There were few Genesis games that I played as a kid. I didn’t own one or even care about the system. I was full out Nintendo. For the most part, there were not games on the genesis that I cared about and could not find on the NES. There was one major exception to this, and that was Road Rash II.
Road Rash II is a racing/vehicular combat video game developed and published by Electronic Arts. As a motorcycle rider, who fully understands road rage, this game really appeals to me. In real life, I should not pop wheelies, drive way over the speed limit, road race, or attack other riders. In this game, I get to do all of that and get rewarded for it.
The basics of Road Rash II are simple. Your job is to race other bikers and win. The better you place in the race, the more money you receive. As you make more money, you can buy better bikes. The bikes will be faster, handle better, and allow you to compete in more profitable races. This cycle continues until you get frustrated with the difficulty and give up.
As every smart motorcycle racer knows, you start a race full throttle. This brings your bike up into a wheelie and away you go. There are a few different types of obstacles during the race. The first is the road itself. Sharp turns require you to let off the throttle or spin out. Luckily, the game gives indications that you are about to have this problem.
Further road hazards are animals, street signs, cars, and oil slicks. Each of these can knock you off course or send you flying off the motorcycle. Now you must run back to the bike as your fellow racers speed past. If you are unlucky, you’ll get hit by a car, while running, and go flying even further. If you are lucky, the road hazard will just act like a ramp, sending you flying while remaining on your motorcycle.
Other racers are the most dangerous obstacle. Not only do they try to out race you, but they also try to kick the crap out of you. Don’t worry, you can fight back. When the race starts, you only have your fists to fight with. Punching an enemy will slow them down, and you can potentially knock them down if you hit them enough. If you time your punches correctly, you can steal batons and chains from other racers. These will increase the damage and distance of your attacks, and just feel great to hit other racers with.
The most realistic part of Road Rash II is that the police do not appreciate you racing down their roads. They too are on motorcycles, which makes them vulnerable to your attacks. Even though you can easily pass them, getting far away from them takes time. The flashing blue and red lights will be in your rearview mirror for a while. If you happen to wipe out in front of them, you are busted. You do not receive money for the race and pay about $400 to get out of jail. It’s not good but does not hurt you enough to be frustrating.
Road Rash II doesn’t have a lot of depth to it. You race, you win, you advance further. The one place you have a decision to make is when you upgrade to a new bike. As you make more money, you have the ability to trade in your motorcycle and pick a new one that you can afford. There are three classes of bikes to choose from. Its basically a balance of acceleration, speed, and mobility. You just need to figure out what play style fits you the best and keep buying in that class.
I have to say that I was not disappointed when I dove into this game for the first time in over 25 years. Obviously, the graphics are extremely dated, but that rarely bothers me in retro games. The controls do not allow for precise movements, but it works for the game. Every flaw the game has is easily overlooked by the amount of joy I had playing it.
The final question always has to be if the game still holds up. There is part of me that wants to say no. There have been many motorcycle racing games and other vehicle combat games that have come out since. These probably look and control better. That being said, I loved every minute I spent with this game, and I will definitely be playing this more. There is just something incredibly fun about how raw and retro the game is. If you have a way to play Genesis games, I recommend giving Road Rash II a go. If not, maybe try one of the other games in the series.
Screenshots by MobyGames