Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing arrived in the Summer of 2010, and surprised nearly everyone by being a commendable addition to the genre that Mario Kart created. Solid sales all but ensured that a sequel would come down the line sooner or later, and we are now safely on the “sooner” side of that equation. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is the name of the game, and it’s set to leave its mark on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, 3DS and Vita near the end of the year.

To get fans primed for the Blue Blur’s return to the race track, SEGA has put together a flashy trailer for the new game and issued a batch of bracingly colorful screenshots.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is in the hands of the team at Sumo Digital, the same developers responsible for Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. This time around, though, there is a new Chief Designer — one Gareth Wilson, who previously worked for the sadly defunct Bizarre Creations, where he was (among other things) Lead Designer on the lamentably overlooked, kart racer-inspired Blur.

In an apparent nod to the massive international success of Mario Kart 7 (global sales stand at about 5.5 million units), Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed ditches the “land only” premise of the previous game in favor of races that take place on the track, on the water, and in the air. As such, the game’s many characters — Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr Eggman, AiAi, Amy Rose, Knuckles, Tails, Beat from Jet Set Radio, Vyse from Skies of Arcadia and Gilius Thunderhead of Golden Axe have been confirmed so far — make use of karts that transform into both boats and planes.

Environments are once again based on stages from classic SEGA games, and while Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball-inspired tracks again make the cut, there will be some new additions for Transformed. Dragon Canyon, for instance, pays tribute to Panzer Dragoon. Tracks are dynamic and will change over the course of a race, challenging players to keep up as the terrain switches from land to air to water.

Take a look at the Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed announcement trailer below.

If there was one knock against Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, it’s that the framerate could have been higher. There is no conformation that it will be better for the sequel, but the footage above certainly looks promising. A second, equally important criticism of the first game is that its signature move, the All-Star attack, was grossly overpowered. All-Star moves return in Transformed, but this time SEGA is touting a new “fair weapon system” — any attack can apparently be blocked so long as players “have gained the skills to do so,” according to the SEGA Blog.

Sharp-eyed readers (and Nintendo fans) may have been quick to notice that Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed isn’t currently slated for either the Wii or the upcoming Wii U. The first game did show up on Wii, where it enticed a legion of Mario Kart-trained combatants — so what happened with the sequel? Based on the screenshots below, it’s clear that Transformed’s graphics would have to be significantly scaled back to run on Wii. As for a Wii U version, SEGA’s close ties with Nintendo, and the game’s late 2012 release date, suggest that it may be more a matter of when SEGA chooses to announce the title rather than whether to develop it. Time will tell, but personally, I’m expecting an announcement at E3 2012.

It’s going to be a big year for kart-racers. In addition to Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Sony has the PS3-exclusive LittleBigPlanet Karting on the way and, Nintendo being Nintendo, there has got to be a version of Mario Kart already in development for Wii U — I doubt it’ll be out anywhere near launch, but we may see a bit of it during Wii U’s big E3 reveal. If it comes down to a choice between LittleBigPlanet Karting’s playing, creating and sharing, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed’s unabashed fan service — I did mention that there’s a Panzer Dragoon level, right? — which will you pick?

Bonus question: what other SEGA games and characters do you want to see in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed? Let us know in the comments below.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is due in late 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360, PC, 3DS and Vita.

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Source: SEGA Blog