[I ♥ The PC Engine] Victory RunPosted on May 22nd, 2009 7 comments
Release Date: 12/28/87
Price: 4500 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 15.49 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A nostalgic game, but the controls and feeling of speed are still excellent. The hills you go up and down during the race are extremely smoothly simulated. The four gears and endurance ratings on parts also give the game a realistic feel.”
The final release of 1987, and also the first racer to hit the PC Engine. I may be overlooking some other obscure release, but I don’t think Hudson made another console racing game after this until the PS2’s Bomberman Kart in 2001.
This is also the first serious attempt to simulate Dakar Rally-style racing on consoles, and maybe in the entirety of video games. Not that things are that much different from OutRun and other sprite-and-raster racers of the era, but there is a pretty decent level of depth here for a 1987 game — stage-based rallying, day/night racing, on/off-road racing, car damage, car parts that wear out over time and require replacement, the rally-ish emphasis of hitting the target time over simply being the fastest dude on the track, and so forth. (The graphics also aren’t bad — the uphill/downhill effect is pretty remarkable for a 2D racer.)
This is a game that doesn’t reward insanely quick driving. Instead, remaining steady is the key here, choosing your car parts wisely (ie. preparing a lot of replacement brakes, because you go through them like I go through bottles of Shiner Black) and taking a seasoned, patient approach to the road as you try to pass by the lorries, police cars and motorcycles driven by enormous people that share the rally path with you. You can’t even afford to floor it completely on straightaways, or else you may grab GNARLY AIR on a hill and torch your suspension.
All the extras tacked on to the classic OutRun formula make this a surprisingly hard game, the reason why it was ranked so low by contemporary gamers. Night driving is painful, for example. The road’s hard to see (especially in desert stages), none of the other cars believe in using their headlights after dark, and it’s terrifying rough on your joints. That’s why making it through the night to the end of the checkpoint, on time no less, is so exhilarating when you pull it off. Doubly so, in fact, because you get to hear the boppy car-maintenance music as your reward. Seriously boppy. In fact, this may be my favorite PCE tune out of the 1987 games. You just can’t get enough of that harsh computer-y lead that kicks this tune off. I had to change a tire today (true story) and couldn’t get this out of my head throughout the entire hot, sweaty ordeal. Bliss.
The above video, a championship victory that takes about 23 minutes from start to finish, shows you everything you need to know as a budding Victory Runner. Note how the player destroys his brakes early but deals with it by having his foot halfway on the pedal whenever the road is curving more than half a degree at a time.
I wish there was a way to turn off the sound effects in this game because they are the poor (especially the brakes).
One of the best moments, for me, was finally making it to the Savannah and completing it. There is just something refreshing about that stage. Of course, this was back in the day, during simpler times.
As for the tune from Victory Run being one of the standout tracks of 1987… it is, but it isn’t #1. 🙂
Of course, my favorite tracks tend to have a somewhat somber, brooding underbelly to them (like Legendary Axe II, among others). I haven’t figured out which 1987 title (or track) would be my #1.
Actually, the PCE library is chock full of some really wonderful chiptunes (PSG) and I could talk about them ad nausem. But I won’t.
I’ve been reading your stuff since tsr’s NES archive back in the late 90s, and you’re still my favorite Person-Who-Writes-About-Video-Games. I think this series you’re writing on the PC Engine sums it all up for me. You’re taking games that have only received goofy, half-hearted condescension upon their Virtual Console re-releases and giving them the time of day, even when it’s not obvious why you should. Keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s wonderful.
i’d like to hear more about that awesome insert illustration! any idea who did it?
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[…] shot at copying Out Run…or perhaps Victory Run, more accurately speaking. Japan was going through something of a rally fad during the late […]
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