Genre: Racing Developer: Rare Publisher: Tradewest (Midway re-release) Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
The Sega Genesis had a decent amount of racing titles during its run, and Championship Pro-Am was by far one of the better releases. By 1992, Sega was finally snagging lots of third party developers, and among them was Tradewest was one of them (known for porting Double Dragon & John Elway’s Quarterback). Sega also signed on U.K.-based studio Rare, Ltd. (You may have heard of them; they’re best known for GoldenEye, Donkey Kong Country, & Perfect Dark).
I remember playing R.C. Pro-Am on the Nintendo Entertainment System and was very excited to see that a 16-bit version was being released. Championship Pro-Am is an adaptation of the classic NES racer, but has its fair share of differences. For example, in this game, you face more drone racers and are timed for running laps. Furthermore, to get a new racer, you have to collect bonus letters to spell “Champion” (in R.C. Pro-Am, you had to collect bonus letters to spell “Nintendo”).
The gameplay is awesome, sporting some tight control and making great use of the stock Genny pad. Simplicity is the rule of the day- button A is used to accelerate and buttons B & C attack or sound the horn. No one expects complex control from an early 16-bit title about remote-controlled cars, so the basic design is quite fitting.
This game does retain the classic formula as its source material. The tracks are also the same as in R.C. Pro-AM. Just as before, you can mod your racer to improve performance with any of the multitude of items available. You can collect super sticky tires, as well as turbo acceleration & high-performance engines. You can also collect missiles to shoot at the opponents ahead of you and bombs to prevent opponents from coming up past you from behind. Roll cages render you invincible from crashing, but you had to be careful , since your opponents can also make use of it. Other items, like Zippers, give you a speed boost.
It’s not all about avoiding enemy weaponry, and there are plenty of hazards on the tracks. You have to avoid skulls, which take away your ammunition, pop-up barriers which block your way and cause you to crash, oil slicks which cause you to skid, & puddles and rain storms which slow you down. Who said you have to play fair?
The graphics are highly detailed when compared to R.C. Pro-Am on the NES, but they’re in no danger of pushing the Genesis past its limits. Everything is more colorful and more detailed, and the there are plenty of neat little graphical touches that the NES original lacked. I must also comment on the incredible animation the cars have. Very fluid and clean, it really makes the driving experience a lot more fun than you’d expect.
The soundtrack doesn’t lack either, especially at the title screen and for the top three finishers. In fact, the entire soundtrack is OST-worthy, and you’d do well to get yourself a few tunes via Gens’ WAV dumping feature. The Genesis was renowned for its powerful bass lines (Streets of Rage anyone?), and Championship Pro-Am does not disappoint.
Overall, this game is sure to please racing fans, as well as longtime fans of the original R.C. Pro-Am, and it’s a must-have for Genesis owners. There aren’t all that many quality racers on the console, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to miss out on one of the best.
SCORE: 10 out of 10