Enduro Racer: Sega Master System
So here we are, a little over a year into my weekly column where I have a personal space to present some games I think you should try. If you flip through my previous highlights, you’ll see they are heavily Nintendo-centric. For every ‘other’ system’s release or port I discuss, there’s a piece on a Nintendo or Super Nintendo game. Not intentional, but I guess it follows how I spent my time playing games in my youth. I did dabble in a Sega Master System, but with a few exceptions, it collected dust until I unceremoniously sold it. One game that saw heavy use was Enduro Racer.
Enduro Racer actually began as an arcade game, by Sega, in 1986. If you’ve played Hang-On and wished you could take that bike off some sweet jumps, this is your game. There were several ports for other home systems and computers, including the Commodore 64 and Atari ST. Our friends in the UK received ports on the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad. As the title of this week’s column suggests, there was also a port available for the Sega Master System. While the original arcade game features a third person view directly behind the rider, the SMS port has a third person, above the shoulder isometric view, with a small portion of the course visible at any one time rapidly speeding by you. Ten stages await you in a race against the clock and other racers. Passing bikes and vehicles increases your point count, which can be spent on upgrades for your bike at a garage screen between each stage.
Of course landing on opponents will sap some of your bike’s health, and when it drops to zero, you die. You can also drown, crash, fall off a mountain, etc. There are no continues, but there are a few lives thrown your way. Don’t worry, you’ll use them on the water stage. Between each stage, you’re allowed to spend any points you’ve accumulated on some bike power-ups. Unfortunately there aren’t any weapons, those were saved for Road Rash on the Genesis, but among the list of items are the typical things like Engine (increase top speed), Handle (increase handling speed), Suspension (helps jump better/farther), and tire (increases traction on slippery surfaces). Item increases your health by a small amount. The ultimate goal of the game is to beat the *entire game* in as quick a time as possible, so try not to blow it anywhere! This score is later displayed on the title screen for all to admire.
While it’s hard to quantify, the graphics in Enduro Racer look much better than a typical NES game (Excitebike?) The rider is fairly realistic for an 8-bit era game, as is the landscape. Some detail was worked into the constantly scrolling background. The ‘water’ and ‘mountain’ stages are particular highlights. The shadow of your bike is quite useful when working out landings. The various upgrades to your bike are not really visible, which is disappointing. Action Fighter, another contemporary SMS game, does show power-ups for your bike-car as they are collected.
There is one song prevalent throughout the game’s stages, and luckily, it’s decent. The sound effects other than that are fairly limited, with some crunches for crashes. I always enjoy the ‘bloop bloop blooo’ when landing in the water, or the ‘crunch/crunch/crunch’ when sliding down the mountain. The engine noise does change with your speed, and it does alter in pitch (tone? I never remember) as you increase the engine power in between stages.
The bike in Enduro Racer is actually tricky to control. You must press down on the D-Pad at just the right moment when going over a jump and hold it, or else you’ll land with a bounce, losing a lot of speed. The idea is to jump, land, and ride seamlessly. It took my eight-year-old-self quite a while to figure this out. You’ll also need to
pull back on the handlebars press down when going over the small speed-bump type obstacles. Making this difficult is the goofy square D-Pad of the Master System. (Mental note: Track down a Control Stick and try the game with this)
Similar to my earlier Action Fighter vs Spy Hunter, I’d pit this against Excitebike. Enduro Racer is a great alternative when you want ‘something else’ to play. The game conveys a sense of speed and competition not found in it’s NES peer, and it feels a little more ‘grown up’. Play ’em both, you’ll see what I mean. The game is available in the Wii download shop as the Sega Master System release, so you’d be playing this actual game. I do love Excitebike on the regular Nintendo, but if I want something different? I’ll play Enduro Racer. Go give it the Fair Shake.