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Super Off Road (Game Gear)

Genre: Racing Developer: GraftGold Creative Software Publisher: Virgin Games Players: 1-2 Released: 1993

Super Off Road was a really popular game among my school friends when I was growing up. I can remember it almost having this legendary status among us, and I wanted to have the NES cartridge so badly. I remember finding a kid who was a few years older than me in my neighborhood that was selling off his collection of NES games (you all know what I’m talking about: the “I’m a big boy and need a newer ‘grown up’ game system” syndrome). He had that game and I had to have it. I came up with the fifteen bucks he wanted for it at the time, but he had misplaced the cartridge and told me to borrow Zelda II until he found Super Off Road again. I never got the Super Off-Road game from him and really grew to like Zelda II, even calling it my favorite game for the NES. Ok, Ok, back to the review already!

In hindsight, I really got the better deal with the Zelda II game and was far better off, as when I finally got around to playing Super Off Road I realized just how repetitive the game became for me. That’s not to say that there isn’t any fun to be had here because it’s still enjoyable, but now I can only play it occasionally and for a short time before I’m ready for something else.

I know you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about the NES so much, but it’s because almost all ports of the game are pretty much the same thing as the next. Sadly, the NES version is the best port of the game, being the only version to support four players. I was recently able to play the Game Gear version for the first time, and I hoped it would be enough to keep me interested for more than a few minutes. Unfortunately, it didn’t either.

GraftGold did the best it could with what it had to work with, and the port is very well-done for what it is, but if the original source material isn’t that good to begin with then how good can this game really be? Surprisingly, this version supports the Game Gear link cable for two players, which would be really fun to try out. You have to have it linked up before you can even access the option though, so I really can’t comment on the multiplayer much.

Upon starting the game up, I thought the audio had gone bad in my Game Gear because there are no sounds or music until you get to the screen where you enter your initials. There is also no music until you get to the screen just before the first race. Thankfully, the original music from the arcade is represented really well here and still catchy to listen to. The sound effects are also really nice, which is another plus. Also, I really love the graphics in this game. I use my Game Gear Magnifier and the visuals appear brighter and larger with it and really have a lot of detail. All of the hills, bumps, ruts, and even the water all look great and are definitely eye candy.

Unfortunately, repetitiveness is the name of the game here as things grow tedious after only a few races. There are a total of sixteen race tracks but 99 races before the game ends, so you will repeat the same tracks over and over and over again. Many times a track will repeat after only a few races, just having you race it backwards the second time.

Super Off Road’s biggest problem is that the CPU opponents are very cheap and unforgiving, and they always seem to have an infinite supply of nitros. Even when you’re winning first place, you never seem to have enough cash to keep the supply high enough. It’s also very easy to spin out and get stuck on a wall, making it very hard to turn around. Once this happens, you are almost guaranteed to lose a race. You also only have one extra credit, so you can only lose two races before its game over. Worse, you can only qualify in first or second place, and it all makes this game very brutal and probably the hardest version on any console.

I wish I could like this game more. I can’t get enough of the beautiful visuals, but the unforgiving and repetitive gameplay just can’t keep my attention for more than about ten minutes at a time for this or any other version. Like I stated earlier, Super Off Road is not a bad game at all, it’s just an average one at best, and it’s a series that’s better off left in the ’90s.

To conclude my story from the beginning of this review I’m glad that I didn’t end up getting the NES version of Super Off Road (Zelda II gave me years of fun instead). I’m also happy that I didn’t end up buying it in any incarnation until I was a collector and it became inexpensive, as I didn’t get many new games when I was a kid and I know I wouldn’t have been happy with this one for long. With the exception of diehard fans of Super Off Road or other top-down racers of this type, I can’t recommend this game unless you can find it for less than five bucks, or you’re a big Sega Game Gear collector like me.

SCORE: 5 out of 10

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