Sonic built his empire on speed. No one really cares about collecting Chaos Emeralds, or rings, or cards for that matter. Ok, so I may be stepping on the toes of hardcore Sonic fans, but as a long-ago fan of his myriad of early games, I’ve seen the series drift off-course for reasons I can’t really discern. There’s no thrill in taking players away from the feeling of screaming through loops, over hills, ricocheting off unsuspecting enemies, and continuing on to clear a course as quickly as possible. So why do it?
Sonic Rivals 2 on the PSP suffers from the fear factor I see far too often in new games from legacy franchises: that a game can’t be simple and still be good. So it gets padded with all kinds of extras to extend the playtime and provide a more "complete" experience. There are various singleplayer modes, and if you have a friend with a PSP, multiplayer via local Ad Hoc with the added bonus of game sharing. Story is the place to start, because once completed you can unlock content for the other modes: Single Event, Cup Circuit, and Free Play.
Sonic is such a ubiquitous series, and Rivals 2 falls right in the middle as a decent game with too many distractions and too few racing levels.
After choosing your favorite characters in the Sonic universe, such as Sonic and Tails or Shadow and Metal Sonic, it’s off to battle. The races—well-designed, one-on-one showdowns that offer multiple paths, clean graphics and plenty of speed—are cause for celebration. While some are simply good, others are downright inventive. Perfecting your path is fun and will satisfy those who feel that the other portions of the game fall short, which they ultimately do.
Besides holding right (and sometimes briefly left), there are opportunities to boost either in the air or straight ahead by hitting X or O at the right time. Powerups and Signature Moves are thrown in to provide the edge when necessary. By collecting rings and attacking rivals to fill your meter, you can unleash innate abilities such as Sonic’s Sonic Boom, temporary invulnerability, and speed increase, or Shadow’s Chaos Control, temporarily slowing down a rival.
The powerups are most handy in the many, and mostly obnoxious, battle modes. Sometimes you will have to play tag with bombs, or simply knockout a rival using powerups and attacks, or play capture the Chao. In any and all instances, these levels aren’t nearly as fun as ripping through the regular races. Boss battles can also be frustrating too, in that you not only have to beat a boss, but do it faster than your rival. I understand that there is added pressure for games today. They can’t just offer one option, such as racing, but the problem is that you can’t very well ignore these additions if you feel like it. And the payoff of collectible cards does little to entice anyone to play it through again and again. You’ve got to take the whole package, and this is the main problem with Sonic Rivals 2.
Sonic is such a ubiquitous series, and Rivals 2 falls right in the middle as a decent game with too many distractions and too few racing levels. The addition of multiplayer is a definite plus, since it’s hard to find people who haven’t played and enjoyed a Sonic game. The overall presentation is solid. Graphics are clean, and levels really do feel fast. Ignore the music because it’s bland, push past all the unnecessary battles, and you may be transported back to the days when Sonic was unhampered by the need for pointless extras. Definitely not the worst choice for your PSP, but it’s sad to see the stalwart Sonic standing on such unsteady feet these days.