Genre: Racing Developer: Taito Publisher: Taito Players: 1 Released: 1992
Like most successful games Sega’s arcade classic OutRun spawned a lot of imitators. One of the most unique and popular games in this crowd was Taito’s 1988 hit, Chase H.Q. However, unlike OutRun, where the goal is simply to drive from start to finish before your time runs out, Chase H.Q. has its own gimmick which involves chasing down a fleeing criminal and bashing his car until it goes up in flames and he’s forced to pull over and surrender to the law. Other than being a slick driving game, it was known for its excellent presentation with copious use of crystal-clear digitized voices. Along with slightly animated cut scenes when you catch the bad guy that show you and your partner busting the creep, the game felt like you were playing a cheesy 1980’s buddy-cop TV show.
Chase H.Q. was ported to just about every available console, along with its sequel, Special Criminal Investigation. Finally in 1992, the Genesis would get an entry in the franchise, though it’s a bit of an odd case. The Genesis Chase H.Q. II is not a direct port of the arcade original or its sequel, nor is it the true Chase H.Q. 2, which was a full 3D arcade title released in 2007. To make matters even more complicated the game is called Super H.Q. in Japan, even though it has nothing to do with Super Chase H.Q. on the Super Nintendo, which is based on the third game in the series, Super Chase: Criminal Termination.
Confusing titles aside, Chase H.Q. II on the Genesis is not a port but a separate game that shares its mechanics with the first game in the series, with some minor differences. Instead of being limited to the black Porsche 928 of the original you have a choice of three vehicles, each with their own statistics: a red Ferrari F40, a 4×4 that looks like a Chevy Blazer, and a Mack truck. The Ferrari is the fastest but causes the least damage when you ram enemy cars, the 4×4 is the most well-balanced vehicle, and the Mack truck is the slowest but obviously causes the most damage.
Like the arcade game there are five levels each with a different criminal wanted for crimes such as murder or dealing drugs. Each level consists of two stages, the first of which requires you to dodge traffic and reach the criminal within a set time limit and the second requires you to crash into their vehicle until it’s incapacitated. Unlike the arcade game you won’t just be chasing down sports cars as later enemies include a van with a guy holding a rocket launcher in the back, a monster truck and a tractor trailer. The enemy statistics help you decide which vehicle you should choose though you’ll usually find yourself requiring the speed of the Ferrari. Some levels have snow covered roads that are easier to handle with the 4×4 but it’s still occasionally difficult to catch up to the criminal in time without using one of the three turbos you’re allowed. It’s important to hold onto these turbos for as long as you can since they make crashing your opponents much faster and easier.
Unfortunately, when compared to the arcade game and even other driving games on the Genesis, Chase H.Q. II comes off as decent at best. Most of this can be blamed on the driving which feels awkward and takes some getting used to. The game uses the same scaling tricks and alternating colors on the road as most racers of the time, but it doesn’t do it very well. Your speedometer may say you’re traveling over two hundred miles-per-hour, but you won’t really feel like you’re going very fast. One of the most annoying parts of the game is where it allows you to fall off the road into water or a nondescript abyss which becomes very frustrating, especially during a heated chase because it leaves little room for error. You can also go over jumps at intersections or by hitting certain rocks. If you don’t hit them dead-on, your vehicle amusingly goes up on two wheels until you stop or bump something. Challenge is also added in the later levels by a helicopter which will try and bomb you Spy Hunter-style.
The graphics are also understandably a step down from the arcade version. They’re not awful, but there’s a few little things I wish they would have left in. In the arcade, when you catch up to the criminal your partner reaches out the passenger side window to put the police-light on top of the car. This animation is missing in Chase H.Q. II, and instead the police-light just magically appears. The arrest scenes with you and your partner now have no animation, and a few of them even re-use the same criminal artwork. The sprite scaling is also slightly choppy which is partly what hurts the driving experience. Still, the scenery and vehicles are colorful and nicely detailed, and the game throws a variety of different environments at you. Overall, the main complaints about the graphics are a few nicks in the presentation.
The sound design is also a mix of good and bad. The music is decent but oftentimes drowned out by your vehicle’s engine noise and police siren. I’ve also encountered a glitch where the music sometimes refuses to play. There’s almost no digitized voices here, though they attempted to put in a few, and honestly it’s a blessing in disguise that they didn’t try to add more. Before a mission the police-girl Nancy who delivers your missions to you in all of the games in the franchise garbles out a distorted “this is Nancy at Chase headquarters.” It would have been really hard to put up with this if your partner was constantly delivering his signature quips from the arcade game while you were driving.
Chase H.Q. II is a sub-par copy of the arcade classic that feels like the watered down experience that it is, but it’s still better than many of the older console ports of the original. It’s a unique and fun arcade-style driving game despite its flaws. Unfortunately, once you do manage to get used to the driving the game becomes too short and easy. There’s nothing to bring you back except for attempting to beat it on hard mode or without using any continues. I still recommend this title to fans of 16-bit racers if you can find it cheap, especially if you’ve never had the luxury of playing a Chase H.Q. arcade cabinet. Its cops and robbers premise still carries it despite its weaknesses, and it’s an entry in the Chase H.Q. franchise exclusive to the Genesis.