Speed Racer: In My Most Dangerous Adventures
- Machine: SNES, Genesis;
- Manufacturer: Radical Entertainment; Accolade
As popular as it was in the sixties, Speed Racer never achieved the cult status it has today, thanks to twice-daily showings on MTV. It was only a matter of time before Speed and his Mach 5 drove into the game market. Accolade has already released a PC version of Speed Racer, and SNES and Genesis games are expected on store shelves in March.
"I'm one of the biggest Speed Racer fans in the world", says Daniel Jeung, senior product development manager for Accolade. "And I spent about two years fighting for Accolade to pick up the project - not only because I was a fan, or that there were a lot of other fans at Accolade, but because the show was obviously making a comeback. It was just going into syndication, and that's a perfect time to jump on the Speed Racer bandwagon. And given Accolade's history in driving games, the show was a perfect fit". Accolade approached Radical Entertainment, the development firm that bad previously designed its Brett Hull Hockey and Pele! games, only to find that Radical had tried to license the game a year earlier.
"It was one of the first letters I wrote when we first started developing games", says Ian Verchere, Radical development producer.
A Brief History of Speed
From Pops to Chim Chim the monkey, the Speed Racer gang has entered pop culture. Everyone knows Speed, his girlfriend Trixie, ace mechanic Sparky, kid brother Spridle, and Spridle's pet Chim Chim. Everyone also knows - everyone but Speed, that is - that the mysterious Racer X is actually Speed's older brother Rex, who ran away from home when Pops Racer wouldn't let him drive.
Speed Racer was released in the mid-sixties as a Japanese comic book "Mach Go Go Go". The focus of Tatsuo Yoshida's comic was primarily on the Mach Go car instead of its driver Go Mifune ("Go" is both the Japanese word for five and a popular boy's name). In 1967, the comic book was turned into 52 half-hour cartoons, and the spotlight changed.
"These days Speed Racer is pulling the heartstrings of the people who rushed home after school to watch it when they were kids", says Todd Thorson, an Accolade producer. "Now that they're in their 20s and 30s, they can recapture that same feeling. At the same time, young kids are being exposed to Speed Racer for the first time and are seeing it as something different and cool. It hits two audiences for different reasons".
Two Different Kinds of Speed
The SNES (16-meg) and Genesis (12-meg) versions of Speed Racer are very different, both in keeping with the different system capabilities and the target audience. The Genesis version is a pure racing game in which you need to win to advance, and you earn Mach 5 gadgetry with good performances. The SNES version is the cartoon in its entirety, with a continuous storyline in which all the events are related.
"Speed fans", Verchere says, "know that a lot of the action in the cartoon took place outside the car. In the SNES version of the game, each driving level is separated by an adventure level as something prevents Speed from getting to the next race. We designed two distinct engines for the games. And we generated the hills using Mode 7 technology so you're not just racing on a flat track. The races aren't necessarily lap races - you can go start to finish without crossing the same piece of track twice".
"The Genesis game", Thorson says, "is a pure racing game along the lines of the Pc version. You've got a different audience with Genesis - the older audience wants more of the racing. Super Nintendo's younger audience is more accustomed to the side-scrolling levels, so we gave them two games in one".
One thing the games share, however, is the feeling of the cartoon series. The designers point out that it wasn't challenging to capture that campy quality of the Speed Racer cartoons - quite the contrary.
"A lot of games out there create a fantasy world", Jeung says. "They have to spend a lot of time setting up a background story. But the cartoon did all that for us. Players were expecting certain things - hijacks, chopper blades, Captain Fear. We didn't have to spend a lot of time with the story, setting up personalities and villains and things."
Speaking of villains, what about Racer X? Is he the Reptile of Speed Racer?
"What I did, Verchere says, "is design the game so that Racer X doesn't appear as an option. However, once you complete the game as Speed, Racer X is one of the racers you can choose. And since his Shooting Star doesn't have all the features of the Mach 5, it's a more challenging mode. We also may come up with some kind of code so you can get Racer X earlier in the game".
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Our daring young hero is back, and this time he's not on MTV. Speed Racer is like two games in one: intense high-speed racing and average hand-to-hand combat. They balance each other out to add up to one decent game.
ProTip: The side-scrolling levels are long, so grab every green flag you can find to keep your energy up.
A little of This, A Little of That
Along with Spridle, Trixie, and the famous CO team, you travel the World Race Circuit and use your driving skills and a few hidden weapons to defeat all the classic Speed Racer villains in behind-the-car races. On alternating levels, you'll street-fight your way through a mediocre side-view adventure. After defeating the game, you can play as the mysterious Racer X.
Whether it's jumping over boiling lava pits or making hairpin turns, the Mach 5's responsive controls will help you get power-ups and keep you on the road. The controls for the action/adventure sequences, however, are painfully slow by comparison.
Sounds Like a Winner
As soon as you start this game, you'll notice that every sound effect was taken directly from the cartoon. All the familiar background music is here, including the unforgettable theme song.
The graphics are uneven. The racing simulation is realistic, with fine detail of every jump and turn, but the rest of the game's graphics are dull and not very creative (hey, just like the cartoon!).
Poor graphics and action on the side-scrolling levels hurt the overall look and feel of this game, but the racing levels are second to none for challenging fun. If you're a fan of the cartoon series, this game is definitely for you!
Take out bad guys at the beginning of each race with your Chopper Blades.