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Super Hang-On - VC Arcade Review

Game Info
Super Hang-On

Virtual Console Arcade | SEGA | 1 Player | Out Now | 900 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Classic Controller; GameCube Controller; Wii Wheel
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3rd May 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

I had come to grips with the fact that the VCA portion of the Virtual Console service didn't live up to expectations, and with the last title in this category releasing over a year ago, I was really surprised to hear that Super Hang-On was releasing today. Playing this classic racer, I was quickly reminded of what I loved about the service and why I was so bummed that Nintendo seemed to have dropped the ball entirely. But today, my feelings of disappointment have been replaced (if only for a while) with feelings of excitement and even refreshment, and it's all thanks to this game. Indeed, Super Hang-On is a game that should not be overlooked.

    Super Hang-On is a racer that's less of a competition between rivals, and more of a race to the finish line with the pressure of a not-so-lenient time limit on your back. You choose from one of four different courses, each spread out across an entire continent and split up into stages separated by checkpoints. The Beginner Course, for instance, is a six-stage journey that takes place in Africa, while the Expert Course is triple that size. Playing through an entire one and reaching the different intervals that comprise its overall makeup, it definitely feels like you're racing across long stretches of land to get to the end destination. And, as I will touch on shortly, there are refined features existing here that aid in the construction of an instantly fun experience.

    To play, you hold the 2 Button to accelerate, move using the D-Pad, and press 1 to brake when necessary. There are other control options available if you would prefer to use the Classic Controller, GameCube Controller, or even the Wii Remote and Nunchuk together. At any rate, upon reaching a speed of 280 MPH, you'll be able to activate your bike's turbo by pressing and holding the B Button. This feature plays a huge role in making Super Hang-On feel like such a thrilling experience as players will learn, by way of trial and error, how best to make use of this at certain turns, and how to avoid crashing but without a great drop in speed. Something to keep in mind about using turbos is the fact that you will gradually move to the opposite side that your bike is leaning towards, all depending on the degree to which you have to turn and if you're letting up on the gas button at all. As a result, there's a good deal of skill involved in keeping that turbo going to shave off time, but doing so without carelessly crashing into obstacles.

    Along the sides of the main road, you'll usually find arrows that give you a heads-up as to upcoming twists and to know when a change in direction is needed. However, you can't always rely on these to prepare yourself for a sharp turn as you're not always lent a helping hand in these scenarios. Aside from those, there are also signs, barrels, trees, lamp posts, and things of this nature that serve as obstacles if you stray from the main path. The second you go off the main road at all, your speed will drop. Players will have to weave their way past competitors carefully so that crashing into their back wheel doesn't send them flying into something on the side of the road. If you do manage to bump shoulders with an opponent, it's good to know that that same person won't instantly speed past you; providing you maintain your position, they will stay off-screen.

    Since it's been quite some time since I last played a VCA game, it took me a bit of time to get used to the configuration as far as adding coins and whatnot. All it takes to add Credits is a press of the A Button, while changing selections on menus and even the name entry screen involves the use of the 1 Button. The Plus Button will confirm selections you make, and the Minus Button will pull up a menu dedicated to the adjusting of various features that are only accessible in the home release -- things like a change in difficulty setting or the tightness of the time limit. One specific bonus exclusive to this release is Wii Wheel Mode, a setting that allows players to use tilt to control their biker. As you can imagine, it takes some getting used to. The feedback between your tilts and the on-screen racer are pretty sensitive, so light movements are key here. Once you get the hang of it, it's a fun way to play. In fact, I actually prefer playing this way than using the press-and-release method with the D-Pad.

Sporting the sort of look that was iconic to racers of this decade, the track layouts have a very nice sense of depth to them. While much of it is simply winding bends along a horizontal plane, there are slight changes in perspective where you can sense that you're going up an elevated portion of the road. Granted, your goal is not to travel down a scenic route, but the visual design does a good job of making you feel comfortable as changes in the environment attempt to give a sense of distance and time.

    I always loved seeing the progressive change in setting that would occur as you were going through the different stages in a journey. The grassy lands seen in the Asia course, for example, will at one point transform to depict a metropolis against a purple sky. These transformations always look really nice and they add a great deal to the overall feel of immersion that the gameplay provides. Adding to this, too, is the great music selection which includes four tunes that players will find themselves humming along to as their races unfold.

    Trying this game for the first time, I quickly understood why the game was successful. When that timer expires and you haven't made it very far in a course, it's hard to pull back from the game and not want to see if you can get even further the next time. Before you know it, you've taken five stabs at completing the course and you're not a whole lot closer than you were before. Yet, it can be rewarding to put in the time and effort, as those who stick it out (and are observant) will better anticipate changes in the road, know how best to get around rivals at the very beginning, and how to maintain speed well enough that you can make use of that turbo as much as possible. Super Hang-On undoubtedly carries that arcade drive where players will have a strong inclination to clear all the courses, and that, in turn, leaves players experiencing a surprising rush as you aim for a better record each time.

It's quite something that this 1987 game still provides such great and fast fun over 20 years later. Super Hang-On is an instantly fun racer that's hard to pry away from. With exciting gameplay, the constant motivation to keep racing, as well as the special addition of tilt controls, it's very easy to recommend this game. You should especially pick this up if you've never played it before, but really anyone who has been itching for a new Virtual Console game or wants to relive a part of gaming history shouldn't pass this one up.

25/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Course approach makes races feel like a journey, fast-paced, controls work well, skill involved in keeping a turbo going
Presentation 8/10 - Great visual design with a sense of depth, good music, feeling of immersion carried through transforming environments
Enjoyment 5/5 - Instantly fun to play, hard to pull away once you get going, challenging just to make it to the end, turbo feature adds excitement
Extra Content 4/5 - A number of courses to attempt, high scores, multiple difficulties, very replayable, players will feel really motivated to improve

Equivalent to a score of 83% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Super Hang-On
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