Throughout the Super Nintendo’s life, there were just a handful of Super FX games. Coming up this week is a review of one of an even smaller number of Super FX games that never made it out of Europe.
Name: Dirt Racer
Developer: Motivetime Software
Publisher: Elite Systems
Released on: SNES
Original Release Date: May 1995
In the 16-bit era, it was common for games to be region exclusive. Games like Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret of Mana, never made it out of Japan. JRPG classics like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI never came to Europe, and in some extremely rare cases, some games were European exclusive, like Dirt Racer.
You’d think a game featuring Nintendo’s amazing Super FX chip would be a really big deal, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing of Dirt Racer’s existence. It’s a game of which seems to have completely fallen on the radar when it comes to information on the internet – It could be because it is a rare instance of a European-only release, or more likely because it’s an abomination the likes you’ve never seen on the Super Nintendo.
First things first, this game has a loading screen the moment you boot the game up, and at various points throughout the game. Now, there are other games that have loading screens, such as the ambitious port of Street Fighter Alpha 2, but that’s a technically impressive game – By comparison, Dirt Racer looks like utter trash from the moment it’s finished loading.
Taking a leaf from Stunt Race FX, there are three different vehicles to choose from – A standard rally style car, a smaller F1 style racer and a gigantic monster truck. Yup, almost exactly like Stunt Race FX.
You can take part in a knockout tournament or a league mode, both of which start with you racing around the England tracks, and completion of either mode will allow you to take on other tournaments or leagues in Australia and Alaska. But you’ll never get that far, unless you happen to have passwords to take you there, as this game as no save function. Considering I can’t see any passwords for this game online, you can only imagine how tough this game is.
Rather than racing an entire pack of other vehicles, Dirt Racer is all about one-on-one racing – Facing just one other vehicle in a race to the finish line. Each country has five different tracks, from straight races to a so-called Stunt track (which doesn’t appear to be any different), to a Puzzle track. And the developers’ definition of Puzzle is to drive through a track, making sure collect question marks in the correct order. Unfortunately, the order is given to you by labels on the floor underneath the question marks, which is incredibly hard to see until you’re actually collecting them.
There are many problems with Dirt Racer, but its biggest crime is track design. It is almost impossible to navigate courses because the draw distance is so poor – You could be racing at top speed, only to run into the barrier of a curve, and explode. Occasionally, arrows appear to tell you to turn left or right, and most of the time they’re completely unhelpful. Plus, all too often there are hazards such as trees or rocks that appear out of nowhere, and the collision detection is so terrible that you’ll run straight into them and explode into a hilarious kaleidoscope of colours.
Your best bet is to tap the acceleration button and slowly make your way around each track at a leisurely pace. Don’t worry, your CPU-controller opponent’s intelligence is so non-existent that it could be outpaced by a rolling tub of Pringles – One minute they’ll pass by, and then you’ll catch up, only to see them literally stopping in the middle of the road.
Sidenote – Do you know how this game tells you whether you’re in the lead or not? Surely one of these numbers tells you that you’re in first or second place, like every racing game ever? Nope, none of them does – The place indicator is that sodding smiley face in the corner, and it’s utterly ridiculous.
I haven’t even gone into how the cars handle because they’re all absolutely useless. You steer your vehicle with both left and right on the D-pad, and can also use the shoulder buttons to steer a little further, but it doesn’t matter because you’ll either be steering too much or too little and crash or spin out, anyway. What’s particularly fun is when you drive over a small hill and explode when you land – What a game!
I cannot express how badly written this game is. Even the menus are infuriatingly unreadable, with horrible fonts. The graphics, in general, are a muddy mess of polygons, while the music and other audio are incredibly mundane.
Playing this game for review was not a fun experience. I hated every second of it – With every passing moment, I remembered that I spent money on this cartridge. I could have used that money for so many things – Food, clothes, drink, better games. Instead, I bought the cartridge so you guys don’t have to.
I don’t think anyone has finished this game, seriously. With all of the game’s issues, it becomes a serious achievement to even finish a race on Easy mode. It’s such a broken excuse of code that I don’t even know how it passed Quality Assurance – And according to the opening credits, it did. Forget this game not making it out of Europe, how did it make it out of the factory?