Retro Review: Super Hang On

Sometimes I like to think you can put all the fancy texture and lighting effects in a box and throw them from the back of a speeding motorcycle. I’d trade it all for awesome playability. When I have those dark thoughts the motorcycle from which that box is jettisoned looks very like one of the low-res beauties from this game. Those of you who were paying attention to my top ten a last week will know that this is one of my favourites now TSA member LiquescentShadow is going to explain why.

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Game Reviewed: Super Hang On

Reviewed Platform: Sega Megadrive

Release Year: 1989

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Super Hang-On was a motorbike racing game released into arcades in 1987, and later ported onto home consoles in 1989, with a few new additions.

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As soon as you start the game, you’ll be given two options – arcade mode and original mode. Arcade mode is a straight port of the game found in the arcades, so all you need to do is pick your difficulty and music and you’re away. New to home systems is the original mode, which is a career mode for you to play your way through.

Firstly, the arcade mode. With this, you can jump straight into the action with the most powerful bikes and race to your heart’s content. As with any arcade racer, your main goal is to reach the next checkpoint without running out of time, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. There are rival racers that attempt to block you and road side obstacles that will send you flying should you hit them, costing valuable seconds. Lucky for you, then, that the bike has a boost mode. Hit your normal top speed and with the press of a button you will shoot off at a ridiculous speed, exhaust flames and all. This leads to thrilling races as there’s nothing better than shooting through a checkpoint with only seconds to spare. You can partake in races in a total of four continents, each continent representing a different difficulty class, which is determined by the number of checkpoints that you must hit in time to finish. Finishing a race grants you a special ending for that continent. Whilst the gameplay is fast paced, sometimes things are a bit too quick, which can result in more crashes than you’d like. Even at top speed your bike is still incredibly responsive, which can cause you to overturn or hit something your didn’t mean to. Also, once you’ve come off the track, it’s fairly tricky to get back onto it.

Aside from the arcade, there’s also the aforementioned original mode to play around with. This is for those who like a bit of simulation thrown into their arcade racers. The racing mechanics remain the same, only this time you start out with a beginner bike and it’s your aim to keep on racing to win money and ultimately upgrade your bike with the best parts you can. You can also change mechanics during the career, with better ones costing more of your hard earned cash. This gives the game longevity, as a handy code is generated for you which allows you to continue from where you previously left off, negating the need to start over every time you boot the game.

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When it comes down to it, Super Hang-On looks great. The tracks are vibrant and full of colour, and contain different roadside objects depending on the continent that you’re playing in. The backgrounds are nice to look at, there’s beautiful blue or dusky-orange sky and it’s all just perfect when you’re flying by at 200mph. As the terrain, roadside objects and backgrounds change from checkpoint to checkpoint, there’s tons of visual variety to keep you entertained. The bikes and riders are all neatly detailed and move fluidly when flowing between the turns, and the game also includes other little touches such as smoke that comes off of your knee as it makes contact with the road. All in all it makes for a memorable visual experience.

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Before each race, you’re allowed to pick one of four tunes to listen to whilst you’re burning rubber. Whilst most of them are pretty good, they won’t really add much to your race. They’re quite bland and after a while they do have the potential to irritate a bit, especially on some of the much longer races. The bike engine noises aren’t bad at all, and there’s a selection of other sound effects which add to your experience, such as the grinding of your knee pad on the road surface or the loud thud when bike meets bilboard.

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For the time that it was released, Super Hang-On was a great gaming feat. It provided thrilling bike races to everyone on their home systems, truly bringing the essence of the arcade racer into everyone’s living rooms, and, for those who wanted it, a fully fledged career mode for you to play through. If you love bike racing or arcade racers, this is definitely one you should try. You won’t regret it.

8/10

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