sonic and knuckles for the genesis.

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RiVeX

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Agreed, might be worth a rental, to see if its any diff than any of the other sonic games

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mdharken

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The day they get their graphics fix (with loading time better) I will begin some what thinking about buying. Sorry but the first one of Sonic Riders just was really meh.

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Sikzak

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meh

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BrunoBRS

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worth a rental, in my opinion

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Super-Mario-Fan

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At least the preview was positive...

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JiminycricketX

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@kavadias1981 I believe they call them 'Sonic Rush' and 'Sonic Rush: Adventure'. You know, for the DS.

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deactivated-57fce817a4cf5

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I just want a new 2D Sonic that recreates the feel of the very first 3. Is that so much to ask Sega? For the love of God, make it! Aaaaah!

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nelfer320

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Looks just like the last one but oh well. Its a Sonic game so I have to get. I hope the gameplay is better at least.

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Grandhand

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Definitely gonna get this, the first game was the funnest racing game ive ever played.

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arubasupersmash

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Well, I might want it.

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kungphooey

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meh. looks ok....

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Pumpkin-Head

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i MIGHT get it : O

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Dark_sageX

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I just hope you can choose some of the old extreme gears.

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KingStoph

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Once again, producers get lazy with the Online... Thanks again, chumps ¬_¬

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star77241

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Why is there no online play? Ghost data is crap unless you don't want anyone knowing if you lost to them or not.

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St_muscat

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If it gets a 7.5 or above I might pick it, oh wait Mario Kart to bad Sonic, still it would make a good bargain bin game so I'll pick then, of course unless it's just a terrible game, but the first was alright so might get it later.

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wiifan001

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"The 3rd option was the GC controller, which helped us considerably."~ ~That indicates the Wiimote and Nuchuk's controls are busted. Better than the original? Maybe but overall will still won't be a very good game.

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Camble

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Previews always make crappy games seem like they might be good, but then the review comes out with a score of 6.0 or something.

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Karjah

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MegaSonicZX "This will be better than the original." If only that was a hard thing to do. As it stands all they need to do to raise the bar is escape being a mediocre game and have a few fun moments. :( Sad too Sega used to be awesome at making fast paced action games. I was really hoping that they would be able to bust into the racing circut. Sadly it seems they can't even pull that off when using their key mascot in the very genre. Sega should really just start some new francises it's time to retire sonic.

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