So Super Mario Kart became a success and Sega of course wanted some of that kart racing cash too so they made their own Sonic Kart Racing game…for the Game Gear. So in order to make a racing game to rival Super Mario Kart, you made it 8-bit. So while Sega tries to figure out how to innovate, Sonic Drift (ソニックドリフト Sonikku Dorifuto), developed and published by Sega and was released in 1994, but it was only released in Japan only.
There are 3 sets of cups, Green, Yellow and Red, each of them having 6 courses based on the levels from Sonic 1 including Green Hill, Marble, Spring Yard, Labyrinth, Star Light, and Scrap Brain. There are 4 characters for you to play, Sonic, Tails, Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman because this is Japan) and Amy Rose in her first playable appearance.
Now for the gameplay…it’s awful though that depends on the character you pick. Sonic has top keck speed but handles very poorly, 9 times out of 10 you will slide off the track when trying to turn and you will always crash into obstacles, he’s unplayable and you will lose all the time with him. Tails is the all-rounder…can still slide off…you know what, ALL the characters control the same, there are some small differences but the gameplay really is backwards for something that was trying to compete with Super Mario Kart, heck, even F1 for the Famicom is a much better game.
The graphics are pretty good for the Game Gear but very basic though it is faithful to the original Sonic game. The music is the game old hat you’d get from a Game Gear, very twinkly and very forgettable. The gameplay isn’t that great like I said before.
Overall, Sonic Drift, especially for Sega’s first Sonic racing game is definitely a poor start, it’s like how Mario managed to be transferred to the 3D world flawlessly but Sonic couldn’t, so Mario also managed to transfer into the racing genre and Sonic once again couldn’t, I know they were trying to be different in terms of platforming, but everywhere else, Sonic tried to walk the shadow of Mario but over ambition of the character lead to disaster, even before.
You can get it on the Sega Game Gear, but you can also play it on the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC via Sonic Mega Collection Plus and on the Nintendo GameCube via Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut.