~ VICTORY RUN ~
Hudson Soft / NEC
I bought this driving game way back in 1989, but it wasn't until many years later that I finally managed to beat it. I didn't play it much when I was a kid because it was pretty difficult for me back then, and I didn't play it at all for a number of years because it just didn't seem like a very good game. When I finally gave it another go as a skilled and determined (and extremely geeky) adult, I not only beat it but also enjoyed it.
Practice is necessary to take a firm grip on the clunky Victory Run vehicle. Of no help at all are the other drivers, who are collision-happy bastards, and the patches of crap that are littered about most of the tracks. Making matters even more difficult is the fact that your car slows down (and loses valuable extra seconds) during the final straightaway in each stage in order to "check in" at the finish line, an element of the proceedings that immediately seemed silly and objectionable to me. There are very few tunes to accompany the initially unenjoyable racing, and the first few levels are visually dull and redundant.
But when I reached the point where I was controlling my car well enough to steer clear of all the crap-patches and bastard-manned autos, I was able to advance past those lackluster early boards, and then things got fun. The final few levels are such a step up visually from the first bunch that it's hard to believe the same designers were involved with both batches. The vast green fields in Stage 6, the cloud-crossed sky in Stage 7, the sun-brightened beach in Stage 8... it's all beautiful stuff.
Appealing latter-half artwork isn't the only thing the game has going for it. Budgeting spare parts, considering terrain type (and the effect it has on gear switching), and overcoming limited visibility during nighttime stretches are enjoyable elements that add a bit of complexity to the basic "beat the clock" formula. And I always get a kick out of the rounds of applause that are given when you complete a stage without using any of your earned/allotted extra time (and it's worth noting that the time limits during the last few levels are really quite lenient). To top it all off, the brief ending sequence is pretty amusing.
Frankly, I'm probably being a little too positive here. The appealing strategy-related aspects of the affair and the late-stage visual heroics don't offset the fact that the actual driving calls for some grueling practice sessions. Still, if you dismiss (or have already dismissed) the game due to early-level boredom (as I once did), I recommend giving it another shot at some point because of the fun that can ultimately be had with it.