Review: Super Hang-On (Sony PS3)

Super Hang-On
Developer: Sega AM-2
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 05/22/2012

I’m not really a fan of racing games as they never actually feel like I’m driving a vehicle. Perhaps I was spoiled by the arcades of my youth where racing games often involved vehicle shaped controllers. Games like Pole Position and OutRun were a blast and even as an adult, the only racing games I enjoyed were in arcade cabinet form like Lucky & Wild. Like many gamers who had their formative years in the 80s, it’s probably no surprise to hear that my favorite arcade racer was Super Hang-On. The controller was a motorcycle that you rode while playing the game and it was awesome. Super Hang-On was an impossible experience to duplicate for home consoles but god knows Sega has tried. Super Hang-On has been released for twelve different systems. Considering all the different Sega Genesis compilations out there I was shocked to see this WASN’T on my Dreamcast, PS2 ,or PS3 one. Heck, it hadn’t been remade or re-released since the 16-bit era and Super Hang-On has just now made it to all three current-gen consoles. So after all this time how does this retouched and enhanced version of the ARCADE VERSION(!) ofSuper Hang-On fare? Has it’s long dormancy kept feeling fresh or is there a reason Sega hasn’t squeezed all the blood from this stone like so many other of their older games?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

Super Hang-On might look light on content, but that’s until you actually start playing it. The game offers four different tracks. Each one is longer and harder than the last. Your goal is simply to clear each checkpoint before time runs out. The faster you clear a checkpoint, the more time you have to get to the next. However you have to deal with environmental hazards, sharp curves and of course, other racers. It’s pretty cut and dry, although it will take you a long time to clear each course. The game may seem like it will only take an hour to beat all four courses (and for the truly best at the game, it will), but you’ll find yourself spending hours on each course as you figure out the tricks of the game.

In addition to this, a new Trials mode has been added. Here you run the same four courses but your score and overall time are uploaded onto a server so you can see how you rank amongst the other people playing it. As of the time of writing this, it looks like only two hundred or so people have done the beginner trial and the amount of people participating shrinks from there. It’s a little sad to see that, as this is such a classic game. At the same it means hey, I’m in the top twenty for each course!

That’s pretty much it. You have a Juke Box to listen to all the game’s music and the ability to change the difficulty of the game and/or how much time you have. I know that sounds a little skimpy, but the tracks are long (Even the shortest course is about three to four minutes long) and it will take you a while to master the game. This is an old 80s arcade port after all, and the games were about skill rather than length. I’m quite pleased with what I have here and even after 100%’ing the game, I still find myself going back for a quick race or to improve my Trails time.

Modes Rating: Decent

2. Graphics

The game is a near direct port of the arcade version, although the signs in the game have been changed to the same ones that were in the Genesis version of the game. This means you’re getting twenty-five year old graphics. Now I’m fine with that as I grew up with this game, but new or more casual games may deride the game for its older visuals. I guess it just depends on if you want nostalgia or the latest cutting edge graphics.

I personally think the game looks pretty good. You can obviously tell what everything is on the screen and, more importantly, you can tell that a lot of the visuals were top of the line for 1987. The game has a wide variety of images, the bikes and their drivers are well done and although the game gets a bit blurry when you go over 300 km/h, it’s supposed to be that way. Perhaps the worst visuals are with the end game graphics as some of your adoring crowd look like blobs.

For a game from 1987, the game looked amazing and it still holds up well. For a 2012 release, the game is definitely well below what the PS3 can handle. I’m going to be kind here and call it a thumb’s in the middle.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

Much like Outrun, you get to choose from one of four BGM tracks at the start of the race. That track will then keep playing until it’s game over for you or you beat the course. The tracks are all MIDIS, but they are well done and I find they get stuck in my head – especially after a marathon session of trying to beat a harder course with a reduced time or increased difficulty setting. I’ll walk away from the game and be humming a tune from the game several hours later without even realizing it at first.

So the music is still as catchy as ever, but what really impressed me were the sound effects. I remember how realistic the game sounded as a kid and I’m happy to say it still holds up.. The smashing of your bike into a billboard, the screeching of your tires as you make a hairspin turn and the super power of your turbo boost kicking the bike’s engine up several notches really help to make the game come alive. Super Hang-On might be old, but aurally the game still performs as well as it did twenty-five years ago

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

Let’s be honest. There’s no way a home port of this game can ever capture the feel of sitting on that motorcycle and actually driving it in the arcade. It’s just not possible. In that respect, no home version of the game can ever match up. However, this version of Super Hang-On is easily the best version I’ve ever played on a console. It’s just wonderful to play through and I found myself actually weaving with the game as I would have if I was in the arcade. Everything is as tight as can be. It might not ca[ture the exact magic of the arcade version but I’m extremely happy with what’s here.

Each of the shape buttons has a different command, and you can change the buttons to whatever layout you want. I applied X to gas, O to turbo, Triangle to break and square as the “accept/start” button. You can use either the analog stick or the D-pad to control your bike. I don’t have a preference; both work great. Once you get good enough, you’ll probably never need the break.

The controls are simple to learn but you’ll spend hours, if not longer, figuring out how to really play the game and get a massively high score. When and how to using turbo is the key, especially with the North American and European races. The controls may sound deceptively shallow but trust me; this is a game about skill and timing, not rote button pressing. I’m thrilled with how well this version of Super Hang-On turned out and I think most fans of the game will be too.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

5. Replayability

There are four courses in the game, each of which gamers will have to spend a lot of time with in order to get past. Even with the difficulty cranked down and the time boosted to its max, many gamers will still have problems with North America and Europe. This means you’ll have to spend a lot of time with the game to beat a course, much less get good at it. Factor in the new Trials mode and the ability to see where you rank in the scheme of things and you have a game that you can play for five to thirty minutes at a time, or for long stretches of time. Whatever your schedule allows.

Replayability Rating: Good

6. Balance

Super Hang-On was originally an arcade game. This means it was designed to be tough yet crazy hard to stop playing so gamers would keep shoving quarters down its coin slot. I remember as a little kid almost but not quite being able to beat the Beginner course set in Africa. As I got older, I got better because I practiced a lot. Before the era of Wrestlefest, Street Fighter II and Dungeons & Dragons: The Arcade Game, this was my preferred arcade game of choice. With the home version, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on getting better as you can just keep replaying and memorizing the course. For those that want an extra little advantage, there’s always the ability to lower the difficulty of the course in addition to increasing how much time you get per checkpoint. Lowering the former and raising the latter to their easiest settings should let anyone get through Africa but you’ll still have a hard time with the end bits of North America and Europe. I was thrilled to see that now any gamer could complete even the most basic Super Hang-On course as it would help newcomers stick with the game instead of being frustrated by it. Long time fans of the game will instantly notice the changes that come with each setting while newcomers might not notice it at all.

I’m really impressed by how Sega’s tried to keep Super Hang-On “arcade perfect” and yet make the game more inviting to gamers that didn’t grow up with it. It’s like having a dip switch for the game.

Balance Rating: Great

7. Originality

On one hand, this is a game from 1987 that has been on twelve different systems. On the other hand, this is the first time since the 16-bit era since Super Hang-On has seen a console release. More importantly, this is the first release of an arcade perfect version. Sure it’s missing the motorcycle controller, but what do you want for five bucks? There have been a lot of motorcycle games since Super Hang-On and it was by no means the first of its kind, but it still stands out due to the different courses, weird ending scenes for each track and the fact that you are racing to checkpoints instead of against other cars. It’s a classic that have heavily influenced the racing genre and it still holds up, but I can’t say that it was all that original even back then when you remove the way it was played in the arcade from the equation.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

So here’s the thing. I was able to get all the trophies for the game in under an hour. This was without trying to go for them to boot. I was just playing the game. However I still kept playing the game well after clearing them out because the game is that fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve played the game and it’s still as fun as it ever was. Whether it was trying to beat the different courses or just improve my time on the trials, I spent far more time with Super Hang-On than I thought I would. I went in expecting this to be yet another bad retro port and came out thoroughly impressed. Out of all the Genesis and arcade games Sega has updated and brought to the PS3, this is not only my favorite, but the only one I’m keeping on my hard drive (Hey, there’s not much room left).

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

Well, this is kind of a hard call. From looking at the fact only a few hundred people have purchased the game, it seems like this is going to be a money loser for Sega. Of course, it could be that it’s just two hundred or so have played the trials and that many others are just playing the regular version of the game, but I doubt it. This is a damn shame, became the game is exceptionally fun and a steal at only five dollars. If more people took the plunge, they’d find an exceptional game waiting for them. Unfortunately, getting someone to buy an old Sega Arcade game appears to be easier said than done.

Whether you’re looking for a well done racing game, an arcade perfect release, a chance for a dozen or so easy trophies or just a fun blast from the past, consider picking up Super Hang-On. You won’t be disappointed. At least I hope you won’t. From the look of things, Sony gamers don’t seem to care that this exists…

Appeal Factor: Mediocre

10. Miscellaneous

For five bucks you are getting an arcade perfect game, or as close to one as you can get without the motorcycle. You have the equivalent of a dip switch built in, the ability to rank yourself against other gamers and a tight little game that takes up little to no room on your hard drive (Only 69 MB!) and that you can play for only as few minutes or several hours, depending on what your schedule permits. Super Hang-On is one of the best games in Sega’s Virtual Collection/Sega Ages releases and is still one of the best racing games ever. At only five bucks, any Sega fan, retrogamer, racing fan or curious party should be downloading this and playing the hell out of it. It’s been a long time since Super Hang-On saw a console release and not only is this the best ever, the long time away without constant ports and compilation inclusions make the gamer feel all the more special. Hint hint Sega.

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

The Scores:
Modes: Decent
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Good
Balance: Great
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Super Hang-On is back and although it’s missing the motorcycle controller from the arcade cabinet, this is about as close to arcade perfect as any rendition will ever get. The game still holds up twenty-five years later with tight controls, well designed racecourses and incredibly enjoyable gameplay. Super Hang-On is an absolute steal at only five dollars, especially since this is the game’s first re-release since the 16-bit era. Just buy the thing already, why don’t you?

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