Títle: エンデューロレーサー (Enduro Racer)
Production/ Development: SEGA
Japan Release Date:: julio 1986
Hardware: “Space Harrier Board”
ROM Size: 12 Megabits
SEGA, in their second motorcycle game within the Taikan Game series, wanted to experiment with the Space Harrier hardware capacity to generate layered graphics with a relief effect.
The type of sport SEGA placed their bets on with this game was enduro, at a time when raids and the legendary Paris-Dakar were a worldwide fever. Enduro Racer was conceived to exploit the idea of toughness associated to this motorsports discipline, making the game mechanics revolve around the handling of the motorcycle on slippery surfaces, obstacle avoidance and, above all, keeping control of the bike during the spectacular jumps, which have remained as the most iconic image of this work. Jumps which, being rigorous, were more typical of motocross than enduro.
As was to be expected, SEGA developed the cabinets in parallel with the actual video game. Unlike Space Harrier, it was decided to return to a scheme where the player’s physical actions would move the cabinet, instead of having the cabinet move the player. However, unlike Hang-On, where the player controls the inclination on the roll axis, in Enduro Racer the player controls the pitch of the bike, imitating the movements that need to be done on a real offroad bike to make it jump on ramps.
The team responsible for Space Harrier’s success was busy in 1986 putting the finishing touches in another ambitious video game, leaving Enduro Racer as the project with less resources of the two. However, that does not keep this game from being another worthy representative of the new Super Scaler technique. The mark of SEGA is evident at first glance.
Technically, the relief effect of the tracks is one of the most remarkable things in the game, causing the added challenge of a lower visibility on ramps. Unfortunately, it was at the cost of animation smoothness, leaving the frame rate at 30 fps, instead of the usual 60 from previous titles. Yet despite this, the graphic design shows a very high level of quality. The rendition of the five different stages is truly compelling, with a huge amount of on-screen elements and color variety. The smooth and realistic rider animation deserves a special mention, as do the multiple scroll planes on the horizon.
The sound effects are not left to chance. They’re clear and strong, as usual in this series, although the representation of the engine sound ends up causing a headache. The melodies are, once more, astonishing. This time, Hiro makes use of his talent to create a main theme of exceptional quality and compositional complexity, lasting more than five minutes.
Curiously enough, SEGA released two versions of the hardware: the first one using the familiar YM2203 / OPN sound chip and the second one with a YM2151 / OPM, which then became the standard of the developer. This results in obvious differences in the sound.
The control of the bike is extremely complex. We can modulate the steering, throttle and brake, and the force with which we pull from the bike is also fully analog and has to be combined with the steering.
As long as we play with a suitable peripheral in good condition, we can perform true stunts with our bike, but only after a long adaptation period. Such is the touch and accuracy required that the first plays are just frustrating.
The design of the obstacles and orography is calculated with extreme precision. A bad takeoff or landing is almost always punished by a fall and subsequent explosion of the bike. If we add the very tight time limit which will not forgive the slightest error (at least on default settings), we can begin to understand the black legend of Enduro Racer.
Very few can clear this game. Plays commonly lasted between one and two minutes, with the consequent loss of interest from the player, who preferred to invest their time and money on friendlier machines. Despite this bad reputation, Enduro Racer was an arcade game present in many game centers of the time, although in many cases these would not be legitimate versions, since this was the first game in the series to be copied illegally. A problem that SEGA would encounter again in future works.
The game’s lack of popularity in Japan was the cause for us not having a proper home version of Enduro Racer until the arrival of emulation.
SEGA released a Master System cartridge sharing the theme, but totally different in everything else, such as the curious isometric perspective. If we do not compare it to the arcade version, it is not a bad game. In the West, it was licensed to Activision for release on 8 and 16 bit computers, of which the ZX Spectrum version deserves a special mention, being a success both in terms of critical reception and sales.
In short, we can say that Enduro Racer is perhaps the most unknown and misunderstood of the entire SEGA Super Scaler series of video games: beautiful and exciting, but cruel and unfair to the player. Only the most skilled and patient will get the most out of it.
We leave you with the first YouTube video in which someone clear the game with the default settings. No gimmicks.