i’ve had various versions of the NES classic excitebike for ages, but i hadn’t spent that much time with it. it’s long been on my list of games to “finish”, though, especially recently because i’ve been playing its only true sequel, excitebike: world rally for wiiware, over WFC with my nephew quite a bit. i had bought it for us since it seems to be one of the few WFC wiiware games and he’s into racing games in general.
more on that game later, but the original excitebike turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable. being an early NES release (apparently it was a US launch title), it does have some noteworthy drawbacks, including a limited number of tracks and the lack of the ability to save your track designs; but the core mechanics are rock solid, so much so that even after i had achieved my third-place victory (by the slimmest of margins) in the final and hardest track, going back and replaying the other tracks was still as much fun as ever. operating the bike is intuitive but the gameplay can still offer up a challenge, and like many of nintendo’s other titles just playing the game is as or even more fun than trying to “win” or accomplish some other intended goal. the visuals and limited music are also great (although the sound effects can get a bit grating), and i found it a nice touch that unlike other games, like the original wave race for game boy, when you lose your character still raises his arm up proudly even though he’s not on the podium, rather than turning his head away in shame with a big “YOU LOSE” on the screen to rub it in. we’re all winners here!
another unique twist is the way the game’s flow is set up. although there are five main tracks, there are also five “qualifying” tracks that have very similar layouts but are easier, due to having less obstacles. it’s interesting to see the differences between the two versions of the tracks, and if you lose one of the main races you only have to redo its corresponding qualifying track rather than having to start back at the very first track. also, since the qualifying and corresponding race tracks are so similar, the qualifying track actually does a good job of preparing you for the race track without overexposing it. the game’s second mode throws anonymous computer opponents into the mix who serve as additional obstacles as opposed to specific characters you have to try to beat. the times required to beat a track don’t seem to change with this addition which seems a bit unfair, and i didn’t find myself compelled to “beat” that mode. it’s quite satisfying to purposely trip up one of your opponents, though. 😉
although i haven’t explored it fully yet, and without getting into it too much, i can already say that excitebike: world rally pretty much fixes all of the original’s minor issues and even improves upon it. not sure when i’ll get back to that game, but after the experience with the original i think i’ll be even more fully enjoying its successor, as well as the other titles in the series.
excitin’ excitebike links:
– entry at strategywiki.org
– entry at wikipedia
– review of VC release at nintendolife.com
– PDF of instruction manual at replacementdocs.com, including the guide to all the parts in the design mode
– info at mariowiki.com on the japanese-only mario kart-esque reworking of excitebike. here’s a video of some footage.