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Super Hang-On (Genesis) artwork

Super Hang-On (Genesis) review


"Super Wobble-On"



A sequel to Yu Suzuki's 1985 classic, Super Hang-On's tone took more inspiration from its more immediate predecessor, OutRun, where you constantly ride your motorcycle through various locations across the globe and have the option to pick between four different music themes, all while avoiding collision with other bikers and side obstacles. One standout feature this particular game hordes over those two, however, is the inclusion of a turbo ability. Clearly, you can't use this whenever you feel like it, so the catch is having to wait for your vehicle to clock in at 280 km/h, adding a whole new element to the way you conduct your racing skills; with sharp turns and opponents literally awaiting at every corner, you'll need every ounce of "free time" to build up your meter, because the speed boost is pretty much the deciding factor in your attempt at outpacing the timer and reaching the finish line through long, liner tracks.

Super Hang-On may not have done anything overtly amazing in comparison to something like OutRun, but it did all the basics right, and game-mechanically speaking, the turbo boost really does give a, um, boost to the challenge. That was good enough for gamers. That was good enough for me.



Now, if you were to bring up the Genesis port of Super Hang-On in discussion, opinions will vary, the majority of which likely looking down on it. I used to be on the side that liked the port and defended this version whenever the opportunity struck, mainly due to a mixture of growing up with the title and genuinely thinking there wasn't much bad about it. Obviously, the Genesis couldn't hope to copy the arcade hardware's scaling abilities widely used in these games, but, at least in this case, the Super Hang-On port did a very commendable effort replicating many aspects. The soundtrack no longer has the synthesized vibe to it, but the music tracks are still intact and recognizable, there's no scaling of objects for a pseudo 3D effect, but you wouldn't tell much of a difference with the alternative method used, and for the most part, the presentation is very much the same with little to no meddling. Super Thunder Blade could've taken some pointers from this.

So why do some people defame the game? Well, the thing is, they have a certain edge that I didn't have back when I originally got the Genesis port: they played the arcade version. It's one thing to see images or video of the game, but it really is an entirely differing experience playing and feeling the arcade version's gameplay.

I can still deal with the Genesis rendition of the soundtrack and the fake-fake 3D, but once I got a taste of the arcade's controlling, the way the motorcycle effortlessly turns on a whim, I was stunned how different the 16-bit port's handling was when I returned. For some odd, strange reason, when you turn in the Genesis version, there's a delay, and it completely changes the dynamic of how you take the corners. In the arcade original, it's more like a dare of sorts, how far you're willing to inch near obstacles at high speeds for the taste of victory. In the port, it feels like you're riding a stubborn, aging horse that you hope is going to turn in the opposite direction in time to avoid a sign post. It's not noticeable off the bat, but when you do multiple corners in a row, you're conscious of the delay. No amount of logic could even explain the discrepancy, especially since most other Sega racing ports on the system have zero issues regarding turning.



While the handling is quite undesirable in Arcade mode, it becomes an absolute turnoff in the port's Original mode. Here, the game takes on a championship-style setting where you race against rivals, one-on-one, fighting through the ranks by winning five races for each opponent, until you're eventually paired against the top dog. Along the way, you'll be sponsored by various Japanese companies like a "pharmacy" and "hot dog vendor" (the English translation was pretty liberal...), and with the money earned from successful races, you can hire various mechanics and better parts for your motorcycle. Unfortunately, this is where the control destroys an otherwise decent addition to a home game; the handling in Arcade mode is definitely iffy, but your starting bike in Original mode is so underwhelming that it feels like you're playing Super Hang-On in slow-motion.

With that in mind, remember that you have to win five races for each rival. Now imagine riding a slow bike with super-delayed turning on one track, five times in a row. Not fun. Worse, the devs attempted to instill realism with your motorcycle parts wearing out over time, and faster if you crash into objects or bump into other racers. By the time you have enough money saved to buy something brand new like an engine, you'll also need to replace worn parts so you won't get pulled mid-race for a destroyed muffler and such. So not only do you have to contend with a sluggish bike for a good chunk of this mode, but be really careful not to collide with anything. Even when I first got this game, I considered this a low point for the cartridge. Over the decades, I've tried beating this mode, but always gave up due to the insane pace, so I always found it impressive that my Dad, rest his soul, managed to reach the final rival without resorting to cheats. Now that's patience.


A brief comparison with both modes' starting tracks.


Back then, if there wasn't an arcade nearby with a bike cabinet, the Genesis port of Super Hang-On was basically the only thing we could work with. So for some, there really was no choice but to try overlooking the apparent flaws. Nowadays, the arcade version is easily accessible through downloadable means, and while they can never replicate the sensation of sitting on the motorcycle cabinet, at least the feel and handling are still there. The only reason to ever have a go with this edition now is for nostalgia purposes and to see its oddly mishandled conversion.

Rating: 3/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (March 24, 2014)

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Ben posted March 25, 2014:

Great and fascinating read. I never played the arcade version, so this review has opened my eyes a bit at the compromises that had to be made so the game could run on the Mega Drive.
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pickhut posted March 25, 2014:

Hey, thanks! Appreciate the read.

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