Genre: Racing Developer: Electronic Arts Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
The plot of this May 1992 Electronic Arts game remains the same from the very first game; a very big and illegal motorbike tournament is going down state-wide and anyone could enter as they wished. There is some very good money offered so 15/16 bikers at a time enter it (the lineup changes as you beat levels).
You have the same few moves as you did on the first one: the mandatory accelerating and braking, the punch (that can also snatch clubs and the far more efficient new chain from other bikers if timed right) and the kick (that pushes bikes off of their courses). Also, as with the last one, you can buy many new bikes as you get more and more money. The prices range from about $4500 to about $30,000. You can buy nitros for some of them, too (but you won’t have to worry about that for a very long time). They range from very well-balanced to slow but steady to fast but vulnerable. No matter how much things may ”update” later in the game, you’re still left to those three basic choices and combinations of them, kind of like how the monsters get stronger as you do on RPGs. Sometimes it’s a pretty hard decision what to get when you cycle through all the bikes. It isn’t very easy to lose the game, since you can lose as many races as you wish (not that you would wish to lose races), but you can get major setbacks because of some of the game’s more realistic aspects. If a cop catches you, or your bike crashes, you’ll lose a lot of money (and the game ends if you have no money).
A few days ago I played this for the first time since 1994. On the very first turn of the very first course, I ran off of the entire road and crashed into a sign. THAT meant that I was playing way too much Super Hang-On lately. I don’t have to hold on to the controller for three seconds just to tilt the bike. In fact, it might control TOO well! About half of the bikes seem to read your mind and turn before you even tell them to! But there are still bikes to fit everyone’s basic needs. One of my favorite parts of the game is actually crashing! It’s extremely amusing when you hit a moose and fly twenty feet upward at 150 MPH head-first into a tree! How the drivers survive that, I’ll never know, but who cares? This is better than watching a Derby (ten times better)! It’s equally satisfactory to dodge something at the very last second near the end of an important race.
If that’s not enough, you’ve got the new two-player split-screen mode. You can do it in both the normal ”story” mode or one-on-one! Playing one-on-one has its flaws, however, because it’s too hard to meet up with each other, since the chances of you both driving with nearly the exact same proficiency are quite slim. It’s more fun to go through the game cooperatively. But there are times when it just comes down to the two players- you’ll both want to win the 1st prize money. Sometimes that results in one player having to get knocked off of his bike- and thus end up in about 6th place and not get much money. This may create quite a grudge for a while- happened to me many of times! It makes things more fun for one and more frustrating for the other! But that’s not only with other players- the game can make me VERY engrossed sometimes! Chino kicked me and my bike into a car going my opposite way- the bike was wasted and I only had $150 left. On the next few races I was completely bent on revenge. I kept failing to get it until a few races later. On that race I chained him off of his bike, then used him for a speed bump. I was extremely satisfied and ecstatic for a few minutes after that. Simply golden.
The courses are distinct enough from each other; the obstacles range from telephone poles to cars (some stages have LOTS of traffic) to oil and even deer in the road. There’s never telling how many or how long the curves may be on each course. Different bikes do better on different courses but if you want to trade in for a specific course, you still have to deal with the half price thing on all games where you can sell anything.
The absolute BEST thing about the game is its depth. While the courses aren’t completely different, everything else is- especially the characters. Each bike rider has a very unique personality. Roz I Ryde is a girl from one of the more violent areas of Trenchtown that was caught up in gang life but got out later. But she wanted a more exciting life again so she started bike racing in the Road Rash races. Because of the older lifestyle, she’ll help (or just won’t bother) any of the ”oppressed” or kinder racers. If you knock off a top ”bad guy” racer like Chino, she’ll say something like ”It’s good how you beat on those savage animals.” The rest have personality too; War Hammer just wants to win races with no concern about anyone unless they get in his way. Then there are Jorg and Sven; twins that team up to take down anyone other than themselves. The five cops also differ greatly; some hate people that make them go through all that trouble (you know, punching them and all), and others just want to be good cops and play it ”by the book”. The real difference is how much they’ll fine you when you’re caught.
The graphics are some of the most pixilated I’ve ever seen. They’re pixilated, but never messy like on most Genesis games. They’re at about Mortal Kombat‘s level. But while the animation of the sprites is fine, the road movement is a bit sloppy. It doesn’t make the game unplayable though. The backgrounds are very appropriate for their stages; Arizona has sand, clouds and canyons in the backgrounds and has oil and cacti in the foreground. All of the other places have great native surroundings, too- houses or pine trees or whatever. The characters all look pretty much the same on the actual races (although their colors change according to the bikes they have), but they look quite realistic on the parts where they do speeches. Another one of my favorite parts of the game are the ”finish scenes” at the end of each race. Something VERY amusing happens no matter what the outcome- rather you win, lose, wreck, or get arrested. They’re never predictable either.
The sounds aren’t anything you wouldn’t expect. Well, except for that they actually sound GOOD. Punching sounds like punching, and that’s also the case for kicking, crashing and a few other things. The three digitized voices aren’t that bad either. Most of them are loud enough, too. Only one gripe: I wish I could hear the sounds of the engines a little more. On second thought, scratch that.
The music rocks! Every last track it is hard rock- and most of it has a very slight touch of southern rock to it. They also use a synthesized electric guitar sound a lot. It fits the game perfectly (they give most of it a slight- edge to fit the states like Hawaii), and even better, the (music) tracks last about three minutes apiece. Some of the longest I know of on the Genesis. I like the short music when you get wrecked/arrested the most. It’s by far the best rock soundtrack in a Genesis game.
Another cool and unconventional thing about the game: the CPUs aren’t perfectly synchronous like on Mario Kart (or just about any other racing games for that matter!). They get in fights and they crash on their own at times! The challenge is at a near-perfect length so you won’t have to play too long. The only thing that bugs me here is how sometimes you can get to the zenith of a hill and a car coming your way may pop up out of nowhere and screw you and your bike! Since you can’t see the past the hills until it’s too late, you’ll probably receive some pretty unfair and cheap hits that cost you races/bikes. And that’s pretty frustrating seeing how long some of the courses are. But at least you can crash a few times (through most of the game) and still stand a chance.
There are only 25 courses, but this is probably the most non-linear gameplay you’ll find on the Genesis (next to its sequel and the Koei games, of course). It all depends on what bikes you buy, how you drive, who you clock and at times simply how the game is feeling. Not to mention the many speeches and scenes to see. Nearly every time you play, there’s a completely different placement of cars on the course and what the CPU’s do. And two-player games REALLY adds a lot. It will take a good long while to get tired of it.
This is a classic with few flaws but many innovations and moments of glory. It would probably make my top ten Genesis game list. There are very few games on any systems that could invoke so much emotion and adrenaline from me as this classic did.
SCORE: 9 out of 10