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ACA NeoGeo: Riding Hero (PlayStation 4) artwork

ACA NeoGeo: Riding Hero (PlayStation 4) review

"Blighting Zero"

Two-dimensional racing games of the OutRun and Hang-On era had a very particular function to their steering; once you're done tilting the controller or arcade wheel, your vehicle auto-adjusts to the forward position. It's so simple and straightforward, that an explanation isn't required.


Riding Hero, a motorcycle "grand prix" title in the same vein as Super Hang-On, forces the explanation, because it does something really awkward with this standard approach to steering. When you're done tilting the controller and let go, the motorcycle continues moving in the direction you "left" it in... You have to manually adjust your bike back to the forward position if you don't want a crash on your hands. This is hard in itself since you're constantly trying not to hit rival opponents and roadside obstacles on courses that consistently bend in all directions. You know what makes this more difficult? There's a stiff, slightly delayed reaction to turning.

That's just one of many, many issues that contribute to the game's downfall.

Riding Hero, just like Super Hang-On, has a turbo mechanic that's only accessible after attaining a specific speed. But unlike Super Hang-On, it's borderline unusable here. The courses turn and bend at such a perplexing rate to the point of feeling random, as if that's how the devs actually created them. Nearly every time you build enough speed to use the turbo, you immediately have to slow down due to a sudden, sharp turn or having to avoid hitting other drivers thanks to the nonsensical controls. This is the complete opposite of the smooth Super Hang-On, which has coherent track designs that work with the turbo ability, even during the toughest tracks...

With each new problem unraveled, it becomes increasingly clear that the devs just copied a solid game at face value, the motorcycle grand prix angle and turbo concept, and then made up the rest. Because of that, Riding Hero is in a spot where one or both are true: either the devs don't know how to make a racing game or they tried robbing players of their money, back when it was originally released in the arcades. How so? If, for some reason, you get over the rigid steering, the terrible track layouts, and the near-IMPOSSIBLE execution of a successful turbo boost, you still have one spectacularly-frustrating obstacle to battle: the ridiculous AI racers.

In grand prix mode, where you're against seven other bikers across several courses, you have to place in the top three to progress. Here's the problem: racing in the top three is a nightmare. Whether you're slow or fast, sans the turbo, the others in top positions will pass you, and worse, they will likely bump into you in the process. This happens a ton. It's irritating during a straight line, so you can imagine what happens during turns when you're trying not to hit roadside objects; a lone crash immediately plops you into last place. One would think the "solution" is to purposely stay out of the top three until the race is nearly over. Unfortunately, the time limit curbs this tactic, so you're forced to contend with the top racers because you need to outrun the timer. If that wasn't enough, the other racers start bumping into you in later tracks....

Fun fact: it took two hours to record and edit for this video.

If this was done intentionally, then it would mean the devs went out of their way to devise every possible counter-measure to ensure your failure. Not even adjusting the difficulty to the lowest setting noticeably changes anything. "Fortunately," this home port allows for countless retries after every failed attempt, which is more than can be said about the original arcade version. The term "quarter muncher" doesn't do Riding Hero justice; it's too sadistic for that title.

Now, if grand prix mode doesn't seem all too appealing... for some reason... then the devs also included a story mode, just like Super Han-Here, you'll travel to various locations within a fictional town, going from one static backdrop to the next, and talking to numerous people that might challenge you to a race. This sounds neat, until you actually begin and spot a timer counting down at the top of the screen. For races? No, the timer is present throughout the whole mode; during conversations, when you move around, and so on. Once you actually reach the first race, given you picked the right spots to visit, the time will actually expire halfway through, with the game begging for more credits to be inserted.

To even add a brief timer to an arcade game that's designed to go at a steady pace is preposterous and disgusting. Oddly, this "feature" is also in the PS4 version, which is absurd in itself, but at least you have the choice of pushing the clock up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Why not just have an option to disable it? Don't think this time extension will make story mode somewhat entertaining; you begin with a pitifully slow motorcycle, which works wonders with the already-flimsy controls, and must win races to get enough money for better bikes. And adding to the laundry list of miseries, this mode has actual traffic to contend with. You have to navigate past bulky cars and trucks on a condensed, two-lane road, and to add insult to injury, these vehicles drive down the middle...

The fact that the port developers, Hamster, deemed Riding Hero "worthy" to be in their ACA NEOGEO catalog is dumbfounding.

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (May 18, 2019)

Pick any sci-fi game from the 1980s and you're likely to spot an Alien reference.

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Welcome to the Monotonous Zone


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hastypixels posted May 18, 2019:

I know for a fact there are titles in demand, and having never heard of this one I can only assume it isn't. Or maybe I'm just being blase.

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