My NES Book – A Love Story

 

I know, I know, posting about Nintendo on a site that covers pre-2002 Sega is akin to blasphemy. Hear me out.

Today, at long last, my book The NES Compendium is available to back via Kickstarter.

 

 

 

Check out the page here.

For those of you who have only been following my Sega adventures, prior to Sega Does, I reviewed every North American NES game on questicle.net. When I finished my NES journey in March 2014, I promised a book. A book is not an easy task to complete, however, and I didn’t just want to regurgitate all the reviews already on the blog onto paper and call it a day.

So, nearly two years later, the book is basically done. The NES Compendium features all 754 of my reviews edited, revised, and in some cases, completely rewritten. It also includes additional screenshots, box art, and a foreword by Jeremy Parish, editor-in-chief of USgamer.net and all-around champion of retro games.

Some of you might be asking, why a Kickstarter? Why not just put the book out on Amazon? A couple reasons: 1) a Kickstarter has the potential to draw more attention to the book. If I put it out on Amazon, some of my readers might buy it, but it loses any chance it has of reaching people outside the blog or my social media accounts. 2) I’d like to know if people are interested. It’s been almost two years since I finished my quest and had cries from people telling me to make a book. I firmly believe that there is a market for these niche gaming books – a market that is largely going unserved. This Kickstarter is a way of testing that notion.

If you could help donate or spread the word, I’d be greatly appreciative! Thanks so much for reading and for your continued interest in my work!

Wanted

 

Wanted

“I’ll give you $300 for Bon Jovi, take it or leave it.”

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sanritsu

GENRE: Shooter

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

In Wanted, you play an Old West sheriff, a pure lawman in a time of raging lawlessness. You roam through seven stages of sweaty hell – Tombstone, the Desert, the Saloon, the Hotel, and other seedy places of interest – shooting almost any and everyone you see. There are four types of folks: bandits with their guns drawn; pedestrians who may or may not shoot you, depending on their mood; ladies of the evening; and cowards with their hands up. If you shoot anyone who doesn’t have a gun pulled on you, some of your health will be taken away. If you shoot those who do have a gun (and dear Wayne, there are a lot of gunslingers), including the boss at the end who can sustain up to nine bullets, you’ll be rewarded with sacks of cash and a horse to take you to the next town. Keeping the peace doesn’t come cheap.

 

Wanted (UE) [!]-01

Only fools drink at Bar Mary’s.

 

There are three types of stages: walking stages where you meander slowly through your environment and eliminate the troublemakers; riding stages, where you ride fast on your horse and shoot other riders; and challenge stages which allow you to hone your shooting and accuracy skills with a limited amount of time and bullets. Three difficulty levels are provided for you to test your mettle, but unless you fancy yourself an Eastwood-in-training, stick with Level 1. Yes, it’s the easiest setting, and it’s the only way you might make it through the riding stages, which are gul durn near impossible. The riding stage scrolls quickly and the riders ride by 2-3 at a time, shooting as they go. Enemy sprites are tiny, making them hard to shoot, yet it’s always easy to absorb their bullets. There’s also the occasional standing shooter who will take off an extra chunk of your lifebar if you don’t shoot him first. Thankfully, Wanted provides unlimited continues up until stage 6. Fail as much as you want, but get back on that horse, pilgrim. There’s sacks of money with your name on ’em.

 

Wanted (UE) [!]-03

“Boys, boys, slow down. Can’t we work this out with our fists instead?”

 

Wanted has bombs that, once shot, will take out any outlaw within a certain radius. The more outlaws killed by the bomb, the more life you’ll recover. This is a nice feature, and it’s the only one of its kind you’ll find in Wanted. There are no other items, like life or better guns. You can shoot the occasional background object – barrels, windows, and the like – but that doesn’t provide anything other than a cheap thrill. Shoot the guilty folk, leave the innocent behind, and move on to the next station. It’s a lonely, depressing life.

 

Wanted (UE) [!]-02

Inevitability.

 

After the sun has set and hundreds of outlaws have been buried in unmarked graves somewhere in the desert, Wanted is just plain uneventful. You shoot lots of people and lots of people shoot at you, yet it feels like nothing really happens. The riding stages are the most energetic areas, but they’re hampered by skull-rattling difficulty made only marginally better by unlimited continues. The Old West deserves better. Saddle up, friend, and stay far, far away from these parts.

 

D

Vigilante

 

Vigilante

Nothing like a brawl and some yuks between bros.

 

PLAYERS1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Irem (port by Sega)

GENRE: Beat-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

Once 1990 hit, the beat-em-up genre expanded its horizons. Double Dragon II, River City Ransom, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game provided cooperative battling with a friend, move lists as opposed to a simple kick and punch, and in River City Ransom‘s case, light RPG elements like leveling up your abilities via reading books. Vigilante – originally released in 1988 for arcade – is part of the old guard, a straightforward hit-the-dudes-that-run-at-you excursion. And while this beat-em-up style isn’t necessarily bad (see: Kung Fu, Vigilante‘s spiritual predecessor), Vigilante‘s clumsy controls, overly aggressive enemies, and monotonous gameplay highlights the genre’s weaknesses.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]002

Not the junkyard! Also, “carring.”

 

The story is typical beat-em-up fare. Vigilante’s main squeeze, Maria (Madonna in the arcade version because 1988) has been kidnapped by the inner-city gang, the Rogues. Since your name is, in fact, Vigilante, you know your role: beat the crap out of anyone that runs at you in five seedy inner-city environments. You have a kick, a punch, a jump kick/punch, and nunchucks available on the ground in select areas for your beating pleasure. Get the nunchuks when you find them. Their attack range and overall power is far greater than your pitiful limbs.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]001

Vigilante and Bob Seger duke it out: “‘Like a Rock’ sucks!”

 

The Rogues have a limitless supply of thugs and are not put off by the failures of their fellow gang members. Regardless of if you walk forward, backwards, or stand perfectly still, you will be forced to fight two members of the gang at all times, and often from both directions. Each type of enemy has a different attack. Club Thug walks up to you, pauses, then clubs you. Rogue Rider rides his motorcycle into you. And Choke Hold runs towards you and chokes you. The bosses – Harly Hog, Macehead the Horrible, and Giant Defiant – all have unique attacks, “fancy footwork,” if you will. But get the nunchucks on them, attack their legs, and they’ll go down without much of a fight.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]003

Seger’s revenge: “Turn this page, you little punk!”

 

Choke Hold is the worst enemy in the game, and that includes the bosses. He might be the quickest type to take down – one hit will knock him off the screen every time – but he’s also the most abundant enemy and his choke will rapidly drain your life. The only way to shake him off once he’s on you is by pressing the D-pad left and right repeatedly. Keeping him away from you is not as easy as it sounds, either. Your punches don’t reach far beyond your body and, unless you’ve figured out the proper timing for your kicks, they can take too long to execute (more on this below). This means that you have to attack Choke Hold at just the right time/distance for him to go down. Otherwise, he’ll grab on to you and you won’t be able to attack. If you see a Choke Hold coming for you along with another enemy, always attack them first. If you don’t, Choke Hold will slow you down, drain your life, and allow stronger enemies to beat up on you.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]000

Ice cream shops were more eccentric in the ’80s.

 

As you progress further into Vigilante, your annoyance will turn from the numerous Choke Holds towards the controls. The game seems to read your command inputs about a millisecond late. Kicks, jumps, and jump attacks are the worst offenders. All three of these moves are slow to respond, while the latter two are compounded by awkward inputs (jump is button 1 and 2 together, while jump attacks are Button 1+2+Up/Down). Bottom line: use the nunchucks or punch whenever possible. Jump only if you have to.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]006

I think it’s safe to say that smarts.

 

While Vigilante only has five short stages and the bosses are cake compared to the waves of thug templates, the game isn’t a rewarding one to suffer through. When your one and only task – beating ’em up – is made more difficult than necessary by obnoxious enemy types and laggy controls, you have to wonder why you went into the vigilante business at all. And if Madonna -er, Maria is worth the trouble.

 

D

Time Soldiers

 

TimeSoldiersUS

Dinosaurs riding tanks… what a time to be alive.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPERSNK (port by Alpha Denshi)

GENRE: Shooter

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

In Time Soldiers, you travel through different periods in history in order to save your war buddies from being eternally melted by a giant robot warlord from the future (sounds like a Iron Maiden concept album, eh?). Transporting between ages and places in history makes you feel invested in recovering the five captured POWs, but the top-down, run-and-gun gameplay is marred by bipolar difficulty and generic action.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [!]-01

C’mon Gylend, you’re better than this.

 

Before you even start a level, Time Soldiers will inform you where your buddy is located. Even if the text states that your buddy is in Ancient Rome, the game will start you in World Wars or Prehistoric Age – anywhere other than Ancient Rome. To get to the latter, you shoot/walk your way through a short piece of a level, defeat the mid-boss that appears after about 30-60 seconds of play, and go through a time tunnel that will transport you to the next time period. You have no say as to where the time tunnel will take you, so while you’d like to go straight to Ancient Rome from the World Wars, the tunnel might spit you out in the Prehistoric Age for kicks. Usually after a couple different levels in the wrong era, you’ll be taken to the correct era. Once here, continue forward until you run into the main boss. Defeat it, and you’ll get your buddy back. This roundabout progression continues until you’ve acquired all five lost warriors.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]004

You’d think Anubis would hang out in Egypt, but here he is in Ancient Rome.

 

The back-and-forth level hopping mostly serves to make Time Soldiers seem more in-depth than it actually is. Even so, the game’s non-linear framework is the only aspect that keeps you moving forward. You want to see where the next time tunnel will take you, even though you won’t care what happens when you get there.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]003

Why is that dinosaur eating a fruit leather?

 

In most run-and-gun shooters – Ikari Warriors, Guerilla War, heck, even the arcade Time Soldiers – you’re forced to take out as many enemies as you can, as quickly as you can. Not so here. Enemy placement is not only sporadic, but many of them don’t care whether the protagonist is there or not. As such, it’s completely possible (and recommended) to walk through the levels quickly without hitting more than a couple enemies. This doesn’t mean the levels are easy. Depending on the era you’re in, enemies can shoot up to four projectiles towards you at one time; yet another reason why it’s often wiser to walk past them. Yeah, you might miss the occasional power-up they drop, but you’ll have your health. Unfortunately, this makes for some boring levels where all you do is maneuver around rocks and buildings and shoot the occasional enemy. Admittedly, the further you progress into the game, the more you’ll have to actively participate in the war going on around you. But aside from the swarms of projectiles, you’ll rarely feel overwhelmed by your surroundings.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]002

Your finely coiffed hair infuriates the neanderfolk.

 

Time Soldiers is also a game where the mid-bosses can be harder than the main bosses. Main bosses are often slow, have a weapon or attack that can be easily avoided, and can be eliminated without much trouble. Mid-bosses zip around the screen, spew tons of projectiles, and will involve the loss of a life or two. In fact, unless you use a secondary weapon (missiles, energy guns, and tri-shot guns are all fantastic and necessary against mid-bosses), you will lose more lives on the mid-bosses than you will on the bosses or in the levels.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]000

Time-traveling is a lot like dropping acid. Both result in seeing whatever this is.

 

When I played the Time Soldiers arcade after the Master System version, I saw what the game was intended to be: a beautiful, chaotic onslaught of aggression that required more strategy in a minute of play than the Master System port as a whole. The enemies don’t just haphazardly meander through the level. They care that you’re in their territory and will do everything in their power to stop you. Also, the levels are gorgeous and feel like authentic worlds that you’re walking through. While I can’t fault the Master System port for having lesser graphics than the arcade, Alpha Denshi could have taken more care and interest in the port’s level design.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]001

Ancient Rome had crystal sidewalks and witches floating around everywhere, right?

 

Even with the port’s numerous flaws, I kept playing like a man possessed. I wanted to get further in the game to see the different time periods, even though I knew they would disappoint. They always disappointed and I never stopped playing. Time Soldiers for the Master System might not be a great example of the top-down run-and-gun shooter, but it does show that a unique concept can elevate otherwise generic action.

 

C+

SegaDoes Side Quest, Episode 2: Bring the Noise

 

Akira

 

Good Friday, friends. Today (or rather, yesterday – I’m a bit late), Sam posted a brand new SegaDoes Side Quest episode, chock full of great Sega music from yesteryear.

Download/Listen here.

Lots of solid tunes this week, including tracks from Virtua Fighter 2, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future, and a live rendition of ToeJam & Earl‘s “ToeJammin.”

And if there’s a song you’d like to hear, throw out some requests in the comments section. I guarantee Sam will play at least one of them (no promises on multiple requests), so if there’s a specific track you want to hear, highlight it for him.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of Time Soldiers. Girl, you know it’s true!

Tennis Ace

 

TennisAce

I’ll play your tennis game, Sega. Just as long as I don’t have to play against this guy.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sanritsu

GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (EU)

 

Sega’s console options for tennis have been less than luvely thus far. Champion Tennis for the SG-1000 played like a colorized version of Pong with people in place of paddles; while Great Tennis for the Master System demanded perfection from all the youngsters who just wanted to hit a ball back and forth. Tennis Aces gets the underrated sport mostly right. Serving the ball can be tricky, but the high dollar racket action is always smooth and enjoyable.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]002

Double the Billie Jean King for your buck.

 

Rather than present bare-bones tennis seen in every home tennis game since, er, Tennis, Sanritsu makes it rain options on the player. Whether you want to get used to the controls with a Training Match, customize to your heart’s content in an Exhibition Match, or play 36 games in a row in the Tournament, you have the power. The Training Match is one-on-one gameplay that offers no perks other than learning how to play. The Exhibition Match allows you to choose everything before you play: the type of court you want to play on (Lawn, Hard, or Clay), how many sets (1 set match or 3 set match), and six types of background music (#5, with its mixture of melancholy and momentum, is my personal favorite). You can also choose to play Singles or Doubles with the computer or with a friend. Doubles with a friend is, of course, the preferred option, but I was surprised at how well the computer-controlled teammate kept up with me. Tournament is for the real tennis aces, the ones who sleep with their racket and dream of healthy yellow balls forever bouncing across lawn courts. 36 matches all across the world, several countries, a variety of courts, some single matches, some double. Thank Agassi that passwords are given after every open so you don’t pass out from exhaustion.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]003

Can’t get enough of your luv, babe (s)…

 

There are 16 (!) players to choose from, all with different attributes. Each player has numbers assigned to their technical skills, power and speed. The higher the number, the stronger the player is with that particular trait. After you win an Exhibition Match, you will be given two experience points to increase whichever trait you choose; if you win a Tournament, you’ll be given five experience points. In addition to these stats, players also have one of three different titles assigned to them: Net Player (one who plays best close to the net), Stroke Player (one who plays best in the back of the court), and All Rounder (one who plays best anywhere on the court). Unlike the skills, power, and speed, these titles don’t make a heap of difference in how the players hit the ball.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]000

This unfortunate soul looks a bit like the Cryptkeeper. But at least, he’s an All Rounder.

 

Whenever you start a match, whether Tournament, Training, or Exhibition, you always serve first. The camera will zoom in on the player from the side, you’ll press Button 1 or 2 to throw the ball in the air, then press the button again to hit it. Once the ball has been tossed in the air, you must time your hit just so. Too high and you’ll fault it on your opponent’s side of the court. Too low and you might hit the net, fault it in your side of the court or swing and miss altogether. Since the ball ascends and descends quickly, you’ll have little time to make a decision. If you find yourself biffing constantly, head over to Training until you get the hang of it.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]001

If the hot pants don’t make him choke, that eerie kid staring at him might.

 

Steep learning curve for serving aside, Tennis Ace is one of the better 8-bit tennis games up to this point. All the players control fluidly, the extensive in-game options ensure replayability, and the tennis itself is loose and engaging. Even the top-down camera angle – an angle I thought would detract from match play – doesn’t get in the way of the experience. Most importantly, Tennis Ace made me play more virtual tennis than I ever thought possible. Few football/baseball/basketball games can say as much for their respective sport.

 

B

SegaDoes Podcast Episode 31: 2016 Blowout

 

Yes, friends, the first SegaDoes Podcast of 2016 is here. We talk about California Games (I hate, Sam love), R-Type, and other Sam-picked games that we never got to during our hiatus. The show is rambly and messy and just a tad uncouth, but also amusing, in a “middle-school high jinks” sort of way. Next episode, we will be back to our own impossibly high standards.

Download/Listen here or, if not here, then on iTunes.

Like what you hear? Wonder why we’re not taking our work more seriously? Leave us a comment and we will probably* read it on air.

* “probably” equals “definitely.”

Scramble Spirits

 

ScrambleSpiritsEU

All systems meh!

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (EU)

 

Scramble Spirits is Sega having a go at Capcom’s trendsetting (and continually ripped off) 1942. You control a biplane making destructive merry across half-submerged buildings, quicksand traps, and Buddha statues. There are no power-ups to help you, save for two mini-planes that attach to your side once obtained. Planes, tanks, ground turrets, and other standard shmup vehicles attack you with minuscule projectiles, barely visible with old tired eyes, like mine. Bosses of confusing shape and design attack you (no country would willingly bring these funky planes into war unless they were desperate) and are easily brought down, even without your mini-plane friends. This humdrum action continues for six steadily paced stages, until finally, you have scrambled all of the enemy’s spirits. A crushing blow to whatever menace you’re fighting.

 

Scramble Spirits (UE) [!]003

I don’t even know what I’m looking at here.

 

Scramble Spirits is as barren a shooter as I’ve ever played on the Master System. If you have any experience with the shoot-em-up genre, you’ll be able to beat the game’s six short stages within thirty minutes (three continues and four lives per playthrough will help those with no experience). The action is by-the-numbers. Planes fly in, let loose a bunch of projectiles, then fly away or get shot down by you. Or tanks crawl steadily towards the biplane, let loose a bunch of projectiles, then sit there, exhausted by the weight of war. The lack of power-ups, save for the mini-planes, feels inexcusable. Sure, Scramble Spirits isn’t space-themed, so there’s no need for triple laser cannons and what not, and you do have the obligatory secondary bomb (good for screen-clearing, etc.), but something beyond regulatory pea shooter would have given your own spirit some extra life.

 

Scramble Spirits (UE) [!]001

Sarlacc pits make great scrambled spirits.

 

There are bonus portions called ‘Raids’ that occur in levels 1, 3, and 5. You’ll know when they’re coming when you’re in the middle of the stage and text appears on the screen, proclaiming that “You’re entering the enemy base!” Once in the base, your plane will expand in size to about 1/3 of the screen and a shooting gallery of the game’s enemies will be paraded by you, ripe for the shooting. Blast as many as you can for maximum points. They can kill you too, of course, but their projectiles will only stun you, not destroy you. And while these Raids only distract you from the game at hand (who ever heard of a bonus portion in the middle of a stage? C’mon commenters, let me have it), they are the most interesting feature in the otherwise rote proceedings

 

Scramble Spirits (UE) [!]002

Buddha and his clones in a very special cameo appearance.

 

Based off of the 1988 arcade title of the same name, Scramble Spirits is playable, and occasionally enjoyable in the way the majority of shmups are playable and occasionally enjoyable. As a whole, however, the game takes the foundation of a better, older shmup (1942) while adding nothing to distinguish itself from other shmups on the market; shoot-em-up fans may have heard of Scramble Spirits, but the title is largely forgotten compared to ’80s stalwarts R-Type, Gradius, Life Force, and yes, 1942. Sega’s lack of an American release for this Master System port, and an even more surprising lack of a Mega Drive/Genesis port makes me think that Scramble Spirits wasn’t even that highly regarded internally. But that’s just late night speculating, a dangerous activity if ever there was one. Sega’s thoughts on their own game aside, one fact remains: for a title that implies intense activity, Scramble Spirits barely has enough energy for a trip to the boneyard. Sluggish spirits.

 

C

Rastan

 

Rastan

We’re never gonna mend barbarian/iguanoman relations with that attitude, Rastan.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Taito

DEVELOPER: Taito

GENRE: Action

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

Rastan is an arcade adaptation of Taito’s Rastan Saga, a Conan-esque hack-and-slash that’s superior to any real Conan game. You control Rastan through seven fantastical worlds, each with three separate parts. Stage 1 is almost always an outdoor level in the woods or atop mountains and usually has several paths towards the end. Beware, however, when the stage starts to turn dark. If the screen goes pitch black, endless swarms of bats and bees will hound you until you complete the area. Stage 2 heads indoors to a castle or a cave – more linear, claustrophobic layouts – while Stage 3 is always the boss battle. At first, you’re armed only with a sword and a loincloth (your loincloth, unfortunately, doesn’t repel enemies), but stronger weapons like flaming swords, maces, and battleaxes can be collected and used throughout the level for maximum deathblows.

 

Rastan (UE) [!]000

Swing low, sweet Rastan.

 

While the game initially looks like any other hack-and-slash, Rastan has some unique features that distinguish it from other Master System action titles. In addition to the aforementioned weapons, you can also find armor and shields that, once received, will automatically be equipped for a limited time. Rastan can also jump off walls, a feature not found in the arcade version. Many of the levels have been redesigned to make use of this jump, which, while cool, doesn’t negate the difficulty Rastan has with jumping (more on this in the next paragraph). Another weird, but welcome idea: Rastan doesn’t get killed immediately upon landing in lava or water. If you land in either substance, you’ll take hits, but, in most instances, you’ll be allowed to jump through it to safety.

 

Rastan (UE) [!]005

Even when being burned alive, Rastan can’t help but hold his sword like a tool.

 

Unfortunately, Rastan controls like an actual barbarian. He’s slow and lumbering and can’t seem to kill the bizarre creatures he faces without taking a hit or two. He can, however, slice upwards and downwards, so his killing methods are slightly more advanced than other topless heroes. Jumping is where Rastan needs work. Rastan has two types of jumps: a short hop for jumping on boulders across lava; and a large leap, which theoretically helps him ascend to higher areas or clutch onto ropes dangling precariously over danger. While the controls for either jump aren’t awkward on the surface (Button 2 jumps, Button 2+Up high jumps), executing the jump precisely can be frustrating. If you accidentally jump too high or don’t jump high enough, you can’t correct your mistake, mid-jump. Which means you’ll have to deal with the consequences – enemies, lava, etc. – wherever you end up landing. Since this happens often, you’ll either make peace with it or let Rastan melt in magma.

 

Rastan (UE) [!]004

Rastan encounters a vomit waterfall from some unseen horror.

 

And sweet Zeus, is Rastan difficult. Besides the jumping (which will get you into trouble at some point), every time you’ve grown accustomed to the game’s challenge, you’re placed on a swinging rope above a pit of lava while three large block faces hock fiery loogies at you (or some other scenario that makes you question whether Rastan and his quest are worth the trouble). The only way to escape sans damage is to hop like crazy on the block faces, but you – or rather, Rastan – don’t necessarily have the reflexes for such actions. While Rastan’s oiled pecs can take some damage, only having one life and three continues before game over is a hard sword to swallow.

 

Rastan (UE) [!]001

Half-naked winged creatures cannot tempt Rastan away from his hacking duties.

 

When you’re slicing harpies in the sky, bouncing off of precariously placed pillars, and rope-swinging beyond leaping piranhas with sweaty style and grace, Rastan is a sublime and epic adventure. But when you leap when you should have hopped, and you ask yourself how/why you ended up in a pile of iguana men, the thundering barbarian loses much of his mystery.

 

C+

R.C. Grand Prix

 

R.C. GrandPrixUS

A most unwelcome return to crappy Master System box art.

 

R.C. GrandPrixEU

You win this round, Europe.

 

PLAYERS: 1-4 alternating

PUBLISHER: Seismic (US), Sega (EU)

DEVELOPER: Absolute Entertainment

GENRE: Racing

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)*

 

R.C. Grand Prix is a mix of remote controls, tight turns, and drunken recklessness. The controls will infuriate you with their preciseness until, suddenly, after several races, their finicky nature makes complete sense. The AI cars are impossibly fantastic, besting you at every corner – until they get stuck on a turn and are unable to extract themselves. And the courses all look and feel the same, save for the turns which surprise you even when you know where they are.

 

R.C1

Into the turn, we go.

 

You control a red RC car and are pitted against three other RC cars in the fight for money, gold trophies, and upgraded parts. There are ten courses, each of which has a differing number of laps and a time limit. The higher your rank upon completing the race, the more money you receive. Provided you have enough money after a race, you’ll be whisked away to a parts store, where you can upgrade tires, suspension, batteries (lest you forget you’re driving an RC car) and more. There are several different types of parts, but you’ll want to buy the Ultra parts if you’re looking to beat the game. And in order to get all the money needed for the Ultra parts, you’ll need to come in 1st place on every race. Nobody ever said RC life was easy.

 

R.C0

Tom Selleck’s your pusher for black market RC parts.

 

The courses start off with simple up/down/left/right turns. As you progress, however, the increasingly elaborate turns will require course memorization and becoming one with the controls in order to beat the race. Before you come to a turn, you’ll see arrows on the side of the course showing you which direction to turn. And as if arrows weren’t enough, you’ll also hear a ‘ding’ noise that will alert you to the turn. The inclusion of a ‘ding’ was thoughtful, but it’s the arrows you’ll want to pay attention to. They appear slightly before the ding and are a better indicator of when you should turn.

 

R.C2

Ding ding ding!

 

The racing itself is fast and chaotic, which at first seems problematic. The controls don’t respond as quickly as you want them to and the computer cars are always in the way. Despite your best efforts, you’ll also bump into the corners and sides a lot. But after four or five races, everything – speed, controls, turns – clicks into place. I can’t explain this. In fact, for the first three races, I was ready to shove an ‘F’ grade onto R.C. Grand Prix for what I felt were unresponsive controls. But I held out. I grew accustomed to the game’s speed, I learned when/how to turn properly, I figured out how to exploit the computer (knock them into the corner on certain turns), and – what do you know – R.C. Grand Prix became a certified gas.

 

R.C3

Who knew R.C. racing could be so, uh… yeah.

 

I made it to course eight before I pulled out of the Prix. This particular trial has you going around in two large almost continuous loops, turning constantly. In order to complete the course, you have to do four laps in a minute or an insane fifteen seconds a lap. Even if you’re good at turning, it’s nearly impossible not to hit the walls at some points. Hit as few as you can, don’t get stuck on a computer-controlled car or turn, and drive like hell. Even then, you probably won’t win.

 

R.C4

I’ll do that when I’m dead.

 

I kept trying to beat course eight, despite losing at least a dozen times. I wasn’t so much driven by the need to win as I was to just keep playing and learning. R.C. Grand Prix is addictive, to say the least. The controls could be tweaked a little, the course designs could look less monotonous, and the game should have true multiplayer instead of the ‘pass the controller back-and-forth’ nonsense. But despite these issues, R.C. Grand Prix is – dare I write it – almost as fun as RC Pro Am for the NES.

 

B

*SegaRetro currently states that R.C. Grand Prix was released in 1990, which is strange considering I originally got my  release date info from them. GameFAQs, MobyGames, and SMS Power, however, all still state that R.C. Grand Prix was released in 1989.