One remarkable aspect of the DS version is how faithful it is to the home console version. All the characters, cups and unlockables are present, meaning you can take Shenmue's Ryo Hazuki on the road, and with the Sega Miles rewards system in place there’s plenty to keep you returning.
Graphically the game naturally suffers compared to the Wii version but the clever course design limits the amount of pop-up and the framerate, although not quite as consistently smooth as Mario Kart, keeps the game moving at a high pace. The character models are decently detailed and the stages are bright and well-textured, and the DS version benefits from an onscreen map that the Wii version could have used in certain parts. The music is also of a good quality, with even Sonic R’s infamous vocal tracks sounding good pumped through the DS’s speakers.
The DS cart boasts 24 courses, the same number as the Wii version, and although many are near-identical there are significant differences in some layouts that make them feel fresh even for those who’ve mastered all cups in the other version. That said, they’re all based on the same games and stages as the Wii edition, so there’s still no sign of OutRun, Daytona USA or other classic SEGA titles: if it’s not in the Wii version, it’s not here.
But, as we said, there’s plenty in the Wii version available here too. Online play is smooth and speedy for the most part, although the matchmaking side of things is a little slow, as in the Wii version. Matches themselves seem to suffer from very little lag, there’s a distinct lack of snaking (at the time of writing, at least) and, most importantly, the weapons seem to be much more well-balanced, meaning you should avoid those frustrating finish line Blue Shell incidents.
Those of you who prefer solo play will no doubt enjoy the Mission mode that offers sixty different challenges that are completely different to those on Wii, with a different scoring mechanic that relies on stars instead of AAA rankings. They’re still as fiendishly difficult as those on Wii though, so only truly expert racers will make it to the top of the pile with ten-star ratings in the bag. It adds a huge amount of longevity and is perfect for learning advanced skills in a manner reminiscent of the classic Crazy Taxi’s Crazy Box mode.
Although lacking the analogue control of its Wii brethren, the DS version handles fantastically, with a pleasing feel to the drift that proves Sumo’s undoubted mastery of the racing genre. In fact, there’s something about the game’s handling that almost feels better on DS, perhaps the accuracy of the controls or the use of triggers to drift, but there’s never any doubt that this game belongs on the DS and truly excels in the handheld format.
As with the Wii version, Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing may not do anything especially new in the character racing genre but it handles well, looks good and offers stacks of reasons to return. Whether multi- or single-player there’s plenty to recommend All-Stars Racing to handheld racing fans, and it even perhaps narrowly eclipses the already-excellent Wii version.