Video Carnage 19 – Sega Genesis

It’s time to check in with Sega’s fondly remembered 16-bit powerhouse, the Genesis.  This is one of my favourite retro consoles for many reasons, and I can even overlook the frequently maligned sound chips.  There isn’t much else to say about this console that I didn’t say in my golf video game reviews, so let’s get down to the racers.

Chase H.Q. II (1992)

Chase HQ II box

This is a console port of an arcade game that is itself a sequel to an arcade game.  In this game, you play the role of a cop with a fast car who’s taking down some criminal scum because fast car chases are always the best way to go about these things.

Chase HQ II 01

Normally, I’m not a fan of games where you play as the “authorities”.  I can’t really say that this game has made me a fan, but it’s a very well-made game and it’s a lot of fun to play.

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The setup screen includes options for changing difficulty to normal or hard.  You can also choose to give yourself up to three continues, called “CREDIT” here.  If you want to make this truly challenging, you can take them all away.  For those who don’t know what “SOUND TEST” is, that’s an option inside a game that will allow you to just chill to the game’s music for a while if you want.  The transmission of your vehicles can be automatic or standard, and like I’ve bitched about before, I prefer to drive automatic.  You can also choose which controller configuration you want.

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When you start, you get a mission briefing from Nancy at Chase H.Q.  Her name was McGill, but she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy.  When she comes on-screen, you get to hear the Genesis’s stunning sound capabilities used for speech, and she says “Jhishxcheshxjjzuxhhshechzzichshajseshksesh!”  I think that very poorly digitized speech sample is supposed to be a woman saying “This is Nancy from Chase H.Q!”, but it really doesn’t sound like words or anything.  The fucking Intellivision’s speech module sounded better.  And this wasn’t the fault of the Sega Genesis, as we will see a little later.

In any case, scrolling by in big letters at the top of the screen are your orders.  This first mission is to chase down a murder suspect in a yellow sports car.

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When you start the mission, you have to choose one of three vehicles.  Choose whichever is appropriate for the chase conditions and location.

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You get counted in, and you are off.  Unless you’ve changed the controller configuration, B is accelerate, A is brake and C is turbo boost.  That boost needs to “recharge” after you use it, so it’s best to save it for when you really need it.

All of the information you need to perform is above you.  The “DAMAGE” meter is not for your car, but for the enemy vehicle you’re taking down.

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The graphics in this game are pretty good, though not the best I’ve seen for the Genesis.  You do get some nice variety in surroundings and road conditions, and the sky will darken as night falls, though the game “cheats” by having you entering a dark tunnel to hide the daytime sky first.

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When you get close to the perpetrator, a golden arrow will flash and follow that car.  You must then try to crash into the enemy vehicle until you damage it enough to bring it to a halt.

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Here’s the chase continuing inside a tunnel.  The other drivers on the road are fucking dicks when you have your siren on, so it’s pretty much like the way some drivers act in real life.  “Oh, i hear an emergency siren… I better look around and stay right here in the middle of the fucking lane and pick my nose like the idiot I am.”

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When you start to do some real damage to the enemy vehicle, you will see flames appear on it.  When the damage meter reaches the top, your car and the perp’s will slow down, and the game will take over the animation.

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Your car blocks in the perp.

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And the po-po take down the crook!

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An amusing bit of text scrolls by under the image… supposedly what the cops are saying to their arrestee.

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If you succeed in your mission, you get to move on to another one.  No time to rest, I tell ya.  Here we’re after a gang member selling drugs.  We must be fresh out!

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I’m on it!  I just checked the glove compartment, and there is NO cocaine or PCP!  I repeat: NO cocaine or PCP!

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Each new mission sees the driving get progressively harder.

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There is more traffic, the chase is longer, and the enemy vehicles take longer to damage.

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But the second mission is still a piece of cake.

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Duke Nukem is off the streets again!  Shit… sorry everybody.  I didn’t mean to delay Duke Nukem Forever for so long.

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The next mission is to chase an armed and dangerous kidnapper who’s escaping in a van off to the mountains… shit… is this Christopher Dorner?

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Never mind that right now, I’ve got a job to do!  For this, I’m choosing the 4WD.

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This is a very long chase, It felt about twice as long as the last one.

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And I used up all my continues on it because the traffic was fucking terrible.  Don’t people listen to the radio when the LAPD tells them to stay away from the mountains because there’s a dangerous lunatic on the loose?

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I eventually did catch up to the van… but this guy was all over the road.

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Oh fuck!  It is Dorner!

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Mother fucker’s shooting at me while his van’s on fire!

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But I got him!

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Wait a minute!  That’s not dorner!  Shit, just like the LAPD.  This reminds me of a joke:

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), The FBI, and the CIA are all trying to prove that they are the best at apprehending criminals. The President decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit into a forest and each of them has to catch it.

The CIA goes in. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations they conclude that rabbits do not exist.

The FBI goes in. After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit, and they make no apologies. The rabbit had it coming.

The LAPD goes in. They come out two hours later with a badly beaten bear. The bear is yelling: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

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Next mission: Chase a violent terrorist.  I’m starting to wonder if police chases are really the best way to go about these things.  Actually, I know they aren’t, but even if I suspend my disbelief, I’m finding it hard to go along with this much longer.

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So here I am out in the desert.

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At least I have a helicopter to provide me with cover.

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Wait a minute, that fucker’s shooting at me!  Okay, the helicopter is not one of the “good guys”.

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Here’s one of the many parts in the game where the road forks.  This reminds me a lot of  “Out-Run” on the Master System, except it looks way better.  If you don’t pay attention to that flashing red arrow though, and choose the wrong path, it’s game over because you’ve lost the baddie’s trail.

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Oh, and speaking of game over, remember how I said I used up all my continues in that last mission?  Well, I wasn’t fast enough chasing that terrorist.

“Chase H.Q. II” is one hell of a fast-paced and action-packed game, so if you can stomach the goofy and implausible premise, then hunt down the cartridge.  It came out for damn near every popular system at the time, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a version.

Super Hang-On (1989)

Super Hang-On box

This is an updated port of Sega’s arcade classic.

Super Hang-On 01

There are two gameplay modes in this version: Arcade Mode and Original.

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The Arcade Mode is just a series of races in locations around the world.  They are all very challenging, but they start out in order of toughness as indicated above.

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You can choose which music you’d like to race to before you begin.  These tunes are all good.

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You get counted in, and you have 50 seconds to make it to the first checkpoint.  It’s game over if you don’t.  B accelerates, A brakes and C fires your turbo boost.

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The sides of the track are full of obstacles.

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If you go off the road, your bike will slow down considerably.

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If you hit any obstacles, you are treated to the nicest wipe-out animation I’ve seen in these reviews so far.  Sometimes your bike slides out from under you, as in the screenshot above.  Sometimes you flip over your bike and roll for a while.  It all looks great, but it all should be avoided, of course.

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This game is very unforgiving, and you need to lay on that turbo boost at all times to make it to each checkpoint.  You can not afford to crash.  Letting go of the controller to take screenshots spelled doom for this ride.

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After you finish you get to see how you rank.

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Original mode might sound a little mis-named, because this mode wasn’t in the arcade version of Super Hang-On.  I guess it’s original to the home versions.  But this part of the game is a lot more fun.  You start off with $0, and you need to win some races in order to get some prize money.  Once you do, you can spend it on upgrading your bike, which doesn’t even have turbo boost when you start.

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Gameplay is the same in this mode except you aren’t trying to make it to the next checkpoint, you’re just trying to win the race.

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This game controls and handles very well, and its a lot of fun to play.

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The action on screen is very smooth considering the hardware, and it looks great for a 16-bit console.

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You can’t crash as much as I did in this race.  I was actually trying to get some more screenshots of the awesome crash animations.

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Here are a few more scenes from various races that I snagged from the demo.

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This is another classic, and it does the “Hang-On” franchise proud.  There’s lots of replay value in this one.  If you like motorbike racers, track this one down.

Mario Andretti Racing (1994)

Mario Andretti Racing box

It’s-a me! Mario!

Super Mario Andretti

Okay, now that I have that out of the way…

This is one of the best racing games that I have ever played.  When you’re a giant in the world of competitive racing like Mr. Andretti, you’d better make sure that if you get your name attached to a video game it’s a good one.

Mario Andretti Racing 01

And this is a great one.

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There are three styles of racing that you can choose from…

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And that’s just the start as far as customization goes.

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I’m going to race a black stock car with the #3.  Automatic transmission, of course.

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You can choose one of many tracks to race, and they all look a little different when you race them too.  This is a beautiful game, graphically speaking.  Once you’ve selected a track, you can choose how many laps you’d like to race.  This is from 1 to 25.

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There are more options on this screen.  You can select between two difficulty levels.  There are also two “DRIVER VIEWS”, though even those are customizable further while you race.  The music you hear is quite good, but it’s only available in the menus and between races.  If you need to hear music while you race, you will have to put on some tunes or something.  I don’t know why anyone would choose to turn the sound effects off because these sound effects are terrific.  They honestly make the Genesis sound as good as I’ve ever heard it sound.

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You can also adjust the controller configuration.  The default controls are shown above.

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You can enter your name too, which is standard by now.

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I’ve chosen the actual “RACE” option from the menu.  Before each race you are shown your start position.

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And when you begin, don’t forget that pressing the C button can change the view.  This is what the game calls “CHASE VIEW”, or what I call third-person view.  The only other option in the setup screen before you race is “NOSE CAM”, which I’ve been calling first-person view.

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After pressing C, one of the other racer’s views is shown on the top half of the screen.

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Pressing C again fills that half with your rear-view.  This is convenient if you want to see who’s gaining on you.

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Another press of the C button will show you lap and track information.

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And finally, press C one more time to get the full-screen view.  This is my personal favourite.  I think this looks freaking awesome, especially for a game on the Sega Genesis.

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The action is fast and everything is smooth and crisp.  The sounds are simply excellent.  There are voices in this game, and they are the clearest and best sounding digitized voices I’ve heard in a Genesis game.  And they don’t stop the other sound effects when they come on.  Sometimes you will hear a voice saying “Good lap!” or “You need fuel!” or “Go easy on the equipment!”

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The other cars racing with you behave very realistically, and so does your own car.  They will sometimes spin each other out, and if they hit you in the right way, they will spin you out too.

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The info at the top of the screen shows wear on your tires as well as your fuel gauge.  You can see that the yellow bar next to the F is almost empty.  Those orange pylons indicate that the pitstop lane is opening up.

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There I am driving into the pitstop.  You can see there are two other cars in the pitstop already.

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Pitstop action is represented by these three greyscale animated squares.  When they stop moving, the pit crew is done.

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That animated square with the flag-waving dude tells me that it’s the final lap.

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And the double checkered flags waved mean the race is over.

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The results are shown after each race.

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From the track menu, you can choose “ANDRETTI TIPS”, which will give you sort of a play-by-play by Mr Andretti himself as you drive through the course.

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It’s worth noting that not only did Mr. Andretti come up with all of the tips for the courses in this game, he also guided the development of the AI drivers in this game.

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You can also choose to “QUALIFY” before you race, and this is a bit like a practice round.

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The Indy Car race takes place at higher speeds with formula one autos.  This is the “NOSE CAM” view.

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Here is my preferred view again.  This race is also lots of fun, but more challenging than the Stock Car race.

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Finally there is Sprint Car racing.  I find this to be the most challenging of all racing styles because the cars are so hard to control.  It requires a lot of practice, but the game is so great and well-made that it’s a sure thing I’ll be returning to it.

Besides the “SINGLE RACE” mode of game play, there is also “CAREER” and “CIRCUIT”.  “CIRCUIT” starts you off with $0 and a car, and you must win races in order to upgrade.  “CAREER” mode starts you off with a Sprint Car in the same way.

The only complaint that I can level at this game is what I’ve come to know as the “rolling start”.  Each race in this game begins with your car already in motion, and when you cross the starting line, you gain control of it.  I really dislike this way of starting races, as I think it takes away a big part of the gameplay.  I’ve seen it in a lot of Sega racing games, and in some of those it’s a feature that can be turned off.  But in this game, it’s the way every race starts, and it’s the only thing I don’t like in an otherwise perfect racer.

When I first discovered this game, I couldn’t put it down.  It’s addicting.  That’s ultimately what it boils down to.  It excels at what a great racer should do, and it looks and sounds great.  You have to get this if you own a Sega Genesis or a Nomad.  If you want to give this one a spin on your PC, I recommend the Kega Fusion emulator.  However you manage to do it, if you’re a fan of racing games, you need to add this one to your library.