Sunday, 4 October 2020

Battle Outrun (Master System)

 Contrary to what you might think, unoriginality can actually be a powerful tool in creating a great game, using the core concept of an existing game and adding your own twists and ideas to make something new and exciting. Kid Chameleon did it to Super Mario Brothers 3, and Mortal Kombat did it to Street Fighter II, for just two examples. Battle Outrun is unfortunately an unsuccessful attempt to do it to Chase HQ.


In case any of you aren't familiar with Chase HW, it was an arcade game released by Taito in 1988 (a year before Battle Outrun), and subsequentally ported to pretty much every active home system at the time. In it, you play as a cop engaged in ar chases with criminals, who you have to catch by ramming their car with yours until they stop. Battle Outrun has you playing as a bounty hunter engaged in ar chases with criminals, who you have to catch by ramming their car with yours until they stop,


The only idea that Battle Outrun really adds to the Chase HQ concept is an item shop that appears once a stage, offering upgrades for your car, which are absolutely necessary if you want to make it past even the first stage. Tire and engine are pretty obvious, while upgrading your body reduces the amount of speed you lose when you collide with cars and other objects, and the totally useless chassis upgrades affect how far you fly when you drive over the ramps that appear a couple of times per stage.


The other thing Battle Outrun adds is frustration. Like in pretty much any racing game that takes place on city streets, there are many civilian cars acting as obstacles in your path. More than any other such game, the civilian cars in this gme feel like they were programmed with a sense of deliberate malice. They'll often deliberately drive right in front of you, or between you and the criminal you're trying to ram, or they'll get in front of you and stay in front of you, so you hit them repeatedly and lose five-to-ten precious seconds. Even when you've upgraded your body and engine a couple of times, this is still incredibly annoying, and feels totally unfair, too.


Despite what I said in the opening paragraph of this review, though, the biggest problem Battle Outrun has is its similarity to Chase HQ. Taito's game even got a port to the Master System in 1990, with better graphics, more speed, and obviously, a more streamlined and fun design. So play that instead, and just don't bother with Battle Outrun.

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