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In a recent interview conducted by Nintendo Gamer with Gareth Wilson, the Lead Designer for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Gareth revealed how the Wii U version of this game will be different than its releases on other consoles. He revealed how the Wii U’s Gamepad will be used in some pretty innovative ways that may be the precursor to some pretty major changes in the racing genre. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, like its predecessor Sonic & All-Stars Racing, is a mascot cart racing game in the same vein as Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing, soon to be released in North America across all platforms, but specifically as a launch game for the Wii U on November 18th. It will boast a veritable bevy of Sega characters, around 29 in total, hailing from the well known Sega franchises such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball, to some old classics like Golden Axe and NiGHTS Into Dreams showing a lot of care and attention to detail to a long history of great Sega games.
As far as extra content, the Wii U gamers will receive the same bonus content for purchasing the limited edition of the game, which is an extra track, Outrun Bay, as well as an additional racer in Metal Sonic from Sonic CD. Exclusive to the Wii U will be two extra multiplayer modes each based around two Sega characters, Joe Musashi from Shinobi and Ai Ai from Super Monkey Ball, and will utilize the Wii U’s ability to provide asymmetric gameplay via the gamepad having a separate screen than the television screen. The Shinobi multiplayer mode is similar to a “Murder in the Mansion” or “Infection” style game, where the player using the gamepad will control Joe Musashi and will be rendered “invisible” to the players playing on the television. The goal for the player on the gamepad is to hunt down the other players and change them into another Musashi, who then in turn will join you on the hunt for the remaining players. The player on the gamepad can then tap on the remaining players icons on the map (he is the only player with a full map), and a large red arrow will appear above that player, allowing for a much easier hunt. In the Super Monkey Ball mode, one player with the gamepad simply controls a gigantic monkey ball seeking to destroy the other racers by rolling over them.
The Wii U players will also have some extra bells and whistles as far as in the gameplay department, as the gamepad can be used in the main game in some pretty creative and innovative ways. For one, and in a pretty common idea with many of the third-party Wii games, the gamepad will provide an interactive map of the courses during the race on the touch screen. During the race, players will be able to click on some of their opponent’s icons on the map and be able to have a picture-in-picture camera of where their oppenents are and what they are up to in that moment. As well, the gamepad can be used as a rear-view mirror when it is held up to the screen, and will provide a “weapon cam” when a homing missile or weapon is fired off at another racer. Gareth’s personal favorite feature is what he refers to as the “swipey-wipey” or the ability to, by swiping the touchscreen, send the game from the television screen down to soley the touch-screen on the Gamepad, or vice-versa. In other words, say you are playing the game on the television screen and someone else needs to use the tv, you can simply swipe the screen, send the game down to the Gamepad, and continue the game without even having to press pause.
Gareth says that many of these new features, aside from the practical ones such as five player multiplayer (one on the Gamepad and four on the television screen), will be quite experimental when the Wii U launches, as utilizing something like the Gamepad has never really been done in the racing genre before. Since the Wii U version of this game is merely a port of the game instead of a game built around the Wii U, Gareth admits that the limited time (this game was in development for quite some time before the Wii U was even announced) only allowed them to “add features that complement the game as best they can.” Gareth even admitted the possibilty that adding Gamepad features to a racing game might be a bit of a waste as “it’s a racing game and it’s fast, so you aren’t going to be spending a lot of time looking at the Gamepad screen,” but he seemed optimistic as to where these innovations will allow racing games to go on the Wii U in the future.
Indeed with many of the launch games for the Wii U being third party games, some new releases and even some older games like Batman: Arkham City getting a re-release, all trying to incorporate new mechanics and features with the gamepad, much of what will work or will be overlooked remains to be seen. It seems this new hardware is going to be a great experiment in gaming tech and hopefully the gaming community will be responsive. In the end, though, the Wii U version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is definitely a labor of love from the ardent Sega fans at Sumo Digital. It should provide plenty of fan service, some solid, well oiled racing action, and plenty of extra bells and whistles when the game is released next month on November 18th.