Gamers who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s remember Data East well. The company produced a ton of classic arcade titles, most of which were ported to home consoles. The Genesis and Sega CD were lucky recipients of several quality titles, including several laser disc titles. Among them was one title that many consider to be a Sega CD classic: Road Avenger.
The home version of Road Avenger was grainier than the original, and the game window was smaller, but the gameplay was all there. Gamers knew when they heard the awesomely cheesy theme song that they were in for something special, and the title is one of the few full-motion games that manages to get past the “press a button and watch” feel that most in the genre have. It was fast, fun, and full of quality animation.
When Data East went bankrupt in 2003, many thought its properties would be lost forever. Thankfully, a Japanese mobile networking company called G-Mode acquired the rights to most of the company’s back catalog, and it has been licensing the games out for the Wii Virtual Console, PCs, and mobile phones. Early next year, G-Mode will be bringing together fifteen of Data East’s most well-known classics as part of the Data East Arcade Collection for the Wii. One of the properties acquired by G-Mode is Road Avenger, and its set to make a comeback in a way most people never imagined.
On the Road… Again
Next year, author Mary Margaret Park will release a full novel based on the game, and it will be done with the full blessing of G-Mode. The story revolves around that of the game, which chronicles a the actions of young man seeking revenge after a vicious criminal organization murders his wife. The world of Road Avenger is one that slowly sinks into a dystopia filled with chaos and decay, much like those found in the Mad Max films, and the main character Blake Sanders finds himself struggling to survive both physically and emotionally after his loss.
As SCUM (Secret Criminal Underground Movement) slowly overtakes the city, Blake monitors the group’s actions in his single-minded quest for vengeance. As the world around him comes apart, he becomes the person most able to dismantle SCUM, which has infiltrated every aspect of daily life. The novel will chronicle his adventure and open readers to more details about the characters that were only briefly seen in the game, as well as adding new supporting personalities in order to flesh out the Road Avenger universe.
When we interviewed Mary Margaret Park earlier this year, she explained that the novel is not a sequel, but rather an expansion of what can be seen in the video game. Anyone who has spent time with the laser disc title will know that there’s plenty of room for explanation behind SCUM’s origin and rise to power, as well as the back story for the main character. ” In the Road Avenger,” she told Sega-16, “it’s not a bunch of cardboard characters chasing each other off of the road, I’m showing how they think, how they feel, their lives, their frustrations, and the ultimate effect that corruption has on them along with society. It’s a vast, complex universe, and writing about it is exhilarating. The backdrop of how the Road Avenger loses his wife might be a bit predictable to a newcomer, but that’s what happened. The story mushrooms out from there, so I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.”
From Laser Disc to Print
After going through the fourteen-page preview, we were left with a distinct impression of the type of world Park is trying to bring to life. The actual game itself is only a prologue to the entire story, and the author promises a book deep enough to make the property go beyond its video game origins. Through writing that never gets too complicated for its own good, Park takes the reader into the seedy underworld of SCUM, bringing more than a coat of descriptive paint to the characters. For the first time, we’re able to see just who these people are and what Blake is up against. This is an organization with some powerful backers, a group so confident in itself that it’s able to casually dismiss Blake as a threat (its first mistake). SCUM has become a serious problem that enjoys international support, and after finishing the preview, the reader is left wanting to know just what exactly one man could possibly do against such an adversary.
Those expecting the writing to be reflective of the cringe-worthy narratives most video games are known for will be happy to know that such is not the case here. Park wasn’t just picked off the street for this, and as an established author and more importantly as a video gamer, she has a feel for what’s needed to do the property justice. She’s promised an expansive and lengthy story, and it will be interesting to see just how much depth she’s going to give Blake and his supporting cast. Should the book be a success, she’s willing to revisit the franchise, so Road Avenger fans can be assured that she’s done her homework.
Tearing Up Bookstores Soon
The book is targeted at an adult audience, something the game was unable to do. We’ve always imagined the Road Avenger’s world as one lacking mercy or morals, and the chance to finally be able to see it as it should be is something too good to pass up. This is a something that should be gritty and dark, and from we read in the preview, Park does a great job of conveying the similarities between Blake’s inner darkness and that of the world around him. The symbiosis the two share is vital to the narrative, and Park’s prose is quick and precise in revealing it in a manner most people should have little trouble understanding.
This is a book not only for fans of the game but for fans of action stories in general. Park has gone all-out in her efforts to bring this world to life, as evidenced by the creation of an entire soundtrack by Sekrett Scilensce to accompany the novel. When it finally arrives next year, it will enter a world quite different from the one the original video game occupied. Video game novelizations are becoming widely accepted now, and books based on games such as Gears of War and Halo are selling quite well. This release will offer something not widely seen before though, and we’re hoping that game enthusiasts and book fans will embrace a book based on a game from 1985.
Sega-16 will be there with a complete hands-on of the Road Avenger novel as soon as it ships, so stay tuned to the site for more details as they emerge. Until then, head over to the book’s offical site and grab the preview and a sample of the soundtrack. These goodies should be enough to help you “melt the frigid wall of time” until release.