Review by Ben2k9

Reviewed: 01/23/12

A Hidden Gem

This is a review for both the Game Gear and Master System versions of Road Rash, as there are only a few differences between them (screen size, colour palette and a few graphics), they essentially play the same.

Road Rash was originally released for the Sega Megadrive (Genesis) in 1991 and was ported to the aging Master System and Game Gear around 1993-1994; and what a conversion! This game truly pushes both systems to their limits in terms of graphics and indeed sound, whilst keeping the core elements of what makes the original such a fun game to play in the first place.

If you don’t know already, the aim of the game is to participate in a series of illegal road races with 14 other bikers (Rashers) on twisting, turning roads whist using not only speed and skill but punching, kicking and clubbing the other Rashers to death! If the other opponents gunning for you wasn’t enough, you also have to avoid general road obstacles such as cars, roadblocks, cattle, slippery oil, mud and sand. Of course, the long arm of the law doesn’t take these races lightly and a variety of cops patrol the streets waiting to catch Rashers like you! There’s also a wide selection of bikes (all with different speed and handling characteristics) to buy as you win races and work your way through the levels.

Whilst the gameplay remains essentially the same as the Megadrive version, right from the get go there is an obvious framerate decrease due to the conversion down to 8-bit, but you get used to it pretty quickly and it really isn’t much of a problem as the bikes still handle very smooth, if anything, the decrease in speed is good to get new players used to the game, as the faster bikes later on are VERY fast! The rest of gameplay is solid, barring minor hit detection issues, what’s interesting to note is the other Rashers are nowhere near as aggressive as the 16-bit version and only really attack if you’re close by. A lot more emphasis has been put on the cops, seriously, these guys can and will run you into the ground! They actively chase you and wait for you if you fall off your bike. Which brings me to my only gameplay complaint that they could’ve easily used the police AI for some of the Rashers.

Graphically it’s stunning for an 8-bit game, I’m not joking when I say this could possibly be the best looking game on the MS and GG, the rolling hills, twists, turns, crossroads, cars, parallax scrolling backgrounds and the trash-talk cutscenes are all present here, as are all the bike animations and even rear view mirrors! As for the slight differences between the Game Gear and Master System versions, the most notable is the condensed dashboard, but all the info (speedometer, odometer, track position, time etc) is still displayed clearly in the Game Gear port. Probe did a monumentally good job on pushing the Sega 8-bit machines to their absolute limit with this one! I’d even wager it looks better than some of the early 16-bit bike games such as Super Hang-on! Top marks all round.

Lastly the sound, whilst the actual sound effects aren’t anything special the music in this game is...downright AMAZING! One of the undisputed masters of game music Matt Furniss did the conversion on this one and with only 4 channels to work with he turned the frankly average original 16-bit tracks into some of the best 8-bit chiptunes out there, seriously, they wipe the floor with the originals! You’ll be bopping your head along as you ride.

All in all, if you still own a Master System or Game Gear I seriously implore you to get this game, it offers a slightly different emphasis than the Megadrive and later ports (outrunning the cops); and whilst there are only 5 tracks, as you progress through them they get increasingly harder and longer, and this game is HARD, once you get up to level 4 and 5 the cops are brutal, the roads are littered with hazards and the Rashers are fast and hit hard (most of them are armed with clubs), there’s lots of replayability as you can experiment with different bikes etc . Plus there’s a handy password system so you can save your game and come back to it later. A definite must for all 8-bit, racing and existing Road Rash fans, this is an absolute classic.

Gameplay: 9/10. Great conversion, only a few minor niggles.
Story: 9/10. A precursor to GTA, offers a satisfying violent twist to traditional racing.
Graphics: 10/10. Simply the best looking game on the MS/GG.
Sound: 10/10. The soundtrack alone is worth buying this game for.
Difficulty/Replayability: 8/10. A Very tough game that you’ll keep coming back to.
Overall: 9/10. A must own classic.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Road Rash (EU, 03/31/94)

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