Review by SpyHunter89
It will beat you and you will love it.
Something has become apparent to me while I've been writing the reviews for NES games: I was pretty bad at video games as a younger child. Of course I still had fun with them, otherwise I wouldn't even be writing this now. The fact that older video games were more challenging to begin with was only part of it. Case in point: R.C. Pro-Am, a game that I used to never even be able to finish the first level of. While some games had roadblocks that I would have never figured out alone in a million years (Milon's Secret Castle), others had genuine challenge even for the gamer I am today. I am happy to say that R.C. Pro-Am falls into the second camp.
In R.C. Pro-Am, you control a red remote-control car through a series of thirty-two races. A race ends as soon as the first-place car crosses the finish line, oddly enough, as opposed to waiting for everyone to finish. You get to progress to the next race as long as you're not in the fourth and final position when the race is over. The only difference between placing first and running up but still qualifying is a point bonus, so you don't have to feel bad about it. If you do fail a race, you only get two more continues until the game forces you back to the first track.
The thing I used to have problems adjusting to are the controls, but it was something I was fully able to learn on my own. In this game, you hold B to accelerate and Left and Right to steer counter- and clock-wise. You have to think in terms of which direction your car is facing, and pretend you're looking in that point of view as well. In retrospect, I can't think of a better way to handle this. The concept of pressing a direction to steer that way would be ruined by the three-quarter isometric perspective used by the game. And like I said, I got used to the game's control setup over time. Plus, there's a little drifting action going on when you turn sharply, so anyone who's lamented Sega's refusal to release their Initial D game in North America can get their jollies here.
Almost as if this game was intentionally trying to distract you, there are many varieties of goodies to collect and traps to avoid. You can upgrade your machine by picking up tire, engine, and turbo upgrades, and also upgrade to a new vehicle class by collecting all eight NINTENDO letters. Missiles and bombs, triggered by pressing A, give you an extra edge against your opponents and even paved the way for the likes of Super Mario Kart. Roll cages protect you from crashing when you spin out into a wall or hit a pop-up barrier, and zippers catapult you forward ultra-fast-like.
Yes, R.C. Pro-Am is flawed. It's way hard to see in front of you without having practiced the track, there's no music during gameplay, the yellow opponent car has a bad habit of slipstreaming into the lead for no reason, and it is *hard*, by racing and overall standards. But despite all this, it's still fun. This game will kick you out of your seat and you will love it. Love it enough to learn each track inside and out until you can breeze all the way to the last one. Even if you can't handle it, it's worth playing this just to check out the influences it had on all manner of racing games released since.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: R.C. Pro-Am (US, 02/28/88)
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