RELEASE DATE: 11/06/89 – (JP), 12/89 – (US), 11/90 – (EU)
The original Hang-On was a full-throttle thrill ride in the arcade, particularly if you played on the motorcycle cabinet. The Master System port, however, failed to bring the excitement home. While the 8-bit version had admirable graphics, the loose controls and lack of music made for an austere experience; strangely, Hang On II for the SG-1000 (a Hang On port, despite the name) was more engaging, despite the console’s inferior specs.
All Hang On ports are mere hogswallow in light of Super Hang-On for the Genesis. Not only does it retain every feature from the arcade, including the course difficulties, four musical themes (like in OutRun), and intuitive bike controls, it also provides a console-only “original mode.” The latter simulates the career of a professional motorbike rider and significantly extends the life of the game.
Super Hang-On‘s arcade mode takes you all around the world. Go on safari in Africa, travel across the Great Wall of China in Asia, blast through purple mountains majesty in the Americas, or ride up the Eiffel Tower in Europe. You begin the race with fifty seconds and receive additional time as you cross the checkpoints. Each of the courses has a different amount of checkpoints. The more checkpoints, the more difficult the race (Africa is the easiest with six checkpoints, while Europe is the hardest with eighteen).
As you ride deeper into each continent, the roads become more narrow and the turns more devious. Amazingly, the Genesis’ chunky D-pad is up to the task. Veering around sharp corners feels smooth and heavy, like you’re actually steering a motorbike. While you can take most corners at the accelerator’s top speed of 280km/h, you’ll need to hold down the Turbo Boost if you want to make it from one side of the continent to the other. The sense of speed is phenomenal and somewhat terrifying, particularly when sharp turns emerge out of nowhere. Don’t get too caught up in the moment: if you so much as crash once during a race, it’s hard to recover and you’ll likely end up losing.
Once you’ve mastered the Tracks of the World, stop into ‘Original Mode’ for a real challenge. You start off as an amateur rider with no money. Your mechanic – one Ricardo Montoya – is willing to help you achieve your dream, while your rival wants nothing more than to run over your dreams. With the help of sponsorship money, you can fix up your bike and Springsteen your way out of the two-bit town you call home.
Your bike controls like a dream in Arcade Mode, but it starts as a real fixer-upper here. It doesn’t accelerate as quickly nor does it turn as sharply. Getting through the first few races without crashing will require a little more caution and Sunday driving than you’re used to, but that’s ok. You’ll need patience to beat your rival and get money for better parts. Your earnings are a pittance, at first; $1200 will let you replace your worn-out parts and keep you racing, but that’s it. After you win against your rival enough times, however, you’ll rank up, acquire a faster rival, and earn more sponsorship money with each race. You can also use your newfound wealth to purchase the advice of better mechanics (sorry, Ricardo).
Unlike most of Sega’s arcade ports to this point, Super Hang-On works well as both a short quarter muncher and an in-depth racer. The game satisfies if all you have is a few minutes to spare, but if you want to finish the harder courses or the Original Mode, you’ll need to learn the track layouts and master the controls. While I hesitate to call the Genesis version “arcade-perfect,” the game’s visuals are superb and hold up next to the arcade. And while nothing beats straddling a fake motorcycle in the arcades, Super Hang-On‘s speed still provides a considerable adrenaline rush. One of the best early Genesis games.