Back in 1988 Taito released Chase HQ into arcades around the world. It took the driving aspects from many other racing games of the time period and coupled them together with the intense action of a high-speed police pursuit. While this offered a nice change of pace from the typical and often redundant racing experiences found in arcades at the time, it also proved to be a bit too much for some gamers to handle with its short time limits and sometimes sluggish play control. Since the game was fairly popular in arcades, it was obviously ported to quite a number of home computers and game consoles, some better than others. While the TurboGrafx-16 version of the game is widely considered one of the better ports of the arcade classic, it still features many of the critical game play faults that hindered the arcade title. So is this police chase racer worth your Wii Points all these years later?
The game play in Chase HQ is fairly straightforward. You are in control of your sleek black Porsche and you've got to chase after and apprehend the criminal that already has a significant head start on you. To do so, you'll have to drive with your pedal to the floor and somehow navigate the twists and turns of the highway while carefully weaving in between the slower drivers that inevitably get in your way. Once you spot the criminal's vehicle, you'll then have to smash into it until you've done enough damage to make the criminal finally pull over. You can then make your arrest and are awarded bonus points based upon your performance. As if all of this weren't enough, you'll have to do it within a very strict time limit.
The play control itself is very hit or miss. On one hand, the controls are simple enough for just about anyone to pick up quickly. You use the d-pad to move your car from side to side and to shift between the high and low gears. You then have one button for the accelerator and one button for the brake. Unfortunately, these controls are a bit on the sluggish side and can make maneuvering between the slow-moving cars, not to mention the highway itself, a real pain.
To make matters worse, when you smash into another vehicle it can also throw you off the track and into hazards that will make your car spin out. Each time you spin out the criminal will get a little farther away from you. Couple this with the short time limit and it can make apprehending the criminal extremely frustrating. Luckily the game does throw you a bone in the way of four continues. Of course this comes at the expense of the game allowing the criminal to get even further ahead of you before it allows you to press the Start button to continue, further adding insult to injury. If you want to put a positive spin on things you could at least say that this high degree of difficulty is a good thing since it keeps you from just breezing through the game's paltry five levels. This probably won't make most gamers feel any better after they've broken a few controllers in frustration, however.
The visuals in the game are easily its high point. The large color palette of the Turbografx-16 is put to great use in the backgrounds. The scenery in the game is very well constructed and each new area has its own distinct look and feel. While the game doesn't use any of the flashy 3-D visuals so prevalent in today's racing titles, there's still a good deal of realism in the way the track scrolls by, even during the twists and turns that come your way. The cars themselves also show a solid amount of detail in the way they look and move making this Turbografx-16 release easily one of the better looking ports of the classic arcade game.
The music in Chase HQ isn't too shabby either. There are quite a few upbeat musical tracks that seem to fit the Turbografx-16's sound chip perfectly. It's no secret that many developers weren't able to get a good grasp on the Turbografx-16 system's internal sound hardware, but the developers of Chase HQ certainly had no problem making good use of it. The sound effects aren't quite as lucky, as they tend to sound unrealistic, even by 16-bit standards. At least you have the catchy musical score to keep your mind off of the lackluster sound effects.
Playing Chase HQ is sort of a lose/lose proposition. On one hand, Chase HQ is such a short game that any seasoned racing game fan will likely blow through the entire game in 15 or 20 minutes. On the other hand, the game's short time limit and sluggish play control can present those not so adept at racing games with a high degree of frustration thus negating any type of enjoyment from the overall experience. Chase HQ might have been considered a very playable arcade game two decades ago, but it's one of those games that just hasn't aged very well over the years. Unless you just have to own every racing game that's released or you're a big fan of the arcade classic, you might want to pass on this outdated action racing title.