Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Motor Raid

Time to raid the... motor..?

For those who dislike the Isle of Man comes Motor Raid, one of many Sega Model 2 arcade racers which nobody has played. Forgettable Japanese characters hitting each other with sticks while riding bikes. Just what what we need to quench the Eurozone debt crisis.

When you think Sega motorbike racing games you immediately think of... well, perhaps nothing. If you're informed, you'll mention Hang-On, if you're feeling edgy, Super Hang-On, and if you're really in the know, you'd cite something like GP Rider and expect others to bask in your knowledge. What doesn't usually get a mention is 1995's fantastic Manx TT Super Bike, most likely because it was the motorbike racer of choice for Sega Saturn owners, of which there are few.

Of course, as a man who likes to buck the trend, Manx TT Super Bike stands as one of the first 3D racing games I had the good fortune to play. The Saturn version was derived from an arcade game running on Sega Model 2 hardware, neither are the least bit interesting for the general public (most of whom usually opt for something with more substance, e.g. Gran Turismo). However, Sega fans will remember Manx TT for its feature allowing you ride sheep, not to mention the fact the game takes place on British soil - you don't get that with Nintendo.

But because the world sucks, Manx TT Super Bike failed to capture the hearts and minds of arcade goers, and so in 1997 Sega produced Motor Raid, a full conversion kit for Manx TT. Motor Raid is exceptionally rare - from what I understand it was never released as a stand-alone unit, nor did it escape Japan in large numbers. Furthermore it saw no home ports, so even though it would have certainly helped the Sega Saturn in its time of need, Motor Raid was allowed to be battered by the sands of time, never to be heard of again. Well, except for fans of emulation.

Motor Raid is perhaps best described as the biking equivalent of the F-Zero series, specifically F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64. The major difference, other than the fewer opponents, different modes of transport and the fact there's only five maps, is that you can't physically remove players from the race. You can batter them, slowing their progress, but they'll always bounce back to get in your way. And because it's an arcade game, the computer will be given a handicap to assure some healthy (if unfair) competition.

Like other Sega arcade racers, Motor Raid is also timed, so errors will cost you dearly, and in a world where the machine wants to extract cash from you, anything but a perfect race will force you to retire early. You will struggle to get to the end with an easy choice of vehicle, but such is the case with many arcade racers.

For the most part, Motor Raid is a solid experience, but as with all games of this nature it only offers a very short campaign, definitely worth extending if planned for use in the home. There are four racers, all of whom are generic Japanese characters with little difference between them, and there are a half a dozen tracks, many of which are quite short. There are also two types of attacks (which seem to act mostly the same) and a boost mechanic... which I'm not sure works too well on a computer keyboard. Not overly simplistic, but not too confusing.

All of this makes for a game that sounds quite entertaining, yet I don't find myself too fussed with Motor Raid. The graphics are undoubtedly better than those of F-Zero X (though to be honest, that's not much of a challenge), the overall atmosphere is surprisingly boring for a game of its type. It feels uninspired, which I agree is odd complaint for me to make seeing as it's one of the few motorbike racing games set in space, but it lacks the iconic features of other Sega arcade racers and doesn't feel as cutting edge. The boost mechanic makes things more frantic (if you can get it to work), but with only ten racers on the field life is still relatively tame.

It's also completely eclipsed by F-Zero GX/AX, also built by Sega. It takes place on bikes as opposed to hover cars, obviously, but the feel of riding a bike is lost when the game is taken out of the arcades. The only thing that makes it stand out is the fact you can wield various types of weapon, bringing things more in-line with Mario Kart.

The stages in Motor Raid don't really help the situation - many of them feel like glorified velodromes - wide, uneventful roads with the occasional jump or two. Yes you have several stages, but I think if forced to choose between a relatively dull Motor Raid stage and the then pretty-accurate copy of the Isle of Man TT circuit, I think I'd side with the latter.

What seals the deal is Manx TT Super Bike's vastly superior audio when compared to Motor Race. Manx TT's music fits right at home in the loud, corny world of Sega racers, while Motor Race has generic electronic tracks and an awkward computer-like voice commentating on your race. Compare this with this and you might begin to understand what I mean. It's by no means a bad game and is probably great with friends, but it just seems as if the bear minimum was put on display here.

Overall I like Motor Race, but I can't bring myself to claim it's better than its rivals. It's solid, it's playable and if you see a cabinet you might as well check it out if not just on the basis it's incredibly rare, but I don't personally believe it has much business being in an arcade environment. It deserved to be greatly enhanced and shoved on the Sega Saturn to help that system compete in the west. The fact it sucks up twice as many credits as normal arcade games is just the icing on the cake.

However, I would fully endorse a sequel, and in a world where the F-Zero license isn't guaranteed for Sega to use, Motor Raid seems to be the obvious plan B. With more characters, more stages and cutting edge graphics, it could be something special.

1 comment:

  1. I actually find this game incredibly enjoyable.