Review: Excitebike World Rally (Nintendo Wii)

Excitebike: World Rally
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 11/10/2009

One of the best trends of the last couple years has been graphical upgrades of 8 and 16 bit favorites. Quietly, Nintendo released Excitebike: World Rally on WiiWare with little or no fanfare – it was announced exclusively on Nintendo Week and then put on the download service a week or so later. For fans of the original NES Excitebike, World Rally will feel familiar and comfortable.

1. Modes/Story

Excitebike World Rally is an arcade racing title, with a few basic racing-game modes.

The single-player mode is a circuit-based progression through various tracks racing against computer racers. There are four circuits, which are unlocked one at a time as the one before is completed. The time to beat to unlock the next level earns the player a “B” medal, with better scores yielding an “A” medal or ultimately an “S” Platinum Medal. Getting four “B” medals in each circuit unlocks the next – getting to an “S” medal unlocks some additional options.

The mutiplayer is online only, which is a rarity for a Nintendo Game. The online mode puts the player against other online players in one of the pre-made tracks, against other users online in a random fashion. There is no offline multiplayer, which would have been a cool addition.

Finally Excitebike World Rally offers a fully-featured track creator, which allows anyone to build and save up to 10 tracks. These tracks can then be played single player or shared over the WiiConnect to friends.

Modes/Story Rating: MEDIOCRE

2. Graphics

The visuals in Excitebike World Rally will invoke visions of the NES game, as they are clearly intended to be a direct upgrade rather than a reenvisioning in any way. The motorcycles are actually fuzzy, and detail on them is difficult to pick out. The locations look good, with various archetypal stages such as the beach and ice world. The races themselves feel smooth and fluid, and the game moves at a consistent framerate that works well with the precise nature of some of the jumps and obstacles.

It’s hard to say that Excitebike World Rally is a good looking game – one could imagine a similar game being released for Nintendo 64 or even Super Nintendo in terms of base technical merit. However the style does work for the game, and is appealing in its own way.

Graphics Rating: POOR

3. Sound

As with much of Excitebike World Rally, the audio is a throwback. The theme song is back, in a peppy new rendition but largely unchanged.

The in-game sound effects are aped from the original as well. Gamers will recognize the “engine rev” sound as well as the crash sound in World Rally, and all of the sound effects are crisp, loud, and notable and work great in the game.

Sound Rating: MEDIOCRE

4. Control & Gameplay

Excitebike World Rally utilizes the Wii Remote horizontally so it faithfully recreates the way the NES original was played.

The game offers two basic types of gameplay schemes, both of which are the same except gamers can choose to control the pitch of the bike with the left/right on the D-Pad or by tipping the Wii Remote side to side. The rest of the game is controlled with the controller, with accelerate, turbo, and the ability to move up and down lanes on the track.

Excitebike races are left to right side scrolling affairs with a slight isometric lean. The motorcycle can overheat if too much turbo is used, but it can be cooled down instantly with an arrow powerup or by jumping over another racer. The key to success is maintaining as much time with turbo as possible, resetting the heat meter as much as possible.

The cycle can wheelie, which allows for higher jumps off of ramps as well as easy access over hurdles. A crash can result in a poor landing or collision with another racer – another Wii addition is to shake the controller to get the maximum distance out of a crash.

It’s simple on the surface, but there is a smoothness possible to the jumps and hills depending how the bike is pitched left to right upon landing. The right landing will feel smooth and correct, and a wrong landing can lead to slowdown or a crash. A perfect Excitebike run with maximum turbo and perfectly landed jumps is a thing of beauty.

Control and Gameplay Rating: GREAT

5. Replayability

Excitebike was exceptional for its time not only because of its simple-but-addicting gameplay but its revolutionary track editor. Twenty years before games like Little Big Planet provided a toolset for gamers to add infinite replayability to a title, gamers could build and save their own tracks for play in Excitebike.

World Rally keeps that alive with an upgraded track editor, allowing Wii gamers the same fun of building tracks that NES gamers had 20 years ago. Building a track is easy and quick, and anyone can make a drivable track in just a couple of minutes.

Replayability Rating: GOOD

6. Balance

There are four circuits in Excitebike World Rally, each of which have four courses. The tracks are pretty similar in nature, combining a few basic elements like small/large hills and ramps.

The first few tracks are remarkably easy, and even an “S” medal could be had on first race-through. The later levels are a bit harder, with more obstacles and harder to traverse tracks, but ultimately they have patterns that can be used to get low times. World Rally ramps up difficulty nicely as the player proceeds, and for anything super hard, tracks can be created that are literally impossible to race through quickly.

The online multiplayer is also balanced nicely, with a points system used for race placement.

Balance Rating: CLASSIC

7. Originality

On one hand Excitebike: World Rally is almost completely unoriginal, in that it recreates the NES original faithfully and doesn’t add much to the gameplay equation.

However, most racing games released on modern consoles are 3D intensive affairs that provide a very difference experience. Excitebike World Rally scales back on the size and scope of racing and focuses on precise maneuvering and motorcycle jumps.

Originality Rating: BELOW AVERAGE

8. Addictiveness

Nintendo added a few unlockables to Excitebike World Rally that make it somewhat addictive.

Earning “S” class medals in the early circuits is hardly a challenge, but some of the Platinum Cup races are pretty difficult to pull out super fast times.

This game is addictive in groups – it’s fun to play in groups, passing the controller around like we did when we were kids. This is a game that appeals to non-gamers or lapsed gamers and each game is short, so it works for a round robin even without true multiplayer. There aren’t 20 buttons or complex moves, so it’s easy to lose hours continuing to race against one another in hopes of racking up the wins.

Addictiveness Rating: ABOVE AVERAGE

9. Appeal Factor

It’s shocking that Nintendo would keep a game like Excitebike World Rally under wraps as long as they did, and release it to such small fanfare.

A similarly-sized NES-era classic, Punch Out, received a full retail release. While it did feature more upgraded graphics and new modes, it appeals to a similar audience – adult Wii owners who are looking for upgraded nostalgia games. Nearly everyone I’ve told about this game was surprised about its existence and instantly interested in the game.

Appeal Rating: CLASSIC

10. Miscellaneous

One thing that has always puzzled me about Excitebike is the other racers on the track. The race starts with four racers, but dozens of other motorcycles are apparently also racing or just driving on the track. What makes even less sense is how close some of them are to the starting line – given that there is a countdown and camera pan to cause a delay between starting and beginning the race, wouldn’t these other racers have been starting around the same time? Do they start later in the race? Are they trying to defeat you or their own set of four racers? It’s unclear.

Miscellaneous Rating: GREAT

The Scores
Story: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: POOR
Sound: MEDIOCRE
Control & Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: CLASSIC
Originality: BELOW AVERAGE
Addictiveness: ABOVE AVERAGE
Appeal Factor: CLASSIC
Miscellaneous: GREAT
Final Score: ENJOYABLE

Short Attention Span Summary
Nintendo continues to vex longtime gamers with its combination of apathy and direct love. Excitebike World Rally falls squarely in the latter category, a love letter to 8-bit NES fans with a sequel that had never really been delivered. There is nothing surprising or unexpected in Excitebike World Rally, but its simplicity and old school charm make it a casual favorite. Grab it on WiiWare for only $10 and bring it out when friends are over, and it’s a guaranteed hit.

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