|By Dan Hearth||Thursday, 4 Oct 2007|
Rock N’ Roll Racing is a very unique game, to say the least. The game first came out on the Super Nintendo in 1993, then on the Sega Genesis the following year, and much later on the Game Boy Advance in 2003. It takes place in a futuristic setting where racers from across the galaxy compete to see who the best driver in the universe is. Your goal is to obviously come in first place and win the race, but the most skilled driver is not always the winner as you and your opponents will spend most of the race trying to destroy each other with one of the many weapons equipped on your futuristic death-car. The game can be played with one or two players, with two players being played in split-screen. The competitive nature of the game, along with the superb, classic-rock soundtrack and spirited commentary by Larry “Supermouth” Huffman make for a highly-entertaining experience.
This game is not a simulation of racing in the least; it’s a way over the top arcade-style game. It actually has a lot in common with R.C. Pro-Am. The game has an isometric viewpoint so things are almost always moving diagonally, though the game’s controls don’t have you pressing diagonally. As you drive around the track, you and your opponents can lay traps and shoot each other with a slew of weapons. Missiles, lasers, land mines, oil slicks, nitros and cliff-jumpers are among the weapons and accessories at your disposal, depending on the vehicle. With the money you earn after each race you can buy better parts and additional weapons for your car. You can even buy a new car, if you’ve got the cash. You also receive points after each race which you will need to advance to the next planet and its increasingly difficult tracks. Both points and money are distributed depending on what position you place in the race. The only place that does not get any points is last place, so it’s of utmost importance you don’t fall behind your opponents. Drivers that don’t earn enough points don’t get to advance and are forced to race an entire circuit over again.
The visuals in this game aren’t really anything spectacular, but they’re decent enough. It’s pretty standard for a Super Nintendo game. The game is a little on the dark side; sometimes it looks like the contrast has been turned down. It took me forever to realize those shiny spots on the track were oil slicks. That’s what happens when you put black oil on a black road. The game has some slowdown when there are a lot of objects on the screen. Things are a bit cramped when playing 2-player as the screen is split in half and the image isn’t compressed at all which limits how far you can see ahead. This is a bit a of a deterrent if you’re new to the game so you may want to practice a bit by yourself before you take on a friend. It’s not all bad, though. The cars themselves are fairly detailed, the characters have large detailed portraits, and there’s the occasional cut-scene of flying to the next planet which is nice to look at. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. The graphics aren’t really the game’s strongest point.
The audio in this game really shines and is likely the game’s strongest attribute. The soundtrack is made up of some of the best classic-rock songs, including “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, “Highway Star” by Deep Purple, “Peter Gunn” by Henry Mancini, “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf, and “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood. Obviously, they’re not the original songs; the Super Nintendo isn’t capable of reproducing that kind of sound. The music is surprisingly good despite the Super Nintendo’s limited sound quality and the songs are very true to the source material. Those are the only five songs in the whole game, so hopefully you’ll like them because you’ll be hearing them a lot. The game also has some voice-overs with Larry Huffman as the voice of the game’s announcer. He talks a lot during the game, but he’s actually entertaining to listen to as a lot of his quotes are pretty hilarious. His remarks will be different from time to time, even if one situation happens over and over, though it probably won’t be too long before you’ve heard all that he has to say. All of his comments are delivered with great enthusiasm and he rarely falls behind on the events of the race.
Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned veteran, this game has you covered. Championship mode has three difficulty levels that not only determine the computer’s aggressiveness, but also the number of planets you will visit, so the higher difficulties are not only harder, but they are longer too. The game is kind of long and it takes a long time to play through the whole game in one sitting. If you want to continue a game from where you left off, you’ll need to write down a password. There’s no save function which I think is something this game could have really benefited from. Passwords are annoying and I don’t believe they’re acceptable when you consider how many games had battery back-up before this game. There are certain things the computer always does when you race against them, such as fire all of its weapon charges at the beginning of a lap, and it does make them a bit too easy to beat on the easier difficulties, but it’s necessary to exploit these habits in order to win on hard. The one major gripe I have with this game is that it’s really repetitive. Each planet has you doing the same tracks three or four times before moving on. None of the races are very long (4 laps only take a couple minutes), but it’s a shame they didn’t make each race on a unique track. If you fail to advance, you’re forced to race an entire circuit again. That’s about 10 to 20 races depending on the circuit. There’s also a VS. Mode where you can use any car at no cost and drive on any planet at any time. It’s not a bad choice if you don’t want to start at the beginning of the championship mode, but because you have access to everything it’s not really challenging at all, so that spoils the fun a bit. This mode is really more fun if you don’t take it very seriously. Try doing crazy stunts, like jumping the track for example, or firing your weapons like crazy.
Rock N’ Roll Racing has its faults, but despite them it’s still really fun to play. If you like racing games like F-Zero or R.C. Pro-Am, this game should be right up your alley. I imagine most people will either love it or hate it. Personally, I love it. If you can track down a copy of it, I say you buy it. At the very least, you should give it a try.