Rubber Band Rivals
The original Sonic Rivals was a departure from the norm for recent Sonic titles as it was primarily a one-on-one racing game with other elements thrown in. The idea seemed perfect in theory, but it left much to be desired in terms of its execution. The game had too many flaws, the biggest being its inclusion of catch-up AI. I recently picked up the sequel upon hearing that it had improved over the original. How did things turn out?
Uh-oh. That title doesn't help this games cause, but that's not to say that it's a lost one. In fact, there are plenty of positives to go over. First off, the roster has been doubled as Tails, Rouge, Espio, and Metal Sonic all join the cast from the original. The story mode has also received a facelift as there are now 24 levels to race or fight through making that mode roughly 25% longer, and hey, they even included full voice acting this time around! All joking aside, the game does have plenty of depth to it beyond that. In your quest to unlock all 150 cards, you'll go through the main story, Cup Circuits, Chao hunts, and even multiplayer races. To be honest, I'm not even sure why the cards are in this game as they don't tie in to the story like the first game did, and they still serve no purpose outside of aesthetics, but it's at least some incentive to keep you playing.
Once you've chosen a mode and gotten into the actual levels themselves, it wont take long to notice that they've also had some improvements made to them. Gone are the barricades that you would have to stop and push when you had built up a lead, and enemies are put in just the right places that you'll have to keep your mind on the road ahead as much as where your rival is. There are plenty of paths to take as well, and more often than not, you'll find that the way to access them is by a quick-time event. The game will indicate whether pressing X or O is the correct path to take, and you'll only have a split second to make the right move or spend the next few trying to get back on track.
Items can once again be collected and serve different purposes depending on whether you're leading or trailing in a race. Leave an ice block behind and stop your rivals comeback cold or send an explosive present his way as you try to get back into things. The computer can use these against you as well, but there's nothing wrong with that. If I can do it, so can he. While things seem balanced, that all changes when you factor in one of my main gripes with this game, signature moves.
As you progress through races, you'll find plenty of rings scattered around which will build up your special meter. When it's full, you can unleash your characters signature move. Depending on who you're playing as, these moves can make or break many races for you. If you're a hedgehog, then you've got a pretty good chance of winning. Sonic's speed boost and Shadow's time slowing abilities allow them to quickly close or widen the gap on their opponents. Those are fun powers to use, but I cant say the same for characters like Tails and Espio. Flying around isn't going to win you many races when there are faster ways to get some air (although it does help in the Chao collecting mode) and turning invisible serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
We haven't even talked about the cheapest character's move as of yet, and his name would be Silver. His move will alter both the d-pad and face buttons temporarily. Thought you were going forward? Not anymore! By the time you figure out the remapped buttons, the effect wear off. It can and did cost me quite a few races where I wound up getting stuck, having to run back to the nearest boost pad just to get moving again. It's just not fun. On the positive side, at least the move works the same way on the computer which will allow you to win every time as Silver, some times by nearly half the track!
That's the main problem with Sonic Rivals 2 this time around. The balancing issues really needed to be fixed for the sequel, and they weren't. Couple that with the computer having some rubber-band issues to go along with it, and you wind up with another Sonic title that could have been good but wasn't fine tuned enough to keep itself on the right course. In the end, Sonic Rivals 2 has plenty of depth to make fans happy, but most will steer clear of the rather cheap aspects of this one.