Review: Top Gear 3000 (SNES)

By Drew Wilson

Top Gear 3000 is a futuristic SNES racing game. Being the third game in the Top Gear series, we look at how this iteration plays these days.

This iteration of the series was released in 1995 and would become a departure from previous racing games in that it deviated from realism and moved towards the sci-fi fantasy side of racing. The game essentially takes place around the Milky Way Galaxy in a series of apparently illegal races. The galactic tournament is sponsored by anonymous donors and starts off on the furthest reaches of the galaxy. You compete against other racers (19 in all in the single player championship races) to earn tournament points on the various planets you race on. You then advance to the next part of the galaxy and repeat the process, working your way around in a spiral until you reach the center. The ultimate goal is to reveal the identity of an alien aboard a mysterious ship.

Each time you qualify, you not only get tournament points, but also credits. To earn credits at the end of each race normally, you have to finish 9th or better. You can finish in 10th place to qualify, but you get no normal credits. First prize nets you a nice sizable 100,000 credits. Each consecutive place down earns you fewer and fewer credits.

In addition to this are the secret bonuses. Secret bonus A is earned by crossing the finish line with an activated boost. Secret Bonus C is earned by not colliding with other cars. Secret bonus D is earned by not crashing into any obstacles (both on and off the track). Secret bonus E is earned by never straying off the course (hard to do after the first few races). Curiously, no one has ever been able to figure out exactly what secret bonus B was. No one’s been able to reverse engineer anything or simply figure out what causes you to earn it. Still, there is no shortage of instances where people playing have secret bonus B pop up for some reason. If I personally had a guess, this bonus is probably earned by some unmentioned rule on any particular track, though other people have guessed that this is earned by lapping every racer. Nothing was ever confirmed, though.

The credits you earn is probably one of the most vital things to earn between races. Between races (even before the first race), players have a chance to purchase upgrades. The only upgrade that is free is changing the color of your car between a pre-set number of colors to choose from. Engine’s help make your car go faster. Tyres allow you to make sharper turns. Gearbox assists on making your car go faster. I found that, the better the gearbox, the less you tend to decelerate when your car runs out of gas. Armour protects your car from collisions and crashes, preventing damage. Boost allows you to accelerate even faster to a higher top speed for a short period of time (you get four boosts each race). Jump allows you to jump your car at any time. This can be done to pass over other cars or obtain high up items along the track. Attractor allows you to pull the nearest car back and push you forward (limited amount of energy). Warp allows you to warp from your current position on the track to a position that is a short distance ahead. This is probably one of the best ways to pass by a large number of other cars. Infrared vision allows you to cut through darkness and see almost as if the track was day (gives everything a red tint to it. Never something that can be earned on the easy setting).

Not all parts are available right away. Some parts need to be developed as the races go along. only the hard setting permits access to every part in the game (Part 6 for tyres, gearbox, boost, armour, and engine as well as the infra-red vision becomes available by the end of the championship), but be prepared to pay a lot of credits for those high end parts.

Players are alerted to new developments by the message that pops up in the shop screen. Most messages simply describe the part in question and what it offers, but some offer humorous descriptions like “it works, who cares?”.

The race track is where all the action happens. Players have a tachometer, a speedometer, a simple graphics showing the players position on a given track, a simple options menu that allows players to switch between boost and other items that happen to be in the players possession, and other race information. In this third person racing environment, players can encounter many things. The red pulsing strips are where players can charge up their car when the car is run over it. Blue pulsing strips on the road will repair your car while your car is running over it. There are also basic track features as well. There are down hills, up hills, soft left turns, soft right turns, left turns, right turns, hard left turns, hard right turns, quick left/right or right/left sections, narrow two lane sections, and forks in the road (sometimes just a brief split in the road, but other times can be a major detour in the race track.

There are yellow obstacles that can also be seen throughout different races. These will cause you to slow down significantly and take damage if you crash in to them. Some of these obstacles can be jumped over however. There are simply jumps on the road that can permit you to obtain certain items that are high up in the air. In this game, it is possible to turn while in mid air as, apparently, your car can defy physics in this regard. There are yellow circle-like floating items that you can collect by running into them. These earn you 4,000 credits each. Very often, these are put on the track in short lines, so collecting these items can help you to purchase parts faster. There are also brown-ish floating circles. these allow you to earn boosts on the race track. These are rare, but sometimes, they are cleverly placed behind barricades that can be tricky to get without crashing. There are als brown-ish circles with a question mark on them (very rare). What’s in these are completely random. It can be a speed boost, a full repair, a full charge that charges up your car to maximum, extra credits, or an extra boost. There may be others, but those should be most of the possibilities. Another feature one can encounter are yellow arrows on the road. These are the game zippers. Running over them will cause your car to accelerate even more and they are a permanent fixture on the track. Finally, there are fixed warp points. Running over the green warp will allow you to warp from the green mark on the road to the orange mark on the road in nearly no time at all (compared to driving through that portion normally). You don’t even have to worry about steering while warping as the warp takes care of that for you.

There are three modes in normal 1 player championship mode. There is an easy mode where new players can get a good feel for how the game works (though it can also be a challenge by the end of it). A medium difficulty which introduces new tracks and allows some of the higher end parts to be developed (not otherwise developed on the easy mode). Finally, there is a hard mode which shows a few different tracks throughout as well and allows players to unlock all of the parts available in the game. It even shows the full ending of the game, though we do note that this is quite a lot more challenging overall.

There is also a 1 player split screen championship mode. This is basically the same as 1 player championship, only the bottom half of the screen is occupied by one of the computer players. This computer player typically ends up being your main challenger throughout the championship.

In addition to this, players can also play vs. mode which permits up to four players (human or computer). This mode is different in that players can only choose from a set of pre-configured cars, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The players can then race a set of races in an effort to earn championship points. After the set of races are over, the player with the most points wins.

While this game was quite a long one, I found it to also be quite enjoyable. There were a few glitches along the way, though – particularly when it comes to the forks in the road. Sometimes, the game gets confused which road you are going down and suddenly kicks you down an unexpected path. When the forked area ends, sometimes, you end up running into the back of another car on the other side of the fork. If you get onto a forked area with each side close together, if you drive over to the other side of the fork, your car will be pushed into the wrong direction when leaving the fork.

Another element in this game is the fact that while other racers can crash into each other, the other racers are unaffected by the elements on the road. This is both good and bad. It is bad in that the other racers can drive through barriers as if they aren’t even there. It is good in that other racers can’t collect items, use yellow arrows, or use warps. I thought that this kind of detracted from game play a little, but I’m of mixed emotion of whether I like this glitch or not.

In addition to this, computer players are unaffected by how much gas is left. This is apparent in the split screen mode. I’ve noticed that when the computer player runs out of gas, they just keep going anyway as if they never ran out of gas. There’s not even a gradual slow down that you would normally experience, they just keep going with unlimited fuel. This, I felt, was a little unfair in later tracks.

One good feature in this game is that once 10th place finishes the race and you are still on the course, the game doesn’t let you suffer for long. It just shows you a message of “Race Over” and fades you out after a few moments.

Another feature I particularly enjoyed was the pure number of different upgrades and configurations you can put on your car. This is one of the most customizable racing games I have ever played personally.

Another downside is that the physics of this game is essentially faked. As you enter turns, your car will push itself somewhat through the turn without you needing to press left or right. Instead, it operates on sliding your car left or right gradually depending on the sharpness of the turn. This might be why forks in the road are so glitchy.

I wished there was a way to save in this game, but instead of an ability to save the game, the game spits out passwords between championship rounds which effectively “saves” the game. All you have to do is record down somewhere the password and you are pretty much good to go from those particular points in the game.

The graphics for a SNES game is actually very good. Very few games offer 3d effects by this point in time. The only games on the SNES that offered more compelling 3d effects are those that employed the SuperFX chip (think games like Star Fox and Dirt Trax FX). Even then, the game was a lot more smooth in single player games than with games that actually employed the SuperFX chip as a general rule. The game also offers a huge variety of settings that made it feel like you really were traveling from planet to planet. The environment in track sometimes even changes on certain locations of the track as if you were climbing up over mountains and you went from grassy areas to snowy areas. The backgrounds were also quite well done. I can’t really find a complaint about the graphics other than the rare hick-up I see in this game (again, has to do with the forks in the road).

The audio was another nice highlight in this game. The sound effects were really well done and quite realistic for a game of this era. The music was also really well done. In spite of the limited selection of songs, the music never completely got repetitive and offers a wide range of themes throughout. No complaints in this area.

Overall, this was a very worthwhile game to play. The only major disappointment in this game, I found, was the fact that the full ending was simply a picture before the credits roll. For such a great game, this was extremely anti-climactic – especially since you end up racing over 2 dozen tracks in the process (at minimum) before seeing it. That, really, is my only major complaint overall in this game. Otherwise, this was quite a solid game and definitely worth playing. It eases you in to gameplay with some straightforward races in the beginning, the difficulty curve is gradual and will certainly challenge you by the end of the game.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Beat 1 player full championship mode in all three difficulties. Only played part way through in split mode though. Also played a few rounds in vs. mode.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 90%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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