Review: Rock N’ Roll Racing (SNES)

By Drew Wilson

Rock N’ Roll racing is probably the most recognizable game in this particular series. It is a top down battle racing game that features four racers. We look into whether this rock themed game is worth checking out one more time.

Rock N’ Roll Racing was released in 1993 and is the sequel to RPM Racing. It was originally titled RPMII, but the title was changed to Rock N’ Roll Racing after licensed music was added to the game.

Rock N’ Roll racing doesn’t have a whole lot of story involved in the game itself. There are Rock N’ Roll racing hero’s the player can select from. With that hero the player selected, they take on a quasi-tournament style race which pits the hero against the twins Rip and Shred as well as the feature rival that is specialized to the particular planet the player is racing on.

The objective is ultimately to advance from planet to planet. This feature was more or less the same idea as the original RPM game, only instead of money, players obtain tournament points at the end of each race. If a player obtained enough tournament points by the end of the “season”, the player could advance. Whether the player completes every race in the season or not is completely optional once the qualifying threshold is passed.

The player also earns money throughout the tournament. The main source of revenue comes from winning races (every race won nets the player $10,000). Money is also earned by doing specific things during the race. The easiest way to earn money during the race is to run over the gold bars that are randomly placed along the track (money power-up’s – $1,000 each). You can also earn money by blowing up opponents ($1,000 each kill). The hardest bonus is lapping an opponent (which nets the player $5,000, but it seems that you can only earn this once per race).

The more money a player earns, the more buying power the player has. The player can either upgrade their vehicle (when available. The last vehicle that can be earned is on the NHO planet – the one with ice). The first three vehicles are available immediately with the air blade being the best vehicle available right away, but unaffordable with your start money.

From there, you can go to the parts shop where you can upgrade certain attributes of your vehicle. You can upgrade things like the engine, tires, armor, and shocks (depending on the vehicle you have). You can also increase the capacity of your arsenal. Weapons you can buy include rockets, jump springs, oil, mines, laser rifle rounds, heat seeking bullets, and scatterpack mines (again, depending on your vehicle. Be warned, though, if you upgrade your vehicle, you lose all of your upgrades and have to start over again. Strategy for what to upgrade comes into play with the (relatively) limited amount of money you can earn in this game.

There really is multiple strategies you can employ that can help you win. One strategy is to simply save enough money to buy the best vehicle immediately available (saving up money and not upgrading your initial buy vehicle). From there, moderately upgrade your vehicles until you get the best vehicle in the game. Other strategies can be focusing on upgrading weapons instead of car parts. Since you can earn more money by blowing up several opponents and winning at the same time, there’s more potential money to be made (though winning with minimal car parts can also be more difficult anyway). Alternatively, skimp on the weapons and simply focus on car parts. This can potentially make it easier to win each race, but attacking opponents can, at best, serve to slow them down somewhat. Still, driving ability can allow you to cross the finish line first. In the end, what strategy you employ depends both on what hero you choose and what your personal strengths and weaknesses are in this game.

The races themselves are interesting. Unlike the previous iteration in this series, you are stuck with the race the game spits out at you. There’s no exploiting easier tracks or anything. The good news is that there are no tracks that are exceptionally difficult either. Some tracks are more difficult than others, but there’s no “next to impossible tracks to even hope to win” like the previous game. So, the game is nicely balanced in spite of this new limitation.

The overall look of the tracks depend on which planet you are on. While the seasons can start to drag after a while, you’ll always eventually wind up having different themes after a while. This adds a nice variety to the game that helps keep it fresh for longer periods of time. Different planets also have different hazards. Some tracks have slime puddles that cause you to lose control of your vehicle for brief periods of time. Other tracks have ooze puddles that slow your vehicle when you drive over them. Some tracks have piles of snow (contrary to what other sources say, I found them to be merely piles of snow rather than snow drifts as snow drifts resemble sand dunes that end up covering somethings). There are “warps” which are effectively red arrows on the track that gives you a speed boost. On the last planet of the hardest difficulty, there are several boosts that point in the opposite direction – so they do go from being a big help to the largest hindrance you can find in the whole game (nice touch I think). Also, while there are guard rails along the sides of the track, there is the potential to send your car over these and onto the planet surface below. This causes your vehicle to blow up and sets you back some distance. While there is a small risk of this happening on hills, jumps are a greater danger for this (especially if there’s two consecutive jumps in a row).

How large this game is depends entirely on the difficulty you select before you start racing. The easiest setting is Rookie which, in the main tournament mode, you can 3 planets. In the veteran (medium difficult) mode, you have access to 5 planets (and can purchase the best vehicle money can buy). In the warrior mode, you gain access to all 6 planets. Veteran and warrior allows you to see “highlights” of your racing endeavors (pre-scripted, so it’s not actually replays of you racing). In warrior, the highlights extend to all 6 planets.

Generally speaking, your experience of this game actually varies depending on whether or not you played the prequel or now. If you’ve played the prequel, you’ll notice a lot of great features that are missing in this game. For instance, the prequel had adjustable gravity. It would have made more sense that this game had different amounts of gravity, but this feature is, surprisingly, missing. Why this feature never made it to this game is beyond me because it would have made for much more interesting play.

Another feature that I think is sorely missing is the level editor. Even if it was more limited, it still would have made this game have much better replay value. It’s disappointing that the level editor never made it over to this version of the game.

Having said that, there are numerous improvements this game had over the previous game. There’s the multiple sets of scenery which made this game better over the prequel. The track design made much more sense and removed the bug that allowed you to cheat on levels with multiple routs and intersections.

Another improvement this game made is the fact that when it comes to paying for weapons, this version simply has you paying for capacity instead of just general inventory. While it simply made the game easier, I thought it was an improvement in general – especially when your “ammunition” is replenished at the end of every lap.

The move away from a pure money system to the points system in terms of “world” advancement was also an improvement. It made the game play much more smooth between levels.

If you’ve never played the prequel, this game can easily seem like a whole game with nothing missing. So, it may be better to play this game first, then give RPM racing a try after to see what the differences are. Your experience of this game will be better if you don’t play the prequel first.

Graphically, while it’s an isometric based game, this is probably one of the better implementations of isometric play out there in this era of gaming. All the details and varied terrains helped make this game pop. The artistic theme of rock is very well implemented throughout. With shades of the Alien move sprinkled throughout, the artwork overall, while obviously sci-fi and futuristic, made this game scream rock. So, that was really well done. The winners circle where the announcer announces who finished in what place could have been better as I found that part of the game a little bland, but that’s really my only complaint here.

The audio was good all around. The sound effects were spot on and very well put together. I can’t think of a single complaint for the sound effects. The music, however, was a bit dated by the time this game came out. While people were listening to bands like Treble Charger, Nirvana, Metallica (shudder), and Green Day, this game sported music from bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, George Thorogood, and Steppenwolf. I can appreciate that those were classics back when this game was produced, but the developers were putting music made anywhere between the 60s to early 80s in a game made in the early 90s. Some of this music is a few decades too late in my opinion. The music would make sense if this game was called “Classic Rock N’ Roll Racing” or “Old Rock N’ Roll Racing”, but this game is called “Rock N’ Roll Racing”, so a more contemporary selection would have made more sense. A lot of these songs had to be mixed so that the tempo was increased to fit with more, at the time, modern tastes to begin with as well as keep up with the game. So, while the music ended up working, it is dated. Even if the music was made within 5 years before the game was released, it would have been better than having the decades long (generational even) gap.

Overall, I’d say I had a positive experience playing this game. I think if the game doubled the number of planets and axed the “b”/”a” seasons, it would have almost completely eliminated the drag feel to it (upping the music quantity would have eliminated it completely). It’s fun to pick different strategies and try to outsmart your opponents on the track. The hills mildly made things interesting, but it was the jumps and other obstacles that helped to make this a good game overall. So, a recommended racing game.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Beat the game on rookie and veteran. Toyed around with vs. mode a little.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 74%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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