“A bunch of scary stuff is in the sky.”
-one sentence game descriptions.
(The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask)
“A bunch of scary stuff is in the sky.”
-one sentence game descriptions.
(The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask)
A jazzy, flamenco influenced rendition of one of Ocarina of Time’s most famous themes.
We have our first challenger to “hottest Super Mario beat ever” I could listen to this on loop all day.
Do you like Starfox 64? Do you like Starfox 64 quotes. Then you love listening to Ben Price!
An incredible orchestral album of the beautiful themes found in one of my favorite games in all of gamedom. Majora’s Mask and it’s dark themes come to life in these haunting arrangements that portend the end of the world. Theophany produces an aural adventure that places you right below the clock tower, with only days left before Time’s End.
Oh man, and there will be a second disc at the end of the year!? Now I am even happier the world didn’t end!
One of my favorite Temp Sound Solution video game covers. This one is off of the two disc epic, “now youre playing with powar 6: elorgtussys favorite hits” and includes tons of gritty in your face covers and crazy cuts. I could easily go on and on about this album, and this band, and Shawn Phase, but will save that for another day.
In my post about being cold, and cold games, Falling-Starflower brought up the forgotten N64 classic Space Station: Silicon Valley. Not a snow covered game throughout, but as Falling-Starflower mentioned, there were some memorable arctic moments in the game. Besides, how often do I get to talk about SILICON VALLEY FOR THE NINTENDO 64!?
I remember seeing previews of this game in Nintendo Power and EGM I believe (Wish my old gaming magazines weren’t packed away, or else I would just look), and just reading about a game that was so unrealistically ambitious. Even my seventh grade mind was feeling a bit skeptical, but much like Peter Molyneux fans might feel today, the ideas the game designers had for Silicon Valley were just way too damn awesome to question.
Those high minded developers were the folks of DMA Design, creators of Lemmings and another intriguing N64 game, Body Harvest. They are better known today as Rockstar North and have been working on some little game series called Grand Theft something or other ever since.
Long story short. By my measure, a very fun game, and definitely another forgotten N64 cult classic. Too bad the ambitious ideals of the programmers led to a bit too much hype at the time it was released. All the parts are there for a sequel/remake though, just saying.
Song of Healing on Guitar - Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (by BMBGuitar)
Great rendition of one of my favorite songs in one of my favorite games.
A dark Autumn becomes a blessing in disguise as I remember why racing games are so awesome. Memoreview is a look back at games from my past. Reviewing memories. Makes sense right? Don’t judge me!
“Top Gear Rally” I read on the colorful N64 box.
It was a racing game. But I already had a racing game! In fact, the only game I had on the N64 since I received it five months ago was Mario Kart 64, a racing game!
The windy December weekend had just gotten a bit colder. Not at any point did I request this game or even anything similar to it in name or looks. In fact, I had never even heard of this game, and not for lack of trying, since I read EGM and Nintendo Power cover to cover in those days.
I was dejected, and I was angry, and I was disillusioned. But dammit, I was also very bored. So I popped open the box and tossed it aside. I halfheartedly thumbed through the manual before pressing the game into the N64. I tossed the booklet aside, learning nothing as a never before seen, but oft watched since introduction fires up before me. An ominous string of notes fell from the television speakers. The future of gaming had arrived and it was the sound of tires screeching while logos slowly hurled themselves at me.
I put on a show of being unimpressed, but I couldn’t help but be a little excited. It was a brand new game after all. Once the onslaught that Top Gear Rally called an introduction was over, I was treated to a comparatively bland options menu. These options consisted of the standard racing fair such as Practice, Vs., and Championship. I jumped into the game head first by choosing the Championship mode. I was then taken to the list of available cars. It would seem that I could choose between the ugly green station wagon, or the ugly green station wagon with red, white, and blue ‘stripes.’ I use the quotation marks with derision since it looked like they tried to paint the car during a race.
The first championship challenge took place on a track simply titled Coastline, and there are no surprises there. The track winds along a scenic coast. Rocky outcrops, sand covered beaches, and of course a light house, to see through all the fog. I see the lights counting down, and hear the corresponding beeps. The lights turn green, and I hit the gas. The first thing I notice is that there is only one other car, and for some reason it is so lucky as to get a head start for no readily apparent reason. It would also seem that 18 other cars have the same luxury, since I start in 20th place. This is ridiculous. Also, I had no idea what a rally was at the time.
Luckily my confusion began to subside as I overtook the first car I encountered a short ways up the track. We slammed against each other while going the immense speed of seventy miles per hour and I go veering to the right, while he swerves to the left and flies into a tunnel. My car goes careening down the road beside the tunnel, all the while sideswiping the brick wall that separates the two. My pain and embarrassment of crashing into the wall continues all the way until the end of the wall itself. The tunnel ends and the car I had separated from makes a return onto the main road, but it’s too late, I have taken the lead and my place ratchets up to nineteenth.
If you do not know much about Top Gear Rally, one of the main features that was touted during it’s release was the damage your vehicle would take as you slammed into every other car and sideswiped every wall. I was only about one fifth into the first lap of three, and my car looked like it had been driven off the side of a cliff. The rear bumper had recessed its way into the underside of the car, the sides were dented so badly I doubt my driver had any way out of the thing, and if the game were any more realistic, the hood would have popped open and the engine would have fallen out.
I was racing very poorly is what I am trying to tell you. Needless to say, I did not do any better throughout the rest of my time on the track in my first go.
With a bit of time (which I had plenty of) I got the hang of it. What else could I do, go back to Mario Kart 64? I began to tear through the courses, cutting off cars, taking corners, and swerving through shortcuts with ease. It wasn’t long before I was landing first place in every race, and even lapping much of the competition. Though the computer AI had long since taken its place as second through twentieth spots, I continued to play. I had come to enjoy this game, and had a mission to perfect it. Sadly, this was one of the most irrelevant games I ever troubled to get good at (and I have gotten good at plenty of obscure games, as you’ll read eventually). Yes, it was a racing game, but the two-player mode was terrible. This was mostly due to the fact that the viewing window in multiplayer was unbelievably small once the speedometer is wedged in there, along with an extra thick layer of fog to obscure what view you did have.
Most of my friends wanted to play Mario Kart 64 anyway…
Gameplay you say? Well, there were only four tracks, each with names just as generic as Coastline. We had Jungle, then Desert, and after a few seasons I was rewarded with Mountain. I have never been able to decide whether a racing game should have dozens of tracks, or just a handful of sweet ones. I wasn’t much fazed by the lack of scenery. The tracks were dense with wild turns, clever shortcuts, and the occasional low flying plane, or hot air balloon above the horizon.
The weather effects were impressive for the time, pummeling the track with snow, or hosing the coastline with intense rain, but almost always casting a thick fog over the entire course. Yeah, remember fog in games? As the games engine is pushed to it’s edge, the fog rolls in and you will long for clear skies to return someday. Especially in that aforementioned two player mode, where the weather option Sunshine wasn’t even an option anymore.
The cars are a collection of generic unlicensed racing cars. The default paint jobs on many of them could be considered a hate crime against artists, with the notable exception of the Nintendo Power car. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still ugly, but it says ‘Nintendo Power’ on it! I read Nintendo Power!
Those horrendous paintings were likely intended to get my ass to the paint shop. Did I mention TGR has a simple paint program for your vehicles? This is by no means Forza, more like using MS Paint with an N64 controller. Though the interface was slow, and the options were limited, I was just as obsessed with this component of the game. I created on there for hours at a time. I made Taxis, Checkerboard cars who’s squares lined up near perfectly. Then of course, was my signature car, which I called the MK-2. I never really called it that, but I should have.
It was a car, completely dedicated to Mortal Kombat. It read ‘Mortal Kombat II’ on the hood, the license plate said MK, and there was a crudely drawn rendition of the famous dragon symbol on the roof of the car. I considered trying to remake it for this article, but I don’t have several hours to ‘research’ the paint mode.
Paint mode only let you save one car at a time, to my eternal sadness. Not only that, but a single car painting took up a whopping 62 blocks, out of an available 128 (in the Official Nintendo N64 Controller Pak). For reference, the save data for the game took up 2 blocks. Also, this was a cartridge! It can have memory!
As an experiment, I tried to see if this paint job would fit in the memory of a random Controller Pak with a few saves on it, and, of course, the save data would not fit. Some luck. I also searched around the web, and read about pages, and blocks of data, and then gave up. They couldn’t just say Megabytes? I know what a megabyte is! (…well I have a working knowledge of what a Megabyte is, so don’t go trying to quiz me nerds!) Turns out, I’m still mad about a cartridge based system that needed memory cards. Let’s move on.
After beating the entirety of the championship mode, I discovered two things. One, there is a hidden, and epic, fifth track. It is named Strip Mine, and is every bit better than all the other tracks combined, not to mention, a cooler name too. Two, the credits slid in a slight, but mind opening move as the dev car raced through the newly opened Strip Mine, then spiraled off of a ramp, and drove off as if it was an all too common occurrence.
Though the championship was over, and I was now the racing overlord, I began to sink even more time into the game. That time was spent going through every stage, and hitting every ramp, from every angle, to amass what turned out to be a few, sweet trick ramps.
This game has some very strange physics to say the least. Hitting a ramp, or even a curb, or some dirt on the side of the track the wrong way would send you flipping through the air for an indeterminable amount of time. In fact, this was the most likely reason to actually lose a race against the AI. This occasional annoyance, in this self-created “trick mode” of Top Gear Rally was a godsend to a bored young child. Now I could send my vehicle careening through the sky on physically impossible trajectories.
Clearly I wasn’t the only one to discover this.
When this game debuted Gran Turismo was still two months from launch in Japan, and arcades were still in their inevitable decline as people looked for meatier experiences at home. The arcade racers that had lived there for so long were quickly becoming obsolete to games like more robust Need for Speeds, and even Mario Kart 64, which rewarded continued exploration and multiple wins.
Arcade classics of the era such as San Francisco Rush and Cruis’n USA did their best to make the adjustment but with varying results. Like with other games of the day, realism was the word of the new gaming generation. Real cars, real tracks, real sponsors, and real controls all quickly became staples as Gran Turismo broke onto the scene (though the first GT did have a very fun arcade mode.)
Quite a few strange racers came out in these days as well. Doing their best to stride a strange middle ground between thrilling arcade action, and rewarding exploration and practice. Multi-Racing Championship, Beetle Adventure Racing!, even Iggy’s Wreckin’ Balls are a few of these obscure games. Nowadays, a racing game without unlockable cars, tracks, characters, accessories, miror modes, and then some is the standard. Though plenty of arcade style racers had implemented simple upgrades and unlockables, TGR was on the forefront of this shift from novelty to standard.
Even Mario Kart 64 didn’t have any unlockables,but the GCN sequel, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! had a ton of hidden characters, which I think shows the difference between those years.
Top Gear Rally, with it’s flaws and triumphs, makes for an interesting look at a genre that was directionless, on a system that was having an identity crisis of its own.
Would I recommend this game, in this day and age?
I replayed it for this article, and much of the good stuff has remained intact. Graphics are passable. This isn’t Cruisin’ USA, but this is still the N64. The 3D car models look great, though the same can’t be said for the washed out, fog covered roads.
The AI is just easy, and downright non-existent once you hunt down all the shortcuts. Coupled with the lack of racers on screen at any time (seeing more than yourself and two other cars on the screen at once is nothing short of a miracle of 64 bit processing) makes the Championship mode more like a time trial than a race, but I found myself enjoying the game all over again as I replayed a few seasons for this article.
The controls have held up surprisingly well, The analog control was so amazing back then, and certainly holds up today. The game is fair, and allows you to plot out your course carefully to reach ever thinning best laps. Though once you reach the highest level of cars, things can move surprisingly fast. The game is actually pretty relaxing.
Tracks are surprisingly varied, even though there are only five of them, they are each lengthy, and have distinct changes of scenery belonging to each course. The sense of speed is actually pretty impressive of a racer from this time, where most games felt like you were driving a golf cart. Though TGR would quickly be overshadowed by even faster racers quickly after release. In essence, Top Gear Rally is an older model, but it still handles surprisingly well after over ten years.
Since Top Gear Rally was released, racers have become a more refined genre, falling into more reasonable categories like simulation, arcade, or kart racer. So now folks can nitpick about the style and realism, and I imagine find something that fits their own preference for how to put the pedal to the metal. Though in the end, you still go in a glorified circle in a large unfeeling machine, so playing the newest Forza or Burnout is just as well as a few laps of TGR, depending on your preference.
The thought I end with, is that I will buy any racing game with a stunt mode.