|Publisher & Designer:||Squaresoft|
The old saying "If it a'int broke, don't fix it" applies to the second Rad Racer game like butter on bread. Featuring nearly identical controls/gameplay along with stages seemingly ripped right out of the original Rad Racer classic, some might consider throwing around the dreaded "unoriginal to a fault" tag on Rad Racer 2. However, the most important thing about this game is that it is, like its predecessor, extremely fun to play. Unoriginal or not, Rad Racer 2 cooks...with gas! (preferably premium)
Overview: Back around the peak of the NES era (arguably 1988-1990), sequels seemed to spawn like rabbits in a meadow! Considering that so many original, heavily influential games were released within the first two to three years of the 8-bit console's October 1985 debut, this should hardly come as a surprise. However, there were a few sequels that certainly turned their share of heads. When stinkers like Back to the Future (still one of the worst NES offerings that I can remember playing) and mediocre games such as Ghostbusters and Top Gun were given the sequel treatment, I couldn't help but wonder if things were maybe spinning a little out of control.
One of the more pleasant surprises, however, was hearing Rad Racer's name come up in an early 1990 issue of Nintendo Power magazine. And it was quite the surprise too because back then, you hardly ever heard of an NES racing game getting a sequel. Think about it for a second. How many racing games for the NES actually had a sequel? R.C. Pro-Am II is probably the only one that comes to mind, right?
Although Rad Racer 2 did wind up being a fantastic addition to the Rad Racer twosome, I can see why sequels to racing games were exceedingly rare during this era. There was honestly only so much that you could do with 8-bits to work with and since the first Rad Racer game pushed the NES to a decent extent (especially for a 1987 release), there wasn't really a whole lot that Square could do other than completely overhaul the gameplay (a huge gamble considering how enjoyable the first Rad Racer game was). And it shows in Rad Racer 2 because while the game itself is really fun and enjoyable overall, it does feel like a rehash of the original Rad Racer game to a considerable extent.
Basically, if you have played the first Rad Racer game, you know exactly what to expect in the sequel. The viewpoint of being directly behind the car and driving into the distance remains the same, accelerating and turning is a breeze just like in the original game, and the sequel is also eight stages long.
The one difference unique to Rad Racer 2 is that when you are at a standstill, you can actually hold down on the control pad and charge up a turbo boost of sorts. Once this meter is fully charged, you can instantly go from 0 mph to 255 mph! This new ability really comes in handy at times too...especially those annoying instances when you are having a nice race and suddenly spin-out with only a few seconds left on the clock. Speaking of which, you essentially "spin-out" when hitting obstacles or colliding with cars in this game versus flipping over like in the original game. Neither incident is pleasant of course but I definitely prefer simply spinning out to flipping over a gazillion times...even though the latter form of crashing is certainly more spectacular to watch!
Graphics: The high point of Rad Racer 2, in addition to the enjoyable gameplay, just might be the game's very "Rare-like" graphics. Everything from the gorgeous backgrounds to the cars, obstacles, and smooth animation just feels very polished in this game. The various colors just seem to leap out of the television screen and are bolder and more fleshed out compared to the original game.
The diversity of the stages and some of the background graphics in particular (Monument Valley, Las Vegas, and Twilight California really impressed me with their color schemes and parallax-scrolling.) were truly outstanding for the NES! It amazes me that Rad Racer 2's name never seems to come up in NES discussions regarding which games featured some of the best graphics (at least in terms of background graphics and parallax-scrolling effects) because at times, this game defines the phrase "eye-popping." In any case, I honestly feel that Rad Racer 2 probably has the best graphics of any racing game for the NES. R.C. Pro-Am II might have something to say about that but the sheer diversity of Rad Racer 2's visuals are hard to overlook.
Music: It's time for a little video game trivia! Quick...who was the famous video game composer who wrote the soundtrack to Rad Racer 2? Guesses anyone? Uh...anyone?
Believe it or not, the great Nobuo Uematsu of all people was actually the mastermind behind this game's music! How cool is that? I was oblivious to this fact as a kid and couldn't believe my eyes when I beat the game recently and saw Uematsu's name flash by during the game's surprisingly good ending (mainly due to the fantastic music...I might have known). To think that Mr. Final Fantasy himself was involved with a Rad Racer game. If nothing else, that should encourage anyone on the fence to give this game a try!
Uematsu didn't disappoint either. Although Rad Racer 2 has a severely limited musical score (two main tracks plus the ending theme), the music that does play is very, very good. "Coast to Coast" is a very nice, relaxing piece that fits a game like this extremely well. With its pleasant melody, it is a nice choice to use for some of the game's more scenic levels like Key West and Twilight California. The other track that you can choose, "Gumball Crash," is a nice compliment with its upbeat, "big-city" feel. I would definitely recommend listening to this track during the Big Apple and Las Vegas stages in particular. Lastly, you can choose the humorous "Sing Yourself" tune which is actually nothing at all if you would rather race to the tune of sound effects.
Although both of the game's main tracks are fantastic for sure, I have to admit that I was disappointed that they didn't include three tracks to choose from like in the original game. This isn't knocking on the wonderful musical score whatsoever. It just kind of gives the impression that the game regressed in a way by not giving you one more track to choose from. And it would have allowed Nobuo Uematsu to orchestrate yet another superb 8-bit musical piece so why not?
Lastly, the sound effects in this game are pretty much your standard racing fanfare. The engine and braking sounds are decent for the NES and there is no longer a sound when you use your turbo which can be seen as an improvement or a regression depending on if you enjoyed that particular sound in the original game (I did enjoy it actually.) And also, there is no title theme or game over tune which could be viewed as a sort of cop-out if you wanted to be really anal.Play Control: Although the control scheme itself is identical to that found in the first Rad Racer game, the feel seems to lean slightly on the loose side this time around. It is a very subtle difference but is one that I have noticed over the years. Your car just seems to be slightly bouncy at times...particularly when banging up against civilian/enemy cars. This is a merciful change as hitting opponent cars at the wrong angle doesn't necessarily doom you to an epic crash with a stray palm tree or street light. Overall, I thought that Rad Racer 2, like its predecessor, controls very well.
Challenge: It's pretty safe to say that if you have played and beaten the first Rad Racer game, you shouldn't have too much trouble conquering the second one as well. The difficulty of Rad Racer 2 is comparable to the first game and also fits somehwere in that "middle-of-the-road" category. Rad Racer 2 certainly has its share of challenges both old and new (the "homing" red cars that intentionally go out of their way to make your life miserable can be a real pain) and, like the first game, seems to really ramp up the difficulty around Stages 5 and 6. The last couple of races in RR2 will really make you work for your lunch without a doubt. Like many of the better NES games out there, you feel very satisfied after beating a game like this. Just don't expect a cakewalk because this game can be tough-as-nails in certain sections.
As far as replay value goes, both Rad Racer games are probably in the same camp. While both classics feature excellent gameplay and a variety of stages, once you beat them, you will more likely than not simply move on to the next great thing. That's not really a knock on Rad Racer 2 because racing games in general seem to function that way. You play them until you beat them then you move on. I do enjoy playing this game once in a while though.
Storyline: Like the original game, there really is no background story in Rad Racer 2. You're just racing coast-to-coast and having fun doing it baby! In other words, this area is N/A.
Funfactor: Even though this game could be perceived as a copycat or a simple rehash of the original game on many levels (e.g. a whopping five stages in RR2 look dangerously close to ones found in the first Rad Racer game), it is still a fantastic video game in its own right. Although I have been hammering away at the "copycat" thing throughout this review, don't get me wrong. I really like Rad Racer 2! It is a lot of fun to play and compliments the original classic nicely. The gameplay is silky smooth, the graphics are noticeably better, and playing through a brand new stage such as Twilight California was a special treat indeed. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking or truly original and you will have a blast with this game.
Negatives: Even for a direct sequel, this game is remarkably similar to the first game in terms of the game's main stages. Glance at the following and make your own deductions: Stage 1 (RR1: Coastline stage; RR2: Coastline stage), Stage 2 (RR1: Big City; RR2: Big City), Stage 5 (RR1: Big City; RR2: Big City), Stage 6 (RR1: Rocky Mountains; RR2: Rocky Mountains). In addition to these similarities, the Gettysburg stage in RR2 reminds me a lot of the seventh stage of RR1 while the Monument Valley level in RR2 looks like another Grand Canyon stage found in RR1 (Granted, the MV stage looks a lot better but still...)
And not to continue this rant or anything but even as a kid, it bothered me a little bit that the second Rad Racer game only had a couple of stages that were truly original (the Twilight California stage was the only one that really stood out to me...Bay Bridge would be a distant second). Now granted, I know full well that some of the more popular series of games out there like Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, and The Legend of Zelda have featured sequels with similar items/levels/gameplay and whatnot. It's just amazing how blatant it was in this case. But I digress...
Lastly, not to sound anal to a fault (I probably have already passed that point.) but it really bugs me that there are only two musical choices in this game instead of three. Any time you create a sequel, you have to give the game player the impression that you are improving on the original game and at the very least keeping the same layout or features that were found in the initial game. That is why it confuses me why Square would feature less music in the sequel to Rad Racer. It's a minor issue I know but is something that has kind of bugged me for years. Think of this as an opportunity for me to finally give this suppressed complaint a voice.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.2 Music: 4.2 Play Control: 4.1 Challenge: 3.9 Storyline: N/A Funfactor: 4.2 Overall Score: 20.6 out of 25.0 (4.12 average) Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: August 17, 2011