Here we have another sorta-port of an arcade title, this one another entry from Sega’s super scaler line. Enduro Racer can be described as a succesor to Hang-On, only this time you’re in a motocross competition as you race down a dirt road, complete with ramps that launch you in the air, especially if you pull a wheeelie. Many remember Enduro Racer for it’s exciting action and 3D graphics, and how some cabinets even had a mock-up chassis you can ride. The game saw some computer ports in Europe, but when Sega decided to port Enduro Racer to the SMS, they decided against trying to recreate the behind-view 3D graphics for the console version and went in a completely different direction. Looking at this port it seems the only things the two have in commmon are the name Enduro Racer and the fact that you race a motorbike.
The object is still the same as the original, you’re out to race your bike down a set of 10 tracks and have to reach the finish line in each one before time runs out. Plus you do have other racers to contend with as well as ramps to launch you. But once you fire the game up it’s apparent how different this port is as the action is now viewed from a Paperboy-style isomectric perspective, making it feel very much like an Excitebike clone. In addition to the other racers, you also have cars and other obstacles that have to be worked around, and the jumps will slow you down unliess you manage to pop a wheelie before hitting it. Each car and motorcycle you pass on the track earns you a point and between races you visit the shop where you can use those points to purchase upgrades such as an engine boost for a higher top speed, or suspension so you don’t lose speed after hitting ramps. Also your bike suffers damage every time it hits something, but you can get repairs at the shop as well, though for some reason it’s listed as ‘Item’ on the menu. But just like World Grand Prix the upgrades only work for a single stage, and if you crash your bike is instantly back to normal. And of course failing to finish a track within the time limit will result in a game over.
So obviously SMS Enduro Racer can’t compare to the arcade original but taken on it’s own merits it doesn’t fare much better. The graphics are decent enough with some okay animation but the landscapes are pretty generic and bland, plus after you pass the first five levels you just go through them a second time. The game uses the same two background tunes for the races and neither of them do anything to add any excitement to the action, and the sound effects are just there. The game starts out fun but gets boring fairly quickly as there’s no real sense of speed or excitement; you just dodge around stuff and hit jumps. The controls are rather sluggish, especially when trying to avoid obstacles or use the jumps and the camera angle isn’t very much help either since you don’t have much viewing area to prepare for upcoming obstacles. Also the time limit leaves very little room for error, as one crash could end your run quickly. Finally there’s no other modes such as a two-player option or a track editor to extend the playability.
It also doesn’t help that the initial Japanese version has some content that was cut out for the Western markets for whatever reason, including 5 levels you won’t find in the export version which resulted in 10 actual unique tracks, not the same five repeated. Other ommissions include an animated intro on the title screen and a post-game map showing how far you went during your session. Granted these missing features are mostly cosmetic and wouldn’t really make the game any better, but it’s still a bummer, and sadly Enduro Racer wouldn’t be the only Master System cartridge to lose content on it’s way to the States (Captain Silver fared much worse).
Overall Enduro Racer fails to measure up to other 8-bit racing titles of its era, and Sega’s attempt to tie it into the arcade original only results in even more disappointment. It’s not the worst game and you might get some fun out of it in short bursts but you’re better off playing Hang-On or Excitebike.