Victory Run (TurboGrafx-16) review
"This game, one of the few racers released for the Turbografx-16, chronicles the Paris to Dakar rally. The strains on mind, body and vehicle alike are enormous, and Victory Run is relentless. The game makes you feel the vehicle's emotions as it were. When you're going good, the immense metallic frame glides along aided by smooth suspension and both you and your vehicle are smiling. When you're not, the piece of junk struggles along, suspension twisted, tires bald, gears grinding. "
The very same reason some people love this game is why others hate it: the difficulty. Victory Run is unapologetically tough. When I first played the game, I was used to other behind-the-car racers such as the pioneering Outrun, which this game emulates, if only on an aesthetic level. The thing of it is this: mastery of Victory Run, clearing it time upon time - does not ensure clearing it again. By this, more than anything, I was stunned.
This game, one of the few racers released for the Turbografx-16, chronicles the Paris to Dakar rally. The strains on mind, body and vehicle alike are enormous, and Victory Run is relentless. The game makes you feel the vehicle's emotions as it were. When you're going good, the immense metallic frame glides along aided by smooth suspension and both you and your vehicle are smiling. When you're not, the piece of junk struggles along, suspension twisted, tires bald, gears grinding.
So if Victory Run has one flaw, it's the fact that it's almost too real. It manages this despite the catchy, cutesy music - reminiscent of World Class Baseball and Bomberman - and the wonderfully colourful, well drawn Outrun-esque graphics. Beyond navigating the straight and narrow, the curving and insane, you'll have to keep your vehicle running like the well-oiled machine that it is (or should be). Gears must be serviced, tires maintained, brakes checked, suspension taken care of, engine tuned, and your transmission must hold up.
You've got a certain amount of points to allot to each of these six critical areas, and the way you drive the car has a lot to do with how you should allot them. Say a particular driver likes to go hard over bumps - his suspension will lose points rather quickly from leg to leg of the race. Therefore, that driver would do well to beef up that area with more points (this is only for the sake of explanation; going over bumps at full speed will kill your suspension no matter how many points you can realistically allot for it). Once any area's points reach zero, things become bleak very quickly. It is at this point that you count to ten slowly, and reach over to shut off your Turbografx unit.
Believe me, I have tried driving with my tires on 'zero', and willed the car onward, to no avail. Obviously the game doesn't heed my words encouragement (it's a good thing too, with the amount of cursing that goes on when I have a go at this).
Okay, so you're a top quality driver, and a superb parts manager to boot, you've got the race all wrapped up then, right? Ha. I'm laughing at you. I'm laughing, because that idea is laughable. I've played Victory Run through about five times, one session after another on one occasion, and despite my near-mastery of the game, I was only able to finish it twice. The results of the three unsuccessful runs varied wildly.
This is what I find so brilliant. Your finish will never be a predictable thing, and the intensity of the driving keeps things fresh and enjoyable all the time. It's fun to be kept on your toes.
If you skid on a rough mark in the desert as the sun goes down (due to your taking too long in city: your own fault!) you might hit a rock, overturn your vehicle and lose precious seconds off your time. You see, the bonus time that you receive from finishing each leg ahead of schedule gets tacked onto the overall extra time you have for the journey. A bad leg will eat into any bonus seconds you've accrued from previous legs, and will eventually consume your extra time altogether, thus ending your race.
What this means is that mistakes are extremely costly, and their cause is sometimes almost unforeseen. That creates reason for frustration quite regularly, but simultaneously showcases a realism not often seen in racing games.
And herein lies Victory Run's lesson: playing your best won't always win you the race.
If you can accept this character trait, you will love Victory Run, and wind up in Dakar in time to watch the sun set, satisfyingly, in what will seem like real time. If you can't, you just might see the trait as a flaw that makes the whole experience too draining and too frustrating to deal with.
Words of wisdom? Plan carefully, cross your fingers, and don't miss the forest for the trees.
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)
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