Before I get into this week’s post, I just wanna thank everybody who gave me feedback on last week’s piece. As I’ve constantly said, I’m not any sort of a writer, so seeing such a positive reaction really made my week. Here’s hoping I can keep living up to expectations for you folks. And now, onto the show, with a game that’s been heavily requested…
Before Need for Speed popularized illegal racing, and Twisted Metal turned vehicular combat up to 11, Road Rash attempted to blend the two together in a semi-realistic hybrid, and according to fans and media alike, did a damn good job of it.
The premise was your basic racing game for the time. Start dead last and work your way up through the pack before time (or the track in this game’s case) ran out. If we just left off there, you’d probably wondering “What’s the appeal then?”. But, by replacing cars with high-powered motorcycles (which before RR1, had only been in one Genesis game, Sega’s own Super Hang-On, which will probably get its own feature piece in the future) and throwing in a fighting-game-esque combat system, complete with lifebars, it would go on to be one of the Genesis’ most unique racing franchises.
The first game took place in California, with five tracks based on locales in the state. Upon finishing in the top 3 on these five tracks, you would be upgraded to a new level, where the tracks would be longer and the competition would be faster and more aggressive. For the record, I never got past level two as a kid, and I still can’t today! Quite the difficulty spike! The roads, being public highways and all, were littered with obstacles such as oil slicks, sticks, traffic, cops, and even animals.
It went on to be a great success for EA, and spawned two sequels on the Genesis. The first one, Road Rash II, has been widely regarded as the best of the series. The locales expanded to the rest of the US (Alaska, Hawaii, Tennessee, Arizona, and Vermont.) and a “true” two-player mode was finally added, to replace the “wait your turn” multiplayer of the first game. The menus, thankfully, were also simplified, and single-player passwords were shortened as well, for those (like me) who can’t remember such long strings of random characters.
In terms of gameplay and graphics, though, aside from the locations and the addition of a new weapon (the chain), it pretty much carried over everything the first game had. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…
Which brings me to the third game, Road Rash 3: Tour De Force. First, let’s look at the positives. Expanding from US states to countries was a cool (if anticipated) move, as well as vastly adding to the bike and weapons selections. And it still played like the Road Rash we knew and loved, which is arguably the most important thing.
But then, you look at it for more than five minutes, and your eyes spontaneously combust.
Again, I know that graphics certainly aren’t everything, but in this case, they’ve pretty much kept me from playing past the first track of RR3. I can’t even remember a Sonic game that was so constantly obnoxiously bright and retina searing. The jump to digitized sprites ala Mortal Kombat didn’t help either, at least in my opinion.
And that’s a great transition point. Today, sure, the gameplay holds up fine, which is what matters most to me, but it looks REALLY bad compared to other racers on the system. The framerate is garbage (when a game from 1995 has a worse framerate than a game from 1989…), and everything else looks super blocky, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if that garbled mess of pixels up ahead is another racer, or a car, leading to some pretty cheap deaths. But, if you can ignore the graphics enough, the games still play quite well, even when up against today’s racers, even if only for their uniqueness.
Which is why I’m surprised EA hasn’t at least tried an HD Remix sort of thing with the series. With so many retro titles getting put on download services and making companies a pretty penny, and considering that, aside from the yearly motocross sims THQ (or whoever has the licenses now) put out, motorcycle racing is a rarely visited genre, you’d think EA would see the earning potential and announce a remake or reboot for the current generation. It’s a damn shame that the only time we ever hear about the series anymore is when the originals are being included on some sort of classics collection for portable systems.
Hopefully, someone from EA catches wind of this article and changes that, because I would LOVE to see a comeback for the series, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.
(Sorry if this one wasn’t as good. The heat has sapped me dry this week! Still, any and all feedback, game requests, or anything else you have, don’t hesitate to leave here in the comments, post in the official forum thread, or just contact me directly via e-mail or Twitter! Thanks for reading!)