Fellow blogger Chris Powell did not like my somewhat negative preview of Sonic Rivals from the DigitalLife show floor. He told me on AIM that I should "play it until I like it." Well, buddy-- I tried to follow your advice. I spoke with Yosuke Moriya, product manager for Sega, about the PSP-exclusive title and he talked a little bit about the game, revealed some of its features, and played multiplayer with me. Mr. Moriya reassured me that some of the complaints I had were being addressed before the game ships in November. For example, the framerate certainly hindered the sense of speed the game needs: when debug mode was turned on, I saw that the framerate dropped frequently to 15-20fps.
Music will obviously be added, but unfortunately, it appears that voice acting will not (the game currently features very short quips: Sonic says only "yeah" over and over again). The single player portion of the game will be meatier than I originally thought, as I was shown a few of the later levels and a very cool secret unlockable character (which we can't reveal, sorry!). You'll be able to collect rings and cards, which will be redeemed for new customization items for the characters: for example, you can get new shoes for Sonic, or a new outfit for Knuckles, etc. Sonic + Barbie = fun, right?
The game was obviously designed with multiplayer in mind, and it became a much more fun, and lively game when playing against a human opponent. I got to trash talk Yosuke as I sped away, racing towards the finish line. The moments where we able to use special powers against each other were the most lively, and the game has to create as many opportuities for interaction as possible. You can bet cards at the beginning of each race, so I could've stolen Yosuke's shoes. I didn't, though... because I'm just that nice. I have to admit I had a blast, but unfortunately, the game will only support ad-hoc multiplayer with two UMDs. Without Infrastructure play, it might be difficult to find another human opponent to play against. And that's a shame, really, because the game does become a much more lively game with it.