Suzuki Alstare Racing (DC) Review
Throwing all expectations out of the window seems to be the only way to appreciate a motorcycle racer; therefore, one must do so if they are interested in getting the most enjoyment out this title. Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing picks up where titles of the past left off, offering several views, more than a few tracks, and a style that isn't all that different than that of past racers. Rather than take the time to give a game that little extra that will surely separate it from the pack, it seems that games are being spit out for the almighty dollar, simply to capitalize on a console's popularity. While Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing can be quite fun at times, its lack of depth is more than apparent all too often.
Presentation/Graphics : 86
The variety in the track designs does offer a refreshing change when going from one track to the next. Some backgrounds will entail the amber of wheat fields while others take on a much more stellar look, such as the two winter tracks. The lighting effects are dazzling in the night tracks since you are able to see not only your headlights' beam but the radiant glow of the street lights as well. All of these effects are done in tremendous fashion making the backgrounds and tracks in Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing top-notch. The Dreamcast has enabled developers to take advantage of its graphical power time and time again as far as background graphics on racers are concerned. This title is no exception.
The bikes themselves leave a bit to be desired since the detail they contain is somewhat insufficient. From the default view your motorcycle actually doesn't look at all like a motorcycle, more like a futuristic scooter. Yet in the cinematic replays the bikes appear to be true representations of their real life counterparts in amazing detail.
Perhaps the most memorable image most will retain from the game are the beautifully rendered wipeouts. The bike reacts in a physical manor that seems all too appropriate to the point that it can be hilarious at times. Though a bit unrealistic in terms of actual flight distance, it's a real joy to watch your rider and bike spin over a mountain. This takes a bit of the frustration out of crashing since it can actually be a joy to witness on occasion.
All of the text that displays stats, time remaining, and the mapped course in the upper left corner of the screen is clearly legible and easy to understand. While zipping in and out of tight turns and traveling in excess of 250km per hour, most will appreciate these large Arcade style displays.
Presentation/Audio : 77
There is a severe lack of voice-overs and digitized voice samples. When developers are given a full gig to work with in terms of ROM capacity it makes me wonder why that space is so seldom utilized, especially when a good announcer or commentator can make the game much more exciting. Don't expect much from this title in the form of voice-overs. They are literally non-existent.
The background music is of the techno variety and though quite repetitive it's more than a welcome addition to the in-game sounds. When heard on a good sound system, the music can rock the room with its pumping base and deep sounds. Techno has been the preferred music of racers since Ridge Racer for the PlayStation. Since 1996 we have been hard pressed as gamers to hear anything else when revving our engines over 100mph. I guess a safe assumption as to why techno has been the background to virtually every racer since then is that it works, and the gaming public likes it. While Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing doesn't win any originality points in this area, it does a sufficient job of giving us what we expect.
Interface/Options : 78
At the start of the game you will be prompted to select one of four options. The Main game, Single Race, Two-player Versus, and options. While lacking ingenuity, these modes cover the basics found in most racers.
The Main Game is where most will spend the vast majority of their one player time. Here you will be competing in a series of races, each more competitive than the last. There are three stages, each stage containing three sections, each section containing three to five races. In order to advance to the next section it is required to qualify via placing first in the overall rankings. After each race, points will be awarded to the top six finishers. Accumulate enough points by the end of a section and you're on to the next one.
After completing three sections, a new motorcycle will be available before moving on to the next stage. There are five bikes in all, each more advanced than the previous. After picking the desired uniform (one of three) and before each race, it is possible to configure the bike selected using three separate categories. After setting the desired balance between power, steering, and braking, you are off to the actual start of the race. The differences in each setting are very noticeable and each track may require a different balance of these three attributes. Most often a selection of high power and steering are rewarded for braking; even when it is toggled all the way down, it is still capable of slowing you down in a tight spot. After a race's completion the final standings will determine points allotted and the top track times are saved to the VMU. If the gamer holds interest in simply beating the course times then the Single Race mode is undoubtedly the best option.
In the Single Race mode, any track that has been opened up in the Main Game mode is available for play. This holds true for motorcycles to be used as well. It is also possible to select the number of AI racers that will compete against you. The top five times will be saved to the VMU and there are 12 tracks in all. Once you have completed the main game, it may be the Single Race that draws most of your attention if in fact you're at all still interested in playing the game.
The split screen two-player mode is just okay and won't warrant too many contests between you and your friends. There is an option to handicap the leading racer, offering extra speed to the trailing biker. Even so, it is a safe assumption that this game will be enjoyed solely in its one-player modes.
In the options menu, it is possible to save or load the game from any VMU in any of the four ports. Fortunately, this game is not very taxing on your VMU's memory. Here you can also toggle the actual in-game controls, setting the game to your custom preference. Audio options allow the user to adjust the sound to either stereo or mono, as well as adjusting the sound-effects-to-background-music ratio. Once again, nothing spectacular to either give praise to or to ridicule.
Gameplay : 79
At first the mechanics seem shoddy but after a few races most will embrace the feel of Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing. There is no Jump Pack support, which is a real shame. When landing occasional jumps sprung from bumps in the road the bike has a great feel as it lands and grips the road. This feel would have been greatly enhanced with the Jump Pack. It would have been fantastic if there were more wide open courses containing more jumps for it is truly a thrill to get some air without the fear of smacking into a mountain.
There is also quite an odd structure in the way this game plays out, allowing your bike to ride up the sides of mountains and atop hedges along the sides of the road. This can only be done if the angle is correct as to not instigate a collision that will send you and your bike flying through the air. Another odd quirk is that upon finishing the race, you and your bike can be in the midst of a fierce wipeout. In other words, when nearing the finish line and crashing into a wall, you and your bike may cross the finish line to finish the race as separate entities.
As you circle around the track, turbo boosts are given to your racer upon reaching each checkpoint. Saving up the turbo fuel until the race's final lap can be a great way to make up time but it also can be a great way to take a flying leap into the ocean. When the turbo is used a wheelie is automatically performed to signify its start. The turbo fuel gets the bike moving so damned fast that it can be quite impossible to control. The best way to use this feature is extremely sparingly and only on straightaways. During most races, if not all, the turbo fuel needn't ever be used.
The greatest aspect of this title is its sensation of speed. Once the larger bikes have been obtained, tracks in which you once traveled through at a decent speed are now flying by at an amazing rate. Due to the fact that the bikes are able to handle better as well, the exact same gameplay and feel are present with the larger bikes, simply at a much higher speed. The AI of the computer racers is adequate although nothing to rave about. Running into them on occasion can be frustrating but in general it offers an added aspect to the game. More often than not, running into them simply sends your bike into a slight skid that you are easily able to recover from.
Replay Value: 65
Overall : 77