Wow. Sega, eh? Just the name causes many to speak in hushed tones of reverence. And indeed, they've been responsible for some of the finest gaming moments of all time. There was a spell in the Eighties where their arcade games were simply incredible, and their name was a cast-iron guarantee of pure joy.
One of the games that caused jaws to drop was the mighty Enduro Racer. Not exactly a follow-up to Hang On, it was a hulking behemoth of a cabinet, with a giant screen positioned in front of a sit-on bike which not only did you have to wrestle around the course; you also had to "wheelie" with it to get over jumps most effectively. After you'd finished a game, you felt like you'd had a real workout.
It's no good doing that, you're bike will smash to bits way before the finish line.
When Sega entered the home console market with their Master System, it was no surprise to find they were plundering their arcade back catalogue... with so many classic names at their disposal, they'd have been foolish not to capatalise on a hungry gaming public. What probably did come as a surprise was their release of Enduro Racer.
I'm sure you've played Enduro Racer in the arcades. If not, you've probably played Hang On. Or OutRun. Or Super Hang On. Or... well, you get the picture. A large part of the thrill comes from racing into the screen at incredible screens, with traffic, scenery and obstacles passing by in a glorious blur. I don't know if Sega were worried that the Master System couldn't handle it, but in their infinite wisdom they decided to program an entirely different game, with an isometric 3D viewpoint, and release it with the Enduro Racer name.
This is where a rocket launcher would come in handy.
It makes for an unusual game today... probably moreso back then, when unsuspecting gamers would have had to overcome their initial disappointment and just get on with it. The format is largely the same... race a course inside a set time limit, jumping over logs and avoiding sporadic traffic and other obstacles. But with the alternative view, it plays completely differently.
To add a bit of a twist, maybe to make the game just a little less "arcadey" for the home market, at the end of every level you can buy upgrades for your bike... if you've done well enough. For every vehicle you pass, you earn a point. Score a minimum of five points, and you have enough for an upgrade. It's basic stuff, and I'm not even sure if I noticed any differences, but it's a welcome attempt at a little bit of strategy.
Wonder if you get a bonus for landing on the car?
Enduro Racer on the Master System does have a certain charm. It's a bit like playing BMX Kidz, or maybe Excitebike (there's a classic I've never played... ideal opportunity now!). I enjoyed BMX Kidz a little bit more though... with Enduro Racer, the first three levels were fairly easy, and then there was a huge difficulty spike on level four. I suppose that with practice, I could overcome this. I have to say though, that for all the game is alright, I never felt any real compulsion to go back to it.
Race! Jump! Crash! Endure!