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Enduro Racer Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

Countdown to adventure. So says the back of the box, and I must admit
they’re right for once. Not too sure if you’d say that about a motocross
game, though. Oh well. At any rate, with the NES throwing the well-known
classic Excitebike into the mix, Sega had to come up with something to
compete and they chose an arcade title to do it. Thankfully, instead of
trying the often foolish task of porting the original while hoping system
specs can somehow pull it off, they used the original to create an entirely
different game. Well, not completely different, but different enough that
you’d want to buy it even if you had access to the arcade title. They
probably could have pulled off a direct port if they tried, but I’m glad
they did something else with it. Would have been interesting to see what
came out of a port, but as it stands Enduro Racer is a definite competitor
with the likes of Excitebike.

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Graphically the programmers did a great job here. Instead of opting for the
behind-the-racer view of the arcade, Sega decided to put the entire game in
a diagonally scrolling arrangement, with everything coming from the upper
right instead of directly above. It seems at first this would be a disaster
since there’s the possibility of not being able to see things on the extreme
right as you steer into them, but this has been avoided completely with
careful level arrangement. Enduro Racer has a great range of colors and lots
of detail. Some of the animations seem slightly choppy and it doesn’t look
entirely right when opponent bikes are always programmed to crash in certain
areas, do, and then mysteriously disappear into motocross Valhalla. Also,
the flag waver at the start and end of every level seems a little too rigid.
He moves his one arm like it’s the only movable part of his seemingly
paralyzed body. That’s being picky, though. Everything looks good here
otherwise, it’s colorful, detailed and doesn’t get old because the variety
is all there. You have an outdoor level, a desert, a swamp, an area of Greek
ruins and a mountain region. The levels repeat after five and go up to ten
adding more opponents, so I wish they would have added some others, but
really it doesn’t matter too much to the overall score.

The sound effects and music are decent overall, which is surprising looking
at some earlier Master System titles. The theme for the levels is definitely
fitting to the type of game, I just wish they programmed more than one song.
It doesn’t necessarily get old, but variety is always good to increase the
score in this category. Without it, I can’t really add much without feeling
as though I’ve cheated potential players in so doing. The song is great,
it’s just that it’s the only one other than the title and ending themes.
Wait, I take that back there is another song, but it’s almost the same as
the first one. Should have just stuck with one. The sound effects are
generally fitting, with only a few that could have used some tweaking. I was
hoping for a really powerful sound when you throw your bike over the ramps,
but instead they just put in this drab sound that sounds like someone
hitting their toe off a chair leg. The sounds for accelerating, wrecking,
sinking in water and so forth are all good though, so I won’t drop the score
too far.

Enduro Racer is really easy to get into and a lot more intuitive than
Excitebike. You control your bike, avoid obstacles, jump ramps and survive
until the end. In order to properly get around everything, you have to learn
to maneuver properly, especially when it comes to jumping. If you don’t, you
lose some speed, but if you do you get a burst of acceleration and can pass
more characters to gain points to use for purchasing items in the shop
between levels. To jump properly, it takes a quick thumb because just
pressing down (that’s what you have to do) won’t cut it, it requires some
precision. I like the fact that they made the gameplay very user friendly
because I always found Excitebike difficult to get into at first because of
the difficulty in jumping.

Enduro Racer isn’t difficult at all until around level three, where you have
to learn to move around much better than before. If you don’t, you’ll damage
your bike too much and lose the game. The final level is pretty rough and
almost requires memorization in order to pass through it without hitting
anything, but there is a bit of skill when you first come to it, it just
makes it easier when you know what’s coming. There are no power ups, you
have up to 99 points of damage depending on what happens to your bike, you
can purchase items to make your bike perform better or repair it, and all
this through ten levels. Some more variety after level five would have been
nice instead of adding a few more bikes roaming about. It does add a bit of
difficulty, but not nearly enough for someone who’s made it through the
first five. I wish they made it somewhat more difficult because it’s a bit
too easy after a few goes. Still, the potential is there to have fun with it
regardless of how simple it is. That was one of the greatest features of
Excitebike, it was so simple and repetitive while maintaining a great sense of
fun that never seems to get tiresome. Same thing here, but I’d play Enduro
Racer over it any day since the controls are much easier to get accustomed
to in the first three levels. Once you do you’re all ready for the more
difficult ones. After you complete level ten, the game gives you an ending
and resets. However, though it may be easier to sit down with, it lacks the
numerous features of Excitebike such as level programming and the ability to
compete after qualifying in challenge races. In Enduro Racer you just jump
right in and play. A two-player feature would have made it even better, and
considering the screen arrangement it could have been pulled off
wonderfully. There’s no real competition here, and that effects the score
for me, though it is a fun game.

You don’t really see too many motocross titles anymore. There weren’t even
that many back in the day. Enduro Racer was actually released after
Excitebike, so I have to score a bit lower in this category since it was an
obvious attempt at competing with Nintendo, regardless if the arcade title
came before the home release. Still, they do manage to do their own thing
with the idea and back in the day programmers freely traded ideas with their
buddies at other companies. You see the same thing with Hudson’s Adventure
Island for the NES and Wonder Boy for the SMS. The arrangement here is
different as well as the gameplay. It’s lacking a few features that made
Excitebike really great, but it still has it’s own flair.

Enduro Racer is a fairly short game, taking only about half an hour to
complete it. Regardless, it’s a nice game to sit down with from time to time
because there is plenty of room to increase your scores and I seriously find
it fun to try. Mastering the controls in order to get lower times isn’t
easy, leaving plenty of room for improvement during future play. I’ve played
it several times over the past few years, even if just to lay back for a bit
and forget the harsh, non-motocross reality around me, getting into the
next issue. The text ending is so hilarious I’d play it again and again just
to see it. They give you this lesson on life shtick trying to say the game
symbolizes the struggle of society and how everyone endures (hence “Enduro”)
as they’re best able. I’m glad I’ve taken part in
some hardcore ontology as I played a motocross game. Seriously, it has to
be seen, it’s totally ridiculous. I won’t score down in this category either
because I swear it’s worth playing this game for the ending alone.

In conclusion, Enduro Racer is a great game. It’s one of the core titles
from the Master System’s early library and certainly one every fan needs to
own. It has some areas that could have used a bit more work, but overall
it’s really a lot of fun and nothing to be ashamed to own. Sega did a great
job doing something new with an arcade title, which was rarely done in the
past and should have been done more often. In addition, this little beauty
sold so well that Sega decided to re-release it during the last ditch effort
to revive the SMS in the early 90s. It thus also comes in the rare, “blue
label” version with a different cartridge, box and manual. Pretty hard to
find, so if you’re into collecting as well playing there you go. This is a
stock title every Master System fan should own, rare or otherwise.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7
Written by Stan Review Guide