Victory Run (Video Game Review)

Video Game Review
Victory Run
Turbografx-16
1989
Developed by: Hudson
Published by: Hudson

With there being so many great racing titles on the various 8 and 16-bit systems, its easy to see why Hudson’s Victory Run is often overlooked. However, this oversight is mainly do to its control issues because thanks to it’s solid gameplay and nice looking graphics, this game can otherwise stand toe-to-toe with other similar games in its genre. However, the controls are a deal breaker here; which is unfortunate since it basically sinks what otherwise had the potential to be a great game.

Like many racing games of the time, the player is racing against the clock. Other cars on the track serve merely as obstacles that the player must avoid. Crashing into too many obstacles or driving off the track repeatedly will most certainly guarantee losing. The idea is to go as fast as possible with one’s reflexes at 100%. It’s not a formula unique to this game but it’s implemented well. This game does things a bit differently than most by requiring players to buy repair upgrades for their cars between races. If a player drives poorly, they’ll be required to make repairs to ensure standing a chance in later courses.

The controls are the biggest letdown of the game. It features the standard control scheme for most games of the genre: d-pad steers while one face button acts as the gas while the other is used as the brake. However, the game has all the cars using manual transmission. This wouldn’t be so bad if the control scheme was mapped out well so it wouldn’t be so awkward. The problem is that to shift, one needs to press up or down on the d-pad. This hardly works as intended during turns (which can be disastrous in later levels). It’s a major issue when swerving around obstacles because tapping the top or the bottom of the d-pad by accident in a frenzied moment hashes out an unexpected cut in forward momentum and can derail the entire race. If there had been a face button dedicated to using a clutch to switch gears or if the Turbografx-16 had more buttons, or, more appropriately, had they just made the game where the cars had an automatic transmission option, this game would have been one of the best in the genre.

While the controls stink, the graphics shine. The game is presented from a behind-the-car third-person perspective with the screen scrolling from the in-game horizon. Considering the hardware, the game looks great. The colours are well-selected and, while everything looks pixelated, everything is drawn well enough that one doesn’t need to strain their imagination in trying to pretend what the on-screen images are supposed to look like. However, like most Turbografx-16 games, the graphics of this game will not blow away anything seen on the NES. Rad Racer is a much better looking game despite being on less powerful technology. The transition of the sky from a day-to-night setting during a race is neat even though the transitions are more sudden than gradual. On thing that needs to be kept in mind though is that Victory Run was a launch title for the system so it’s not like the designers of the game had figured out how to maximize the power of the system yet.

The sounds of the game are good but nothing to write home about. The soundtrack isn’t that impressive but it won’t torture the ears. However, the soundtrack seems more appropriate for a platformer or a puzzle game. It’s too soft and slow-paced for a racing game. The effects are decent but even with one’s imagination on overdrive, they’ll never be confused for something overheard at a real-life race.

The controls are a real sticking point and are a damper on what would otherwise have been a solid racing game. Unless you’re six-years-old or have super-tiny thumbs, the d-pad just wasn’t made for this control scheme. it makes the game more difficult than it has to be. If you practice enough, the game can become manageable but the faulty design results in an unnecessarily steep learning curve.

Maybe Hudson was being too ambitious in their attempts to make an arcade racer with realistic elements. There are some really cool things in Victory Run  like the repair system but the faulty controls hampered by the lack of automatic transmission may make this game unplayable for some. There aren’t many racers on the Turbografx-16 so if it’s your retro system of choice, you don’t have much of a selection to choose from and are stuck. It could be better. Actually, it should be better and outside of playing everything else in the genre, there’s no need to play this game.

☆☆

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