Almost every gamer has a fond memory of arcade racing games, especially ones made by a certain company that had a blue hedgehog as its mascot. SEGA Rally was the genesis of some of my fondest memories of arcade gaming. The unforgettable “Game Over Yeaaaahhh!” jingle still rings in my ears to this day. After the somewhat disappointing SEGA Rally Revo, I didn’t have high hopes for yet another Rally reboot, but after five minutes with this XBLA title, I knew this was the nostalgia I was looking for. SEGA Rally Online Arcade is exactly how I remember the series, and exactly why I loved it.
SEGA Rally Online Arcade is based on the latest arcade iteration of the game, and it feels like classic arcade racing at its finest. If Revo was your first trip to the rodeo then expect to be in for a shock. SROA is classic arcade drifting, and the controls will take some getting used to if you are not a graduate of the cabinet days of yore. It is also worth mentioning that SROA never attempts to mimic the games of today by tossing in a career mode or some narrative driven reason to race. This is all about racing the same tracks over and over to improve times and edge out the competition.
As you battle your way through the single player game you will also notice something else brought over from the glory days of arcade racing: rubber band AI. Love it or hate it, this is a staple of the genre, and it makes races much more competitive allowing you to catch up if you fall behind, but also never letting you dominate the pack. This also makes the game extremely challenging when trying to come in first place. One small mishap and you end up two or three places back.
As with any racer, there is also single race that lets you practice tracks with AI foes and, of course, Time Trial to improve your knowledge of the tracks. Leaderboards are present, but the real highlight of the package is online. Up to six players can hop on for some awesome rally racing without the frustrations of rubber band AI. The biggest complaint about online mode though, is the lack of stats or rankings, making it impossible to match players of equal skill together. This is a minor gripe because, honestly, games like this were never intended to be that competitive. Hopping online and getting a close race is as exhilarating as it was in the glory days of arcades; you know, before we had a ranking system.
The one thing I really like about the game that it has inherited from Revo, is terrain deformation. Rally games are always on interesting tracks, and seeing your lines in the mud or sand is a nice touch. The rest of the visuals are ripped right out of my memory of what the game used to look like. Let’s be honest, if you popped in the original SEGA Rally or even its sequel nowadays, it would be atrocious to look at. SROA remedies that by keeping the same simple, colorful look of the series, but brings it into HD with slick textures and a rock-solid frame rate. This is how I remember the game looking, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
SEGA Rally Online Arcade is the definition of nostalgia. Fans of the series will be pleased with the small things, such as the return of “Game Over Yeaaaahhh!” and, of course, some classic tracks. It really feels like SEGA knew what the fans wanted and built the game around that. If you have fond memories of these titles in either the arcade or even on SEGA’s home consoles, this is a must buy. As long as you are not expecting a complete reinvention of the series, you will love what the game brings at just the right price.
Review copy provided by publisher.