Friday, December 18, 2009

Road Spirits

Pack-in Video / ARC

Pack-in Video's hard-hitting PC Engine lineup was so stacked that a few of their quality titles kind of slipped through the cracks. Even the company's number-one nut-job fan (me) never gave much thought to Road Spirits, as it doesn't receive nearly as much attention as fellow PCE drivers Out Run, Victory Run, and Final Lap Twin. Heck, even when RS is mentioned, people usually just confuse it with Racing Damashii. But after finally bothering to do a little research on it, I decided it was a game that I needed to pick up. Images did it for me: I really like the nice, light colors RS employs as well as the variety it presents in stage-to-stage vehicle design.

Not that it's an artistic masterwork. I know that a lot of folks will slam its backgrounds for being simplistic or sloppy and mock the crude rectangular things that are distant enemy autos. And while those people may have a point or two, I don't mind any of RS's visual shortcomings; in fact, the only gripe I have about the game's superficials concerns the "screeching tire" sound effect. The noise itself isn't bad enough to be deafening or anything, but it's used ridiculously often and seldom appropriately: situations where you're handling an easy turn with total control seem like death-defying endeavors because your wheels insist on shrieking.

But then, I suppose that if ARC had preserved the racket for dangerous maneuvers, it would be heard only occasionally, if at all. You see, RS's controls are good, very good... so good that almost every turn is an easy turn. You might think that courses with atypical driving surfaces would make matters a bit trickier...

...but as my realistic cousin Zigfriedomanovich would say, YOU'RE THINKING TOO MUCH!

Now, easy games can be good games, of course... but with seventeen stages of infant-level challenge, Road Spirits runs the risk of losing people's interest. Variety--in, like, everything--was the designers' solution.

Shift select is standard stuff, and while the option to use different vehicles places the game at the advanced level of, uh, Rad Racer...

...the neatest adjustable element is the soundtrack. You can select from ten different tunes prior to each stage...

...and we're talking major variety here: loungy jazz stuff, lead-laden metal stuff, nutty stuff, and even a track that sounds like a red book remix of an old Final Lap number.

Oh, and after each stage, you're "rewarded" with a "girl picture."

Not exactly titillating material, there.

Really, there isn't all that much about Road Spirits that's thrilling, but it's fun and plays well and offers variety enough to hold most people's attention. Out Run is a similar game with similar objectives, but while OR receives much more praise and is certainly more impressive technically, I'll take RS's visuals and variety any day.

1 comment :

m1savage said...

The whole time while playing Road Spirits I keep thinking "this is going to be a real cool game when the difficulty gets harder next level". Problem is, it never does. Another game that with a little more work could have went from a decent game to a real keeper. Still I enjoy giving it a play once in a while.

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