Insert Disk collects the Road Rash series. Part 1 of 3.
Today’s retro game review is part 1 of a 3 part mini-series looking at the Road Rash series. This classic retro game series will look at Road Rash 1, Road Rash 2 and Road Rash 3. EA stumbles upon a winning formula in their highly acclaimed combat racing series for the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Genesis. Expect fast paced racing action, police chases and riders being hit in the face with billy clubs.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Throughout the years there have been numerous racing games, each with their own take on the genre. Racing games tend to be predominantly car based. In the 90’s one series looked to shake up the status Quo by presenting us with a gritty 16-bit motorbike combat racer. Join me today in this three part mini series as I we take a look back as the original Road Rash trilogy for the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis. Just for clarity there were Road Rash games after the original trilogy. However, I’ll be leaving these out of the retrospective as they never really added much value to the original trilogy. If you are interested though be aware that Road Rash 3D, Road Rash 64 and Road Rash Jailbreak are available for completionists to collect. With that said, it’s on with the retrospective.
Road Rash certainly wasn’t the first motorbike racing game. Games such as Kickstart and Enduroracer had made an earlier attempt to create this niche racing sub-genre. These games came and went although have a clear place in gaming history. If you’re asked to name an 8-bit motorbike game I’m sure that Eduro Racer is the obvious choice that comes to mind. One year prior in 1985 Sega’s arcade smash Hang-On had shown us all how a motor bike racer should be done. It was fast, bright and incredibly unforgiving in its original arcade mode. Of course the Sega Master System, Mega Drive and Genesis would all later get the home ports of the game.
It wasn’t until 1991 that Electronic Arts both developed and published the first of the Road Rash series. The formula was simple, take the fun and challenge of Hang-On, add more bikes, a progressions system, cut scenes and weapons. Yes, this was to be a combat-cycle masterpiece. Don’t expect many options in this game, the focus is solely on the game play. The aim of the game is to race against a selection of fellow rashers over a variety of backdrops. You’ll be punching, kicking and slamming you’re your way to pole position and the all important win. Finishing in the top positions will earn you cash and the ability to move on to level 2 if you can finish all racer in the set.
The game plays surprisingly well after all of these years. The controls are a little twitchy at times but in a game like road rash it’s far better that they are over sensitive rather than sluggish. The courses are nicely varied, some with long sweeping turns, others with hills to fly over. The racing element of the game is well executed and the control system generally works well. The B button accelerates and the C button is used for punches and kicks. Some of your opponents will go down fairly easily, other will require a bit more of beating. As this is America certain riders will be carrying weapons. Sidle up to these guys and steal their billy club as they are about to strike. It’s a very satisfying moment and the gift keeps on giving as you roll up to other rider on your hit list and deal out some well deserved beatings. Of course all of this illegal activity doesn’t go un-noticed by the police. At times they will pursue you. Should you fall off your bike it’s a certain trip to the slammer for you. The best tactic is to either beat them to a bloody pulp or simply outrun them. The police as with the other riders will become much more aggressive throughout the stages.
The main hazards you’ll need to look out for are oncoming cars. Collide with on of these and you’ll not only damage your bike but also loose time recovering it. Multiple vehicle pile ups aren’t uncommon. If you get the chance take the opportunity to run over your opponent. All of this action is set to a very grungy soundtrack that only the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive could deliver. It conjures up life on the open road and really fits the game well. Road Rash is difficult to complete in one sitting so the developers did include a rather clunky password system. After you finish each race you’ll receive the results screen and the long password to save your progress. Here is the original Sega Mega Drive edition of Road Rash. It’s well presented in a standard case and every bit as iconic as the day it was released.
Here in the UK expect to pay around the £10 mark for a mint in box copy. In the US expect to also pay around $10. Road Rash is still a great game, my thoughts are that this price will perhaps hold up quite will over time. Only time will tell though. So Road Rash, it’s fast, its fun and really set the standard for the series. Electronic arts could have stopped at this release. However, positive sales and reviews demanded a second outing for the series. It wasn’t until 2 years later that Road Rash 2 hit the Sega consoles promising the be bigger and better than the original.
Join me in the next episode as we discover what Road Rash 2 brought to the franchise.