Sega’s Kart Racers Have Taken the High Road Less Traveled

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December 7, 2012 by zerotenshi

Sega All-Star Racing_1Kart racers have a lot to offer: something many gamers have forgotten through years of hardship. Mixing bright, colorful characters with unusual racing environments — and cartoonish combat — the genre can be one of the best. The problem most kart racers face is they become a developer’s platform for cheap cash-ins. Very few companies put real effort into their game anymore, resulting in a stigma that drove much of the genre away. The end result was Nintendo’s monopoly: Mario Kart. However, Mario Kart is a Nintendo product exclusive. What about all the people that want a good kart racer and don’t own a Nintendo system?

Chocobo RacingThere have been several attempts at breaking into the genre, but many have tried and failed. Squaresoft sold out its cuddliest members of the Final Fantasy crew in PS1’s Chocobo Racers. It would be picked up by diehard Final Fantasy fans (offered later on PSN), but that’s about it.

Crash Team RacingCrash Team Racing (CTR) slid onto the scene with Bandicoot bravado. Featuring the Crash cast and solid gameplay mechanics, it had a solid shot at giving Sony a handle on the Kart market. Unfortunately, the CTR legacy would quickly be tarnished by the cash-in Nitro Kart titles. A bright light would once again be smothered out of an amazing Kart racer.

Twisted Metal Small BrawlThen there was Twisted Metal Small Brawl, which would have been better released into a furnace than onto the PlayStation.The Twisted Metal series brought gamers boatloads of awesome and even inspired other cool vehicle fighting games like Vigilante 8 and Road Trip. Instead of building their franchise, they opted to cop out (or crap out) on this family friendly Kart breaker.

Countless others came and went, and if it was rated E for everyone, it would be purchased.

Sega All-Star RacingThen SEGA and Sumo Digital came in with the original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, a shockingly solid alternative to Mario Kart available on practically every system out there. It wasn’t flawless, but it came quite close to competing with later versions pf Mario Kart. Nearly everyone who gave the game a chance loved it, and it became a contender to help revive the Kart racing niche. Thinking back to CTR, many fans of SEGA All-Stars were fearful for the future of the developing series.

Would SEGA bomb on its second installment by rehashing the same game? They really could have gotten away with it, too. Add only a few more SEGA characters, courses, and beef up the soundtrack: it was a few trivial tweaks away from a Kart racing sellout. Instead, SEGA took the Kart racing high road. They got creative and brought us Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.

Our hopes are that other third party Kart racers look at SEGA’s approach if they decide to tackle the genre. SEGA had decades of material to choose from, and that amount of style, pizzazz and variety aren’t at everyone’s disposal. It would still be great to see future titles take SEGA’s smarter approach at creating a Kart racer. The genre is not going to be redefined overnight, but at least it can be approached with poise, dignity, and self-respect. SEGA is definitely ready to usher in a new age of quality Kart racers.

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