Why I Love Sonic R

Posted September 29, 2021

It’s no secret that Sonic games are often maligned and treated as punching bags by the wider gaming audience. And one of the most disliked games in the whole franchise seems to be Sonic R. The music is probably the first thing people think of, but the controls are often criticized as well. Plus, the fact that it remains the only true 3D Sonic game on the Sega Saturn seems to drag it down even further for some people. But the thing is: I unironically love this game.

Why?

Because it brings me joy.

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Just looking at this makes me happy. And yeah, this is the modded PC version.

Alright, I’ll go into a bit more detail.

First of all—and I can’t deny this—the game is a huge nostalgia party for me. I got the game when it came out, and…dude, it was a 3D Sonic game. No, it wasn’t a platformer like we all wanted, but it was a 3D Sonic game! I had already played Christmas Nights and Sonic Jam, but this was the first full 3D Sonic experience that I got to enjoy. And the fact that it wasn’t a platformer is not actually that much of an issue. Because, in a way, modern Sonic games following the boost formula are closer to actual racing games than Sonic R is.

That is because the levels in Sonic R are huge, open, and invite exploration. Scattered throughout you’ll find rings, locked doors, Sonic coins and Chaos Emeralds, all of which you’ll want to collect to unlock the secret characters. The races in Sonic R aren’t just about getting to the end as fast as possible…unlike, say, Sonic Forces. See what I mean?

The racing aspect actually kind of takes a back seat in Sonic R, when you think about it. In fact, there’s so little interaction between you and the other racers that you could just replace them with a time limit. In that sense it’s almost more like a Tony Hawk game. In order to find all the collectibles, you’ll have to explore the levels first, and they can be pretty sprawling. And once you know where everything is, it’s time to plan your routes so you can grab it all in one race. The level design actually supports this really well, because there are so many paths and shortcuts. You can spend extra time in lap 1 to grab some collectibles that are out of the way, then make up for lost time in lap 2 by taking two shortcuts. It’s incredibly well-balanced and gives the game more staying power as a single-player experience.

Almost like a platformer. *cough*

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Look at this design. It’s BADASS. …wait, what’s going on with the eyes?

And the reward for collecting all the stuff? Robotic versions of the characters. YES PLEASE. The Tails doll has become a meme, but only because its design is so unique. Metal Knuckles is just plain cool, and I wish they had reused his design somewhere else. And all the characters have their own quirks and skills too. As a kid I loved gliding through the stages with Metal Knuckles, trying to touch the ground as little as possible. Metal Sonic can fly across water, Tails Doll can hover at whatever height you want…it’s a great cast of characters. Also there’s Amy. She kinda sucks in this game. But her car is cute!

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Amy’s car can float over water, and it even transforms! Still, don’t pick her.

And I love the music in this game.

Yes, it’s cheesier than a Quattro Formaggi pizza with extra cheese and cheesy crust, but that’s a good thing. It’s fun, it’s lighthearted. We’re talking about blue hedgehogs and dreadlocked echidnas fighting robots here. No need to take it all so seriously. Don’t be too proud to sing along to Can You Feel the Sunshine, because you’d be missing out. And Super Sonic Racing? That gets the adrenaline pumping. It’s great stuff and always manages to put a smile on my face.

Also, I’m pretty sure it was the first time I had heard vocals in in-game music. The future has arrived!

To this day, I love the soundtrack, and I’m always happy when it’s referenced somewhere. The symphonic version of Can You Feel the Sunshine they played during the incredible Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony hit me right in the feels, and the version of Super Sonic Racing featured in Team Sonic Racing really makes me put the pedal to the metal. It’s a fun soundtrack that I can enjoy from beginning to end. Its infectious cheesiness just makes me forget about the world and makes me feel like a kid again.

Speaking of which, there’s this one section in Radical City where you come up to a wall. I still vividly remember thinking “oh shit” when I was first careening towards it. But when you touch it, it launches you straight into the air. That feeling of going from “oh shit” to “whoa, shit!” has stuck with me all these years. I’ll never forget it.

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Oh shi-

Anyway, I could go on and on, I just love this game. If you haven’t played it yet, try it. Don’t let yourself be burdened by the memes and jokes. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, but there’s no harm in trying. The gaming scene is too bogged down by negativity, and that’s especially true for Sonic fans. It seems like every little detail of every single game receives a Youtube video picking it apart, explaining why it’s bad, resulting in the usual “Was <game> ever actually good?” bullshit. It almost feels like people are afraid to like any Sonic game besides the Mega Drive ones, Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania. I say: Screw that. Be proud. Love your Sonic games, whatever they are. I love Sonic R. It gets criticized, ridiculed, hated and nitpicked all the time, but I don’t care. The game is fun, I enjoy it, and it makes me happy. I could go down the cynicism hole and dig around for things to criticize. But honestly, I’d rather feel the sunshine.

What are your experiences with the game? Have you played it? Do you like it? Do you think I’m full of crap?

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