Review: Road Rash II (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we try to prove ourselves at every level in the Sega Genesis game Road Rash II. We find out how this combat racing game plays.

This game was released in 1993. It is the second game in the series as well as the original Genesis trilogy.

We almost have complete knowledge of this particular series. Previously, we tried the original Road Rash. That game got a great score for its high end graphics and entertaining play. We also tried Road Rash 3 – Tour De Force. That game also got a great score. From there, we tried Road Rash 3D. While the game play did have its flaws, it also got a pretty good score. Finally, we tried Road rash 64. Despite its somewhat lower end graphics, the open world concept and addicting game play made it the best Road Rash game we’ve played to date. So, we thought we’d fill an obvious game and give the second game in the series a try.

If you’ve played the original game, a lot of features from that game do make it onto this version.

In total, there are really only 5 levels to play through. If you beat the 5th level, you’ll basically get placed back onto level 1 with the bike that you bought. Complete any of the races and the game crashes. So, while there are 5 races you can play, you can never really beat them because the game breaks during the end cut scene.

You start the game on level 1. Like the previous game, you have 5 tracks to choose from. The tracks are Alaska, Hawaii, Tennessee, Arizona, and Vermont. You can race each track in any order, but you must place 3rd or better in all of the races to continue on to the next round. The critical thing here is the fact that you can re-race tracks you have already won. This allows you to grind for cash at any point in the game.

Cash is a very critical thing for a large portion of this game. As you build your cash reserves, you’ll find yourself able to afford faster and better bikes. In addition to this, you’ll be able to pay police fines if you get busted or repair your bike if you get wrecked. It isn’t until you buy the most expensive bike and have at least $4,000 in the bank that money becomes less worthwhile. At that point, your focus will wind up being on qualifying on whatever races you haven’t done so up to that point.

A big improvement in this game is how the bike shop is handled. Instead of going to the winner circle and pressing a specific button, it is now an option in the main menu. So, it is much more clear where you can pick up a bike upgrade.

There are three classes of bikes to choose from. The first class is the ultra light bikes. Your first bike will come from here. This class features the more beginner bikes. While the bikes are generally slower, they do feature better handling than most bikes in the entire game. The second class is the nitro class bikes. These bikes are ones upgraded from other classes to feature nitro’s. Overwhelmingly, this is the best class of bikes in the game. The final class is the super bikes. While there aren’t any nitro’s involved, these bikes have some of the best specs in the game outside of nitro class. Each class features 5 bikes that are progressively better, but more expensive. Strategy becomes a big factor on which bikes you buy as you progress through the levels.

Sooner or later, you’ll feel obligated to buy a more powerful bike. So, when you feel you have built up enough of a cash reserve, you can swing by the bike shop to see what is there. You’ll likely notice that your cash is higher than on the front page. This is because the money takes into account you trading in your current bike. This is approximately half the bikes value. Combined, you can make your dollars stretch a little further here.

while the location of the bike shop is vastly improved over the previous game, it is also where the game glitches out as well. You have to buy your bike when you are just entering the next level. If you buy a bike part way through qualifying on various races, the game bugs out. It reverts your purchase to the previous bike you owned, resets what courses you are already qualified for, and keeps all the cash you spent on that new bike. In short, you’ve wasted a huge amount of time. So, do this when you have just upgraded to the next level to prevent this from happening.

The races themselves follow a very similar formula to that of the previous game. You race against 15 opponents. You have two rear view mirrors like the previous game. A change, however, is the fact that the tachometer and speed indicators have been replaced with bar versions. You still get a number for the actual speed, though. Also, your health, the opponents health, your bike’s health, and distance is largely the same. Placement in the race is a little more obvious, though.

A big change in this game is the use of nitro’s. If your bike supports nitro’s, there will be an indicator on the bottom indicating how many nitro’s you have left. You can’t replenish the nitro’s during the race, but you get a full compliment at the beginning. The red lights indicate a nitro you have in your inventory. Use a nitro, and one of those lights will turn grey. You can have anywhere between 4 and 8 nitro’s on a bike if you have them at all. These lights are located in the middle bottom of the Heads up Display (HUD). Nitro’s seem to be unique to this game in the series.

Races themselves feature both old and new features. Old features include puddles, traffic, street signs, crowds, police blockades, and random wildlife crossing the road. New features include construction cones and signs, skulls, wiped out bikers, and a couple new features like power plants.

A police presence is also here in this game. The difference is that they are more aggressive towards you. They will be slower, but try and block your path to the point of being stopped completely. They can also run you off the road, causing you to wipe out.

Meanwhile, your opponents are also more aggressive. Unlike other games, they are substantially better at evading obstacles and traffic. They can punch, kick, and use weapons against you. They are also very good at pushing you off the road with their bikes as well.

Probably the most notably frustrating feature opponents have is the elastic band effect. If you have a substantially overpowering bike, your race may not be the easiest anyway. If you pull into the lead, use a couple of nitro’s to gain distance, you’ll find that the distance you gain is surprisingly minimal. In the event you are in the lead and wipe out, it is extremely unlikely that an opponent won’t at least appear in your rear view mirror. This happens regardless of the power difference your bike has over opponents. On the bright side, if you wipe out early on in the race, you do have a fairly decent chance at catching up anyway, so wiping out isn’t always the end of the world.

In addition to this there is now a second weapon you can get in the game. Previously, the only weapon was the club. Now, you can also obtain a length of chain. Unfortunately, like the previous game, the game doesn’t remember which weapon you manage to steal in a given race. This means you will always have nothing but your fists at the beginning of each race.

Controls are largely the game. You have left and right for steering. “A” allows you to break. “B” accelerates. “C” permits you to attack. A regular tap of “C” allows you to punch normally (or use your weapon if you have one). Holding up and “C” will allow you to perform timed attacks (release “C” to execute attack). Down and “C” permits you to kick your opponent out of the way (holding down and “C” permits you to time this). If you have nitro’s, tap “B” twice. Hold down “B” to sustain this boost for maximum speed and use of the nitro pack.

As you advance through the levels, different elements add to the challenge of the game. The length of the tracks become longer and more difficult to navigate. Your opponents will have greater stamina and travel faster. More random obstacles will appear. Police presence increases. Traffic becomes heavier. You’d be hard pressed not to find the game challenging by the time you reach level 4. Several attempts to complete a course may be required by that stage in the game no matter the bike you choose to ride.

My first problem with this game are the bugs. When I wipe out, sometimes I shoot backwards almost as fast as I’m going forward. Collision points can be hit or miss as well. Sometimes, I blow past vehicles thinking I’m going to hit it when I don’t. Other times, I definitely miss the vehicle and still wipe out anyway. Sometimes, my rider even perches on top of an obstacle after a wipe out and bounces around uselessly for a considerable amount of time. A lot of these bugs are found in the previous game. It’s quite surprising that they have never really been addressed in this game.

Compounding problems is the overall feeling of this game not seemingly being complete. Beating level 5 and having the game simply hang shortly after makes this game feel incomplete. I’m surprised I don’t see the game simply repeat level 5 or loop back to level 1 just for added fun.

Another nuisance in this game is the lack of any ability to save a weapon. I thought for sure this would be addressed in this sequel, yet it isn’t. A lot of games out there by now have the ability to store inventory, yet this game doesn’t have this feature. Examples of this include Secret of Mana, final Fantasy – Mystic Quest, Gradius – the Interstellar Assault, Mega Man 5, Wolfenstein 3D, and Super Mario World. I can see a first game not having some basic features, but to roll out a sequel with this lack of a feature causes me to throw my hands up in despair.

What I do like about this game is that the menu system is greatly improved over the previous game. Unlike the previous game, every feature in this game is very accessible. The previous game had some critical options practically a hidden feature. This game largely solves these problems which is nice to see.

The increase in weapon variety, however small, is still a welcome sight in my view. It shows that this game is very expandable, holding a lot of promise for future games.

The addicting nature of this style of racing game is certainly present. While the combat elements become less and less of a prominent feature in later levels, it still adds a nice spice to the game that makes if quite interesting.

A relevant downside to the previous point is the difficulty. Having played almost every Road Rash game in the series, I have to say that the difficulty in this game is the most pronounced. I thought I could fairly easily breeze through most of this game having experienced every other game in the series save for Jail Break. This isn’t the case and this game really tested my skill an patience to their absolute limit. The game got so hard after a while that I came close to just quitting altogether before reaching the “end”. I did it, but was left with the feeling of never wanting to play the game ever again because the latter portions were so painfully hard.

Generally speaking, this series has a lot of great games in spite of the length. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced this is one of those games. The bugs and overall lack of completeness contributes to this. The fact that this game is so difficult on the later portions of the game doesn’t help matters either. Still, there are certainly improvements in this game. This includes a better menu system, an additional weapon, and even the introduction of bike classes. The combat racing which makes this series such a fun one is still there. So, it’s not like this game is devoid of pluses, it’s just that there are much stronger titles in the series.

The graphics are certainly improved over the previous game. The scenery overall has been improved by quite a bit. The rider sprites are also improved. The frame rate, while improved somewhat, is still an issue for me. The variety of cut-scenes are a plus for me, though. So, a pretty decent effort.

The audio isn’t bad. The music does give each respective state its own flavour. The fifth race, in my view, has the best music in the game. The sound effects took a bit of a hit surprisingly. The voicework of your rider is less than impressive over the previous game. Good that there is voice samples in this game, but it could have been better. Collisions with another bike is basically a snare drum which is what I found odd. wildlife sounds were a little odd, but has potential. Overall pretty decent here.

Overall, if you are looking into getting into the Road Rash series, this is probably not one of the games you want to try first. The game features persistent bugs and leaves the player with an overall feeling of it being incomplete. the difficulty really didn’t help this games overall replay value. This game does feature a number of improvements (most notably in the menus). The graphics are pretty decent. The audio has its hits and misses though. An overall half decent game, but nothing to brag about.

Overall
Furthest point in game: Completed level 5.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 68%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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