With the exception of Rad Racer, which I enjoyed and gave a favorable review to, there has been a major void in the racing genre on the Nintendo library. This month Nintendo and Rare are bringing us R.C. Pro-Am, an entirely different form of racing experience. Rather than driving sports cars or motorbikes, in this game you’ll race Radio Controlled vehicles, and it might be even better than the real thing.
R.C. Pro-Am consists of 24 different tracks, with most courses consisting of 2-4 laps. You compete against three other vehicles and your goal is to finish each race in the Top 3. If you finish in last place it is game over, however you do get two continues. But, it won’t be easy to keep winning races and there is more going on in this game than many other traditional racers. That’s because the other racers wills top at nothing to ram you and put you in the ditch. On top of the vehicular combat, each course is filled with power-up items, weapons, and hazardous obstacles. No doubt because of the chaos taking place on the screen at any given time, the game features an isometric, top-down view and the camera follows the action around the course.
During each race, the track is scattered with all kinds of items to collect. First, there are two kinds of weapons available: Missiles to wipe out those ahead of you and Bombs to dispatch tailing competitors. You can never truly take your competitors out for good. When blown up, they reappear after a split second, giving you an opportunity to put some distance between you and them. You can only carry one weapon at a time, but there is additional ammo to gather. You must not overdo it, as using too many weapons in a race will result in another car powering up to over 100 MPH and they automatically win the race.
Each track has a letter tile to pick up. Gathering these spells out NINTENDO and once you collect all 8 of them you will acquire a new vehicle. You begin the game with a pick-up truck and eventually can unlock more powerful vehicles, like the sports van, and racecar. Turbos, tires, and engines are power-up items you can obtain to improve your performance. These upgrades stay with you throughout the game. Roll-cages provide a temporary shield and allow you to run others off the road without taking damage, but watch out, the CPU can also get these. Lastly, some courses feature zippers, which are red arrows that give you a quick burst of speed when you drive over them.
As if the racing wasn’t already intense enough, each course is littered with obstacles. Oil slicks, puddles, and even roadblocks will make you slow down, spin out, or crash. Hitting too many of these will nearly guarantee a last place finish. As the game progresses, the course conditions become more dangerous and the skill of your opponents increases. Needless to say this is an incredibly challenging game.
Recently, I praised the music and sound for another Rare title, Wizards & Warriors. R.C. Pro-Am features the same composer, David Wise and it should come as no surprise that the music and sound in this game is also superb. While it’s unfortunate there isn’t any music while racing, the sound effects are fantastic. Hitting the zippers and picking up special items are even more satisfying because of the recognizable sound byte that plays. The start-up screen music is a real gem here as well.
The game is colorful and looks sharp. Although there are 24 different courses, all of which have unique track layouts, there is little variety in the background settings. The box promises 32 tracks, there are really only 24 different ones, and if you are skilled enough to reach the 25th level, the levels just recycle with more hazards. This is another amazing addition to the NES library, although the one glaring issue with this game is the lack of a 2-player mode. Having a split screen, and racing head to head with a friend would be a terrific feature to this already wonderful game.
R.C. Pro-Am Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
This is another perfect pick up and play game for a fun half hour gaming session. The controls feel great and although the game is difficult, it is not frustrating. I love all the cool special items included and the challenge of avoiding the hazards. The graphics are colorful, and the music and sound effects are amazing. You’ll more than get your money’s worth out of this game, especially if you try for the gold trophy on each of the 24 tracks.