Super Hang-On Review
Posted by James Newton
Name a SEGA arcade racer from the 1980s. Now name one that isn't Out Run. Chances are you've come up with Super Hang-On (or maybe Power Drift if you're really trying), the motorbike racer that's the Pepsi to Out Run's Coke.
The fact it's taken SEGA five years to bring Super Hang-On game to the Western Virtual Console is a big surprise, but more surprising is we've got the arcade original, not the 16-bit port. The home console version offered a new career-type mode but couldn't quite do justice to the sense of risky speed that characterises SEGA's 80s racers.
Here we have the original arcade game — running in 60Hz, European owners — and it's as exciting as ever it was. You pick one of four continents to race across, with Africa being the shortest and easiest and Europe posing a tough challenge for any racer. Like other VC Arcade games you can tweak the settings; to give yourself a more generous time limit, for instance. It's still a challenging proposition to make it through any of the game's continents in one piece though, so don't expect to blitz through it all in one go.
There are other welcome additions to the Wii VC version. You can deploy artificial scan lines, choose from a variety of screen sizes and even use the Wii Wheel, which does a decent job of recreating the arcade's analogue control. GameCube, Classic Controller and Remote and Nunchuk are all supported too, with the latter mode getting you to tilt left and right to steer your rider. They're all decent options, so it's up to you.
The racing itself is forgivably shallow, exposing its arcade roots: the biggest change over the original Hang-On is the addition of a turbo button, used when you're running at top speed to add another 44kph to your machine. There's no nitro gauge to build, no slipstreaming, no real competitors: your only goal is to get to the next check point. A score attack element and leaderboard makes things more interesting, and it's certainly not an easy complete, even with difficulty settings tweaked in your favour.
While it's a perfectly capable racer, Super Hang-On never captured the same joy of the open road that Out Run did: Out Run's branching paths lend it a powerful sense of freedom, of going where the wind takes you, and it's still lauded for its drift handling 25 years on. Super Hang-On lets you pick a continent but dictates your path through it, like the world's most irritating gap year companion. With no such drifting it's a slightly sterile experience, papered over in the arcade by the cabinet's replica motorbike. In the home it's still an enjoyable little racer, but without the arcade buzz it slips from must-have to quaint diversion.
Super Hang-On is a neat nostalgia trip and carries some very welcome additions on VC, its motion controls in particular helping to rekindle 1980s arcade memories. It's not worthy of the same classic status as Out Run, feeling a little workmanlike in comparison, but as a slice of SEGA history it's worth a pop.