|Release Date: 1986, 1990
||Also On: Arcade|
When Sega first released the Master System, they started porting a number of their original arcade titles, obviously to try to gather support by utilizing a piece of a market they had already had success in. Who would want to spend money playing a game in the arcade when you could get nearly the same game and play it at home? Good idea, but unfortunately if said idea isn't fleshed out enough, you may just want to waste a few quarters here and there instead of several dollars at one pop. This title, though not necessarily a total waste, is defintely something I may have regretted paying for back in the day. Still, it's not totally bad, just a disappointing port for Sega. They could have done a lot more with Hang On, and should have. Please keep in mind that I'm currently reviewing only the card/cartridge version released for PAL audiences. It was never released in either format for the NTSC market, only as a combo-cartridge. I'll get to that later in the list...
Graphically, the programmers simply did not do enough with this title. The original had some beautiful backdrops and various signs, rocks and so forth on the side of the road. Otherwise, it was just a huge field of color where nothing really changed. You never got closer to the backdrops, but it always seemed like you were going somewhere because of the variety of objects. For the Master System version, Sega kept the basic format of the backdrops and they look good, for the most part. Two are stripped down and somewhat bland, but not entirely worthless. Two of the other levels have nice design and feel like an actual environment, but the other, which is supposed to be the seaside, hardly captures this feeling. In addition, they decided to take away almost all of the objects, which makes the aspect of endlessness very obvious in this port. Sure, the arcade had the same endless color schemes on either side of the road, but the side objects took away from this. Though they kept some, they're been cut down in size and number, and thus this game can tend to look like you're going over the same course over and over other than different color and backdrops.
They also eliminated the rotating title and the map segment, which shows you how far you progress if you don't make it to the finish line before time runs out. How far did I exactly go? It seems minor, but this adds to the game. Your rider doesn't look entirely good either. He appears as almost a rounded, twisted X and almost doesn't look human at times; they should have added some more detail and color to him. The computer riders look generally the same, just different colors. I also didn't enjoy the fact that they deleted the wreck animations. Instead of seeing your rider fly and the bike explode, you simply see a magical explosion and then you appear on a new bike through that wonderful magic seen in only the most fantastical of 8-Bit titles, such as Dead Angle. Looks very silly. Overall, not entirely bad in the graphics department, but I know they could have nearly matched the original and should have, because what they took away really makes some parts of the game seem dismal.
So you come to the title screen, okay, nice opening music. But wait a minute, that's what was originally the in-game music in the arcade. Fine, let's play. Oh, I see, instead of programming music you removed it and put it at the intro. Why? One of the things that people liked about Hang On was it's continuous, driving track. It fit the racing and kept your interested. No music at all? Big flaw right here, folks. Sega completely removed the main music and only left the sound effects, with a short tune here and there when you finish a course. The sound effects are good, but taking out the music was a serious mistake. Not only has this game been stripped down to a very basic form graphically, they took away the music as well. I'm not sure if this is part of the card factor (I'll talk about this a bit later), but seeing that they programmed some of the original theme for the opening, I'm pretty sure they could have pulled something off. In fact, when they rereleased it in cartridge format you'd think they would have beefed it up since by that time it was the 90s. Nope, they kept it like it was. Come to think of it, other card games had music, so why couldn't they do it here? It's really something I'd like to have an answer to.
Hang On was a groudbreaking game, because players were able to sit on a fake motorcycle to control the rider in the game, making for a very interactive experience well beyond anything else. Everyone loved to play this back in the day, so it would have been pretty exciting to see it on a console. As I discussed with Galaxy Force for the SMS, taking away this key element calls for adding something to the gameplay to keep players interested. Of course, you couldn't exactly make a huge accessory for just this game, but they should have done something with the actual mechanics. The gameplay, thus, is not up to par.
Basically, what you have here is pretty basic. You press Button 2 to accelerate, Button 1 to brake, move up or down to switch gears and left and right to move back and forth. That's it, there's nothing else to know. You ride your motorcycle and attempt to get to the finish line before time is up. There are three levels with eight courses each, but I must say I noticed no differences whatsoever on any of them. Not only do they all look the same, they all seem to be the same track and since they removed the progress map I have no clue if I've taken more turns or anything. They should have added perhaps a two-player competition mode, but in the least they should have made this game more difficult as you progress. If you have the insanity to make it through the eighth course of the third level, the game repeats with less time to finish each course. Wow. Not enough, something else should have been throw in here.
I will say that the controls are very intuitive. It's quite easy to jump into this game and have a go at it, which is one factor I need to discuss. I don't know what it is about this game. It doesn't look the best, it doesn't have any sound, but there's something about playing it. I swear this isn't nostalgia at all. All I can say is that this game is so simple and so easy to play that it's almost meditative. I swear I've played it and actually felt calm because there really isn't anything to worry about. You hardly ever look at the time and simply stare endlessly at your rider as you weave in and out of other motorcycles. I don't know why, but in its simplicity this game has a strange draw to it. Still, there are plenty of serious flaws. There isn't much here and players who are looking for an exciting, fast-paced racing game aren't going to find it in Hang On. Without the motorcycle to sit on it's less intense as it is, but they've stripped it down so much hardly any of the original difficulty remains. There's something about it though...
For its day, Hang On was one of the most innovative arcade titles out there. It blew open the racing genre, especially for motorcycle games, and had a huge impact on all that follwed. Seeing this, Sega knew it had a real winner and decided to port it to the Master System. Because it's a port, I must judge it's creativity based on how well they put it on the console, and considering the above I have to say they didn't do a very good job. This could have been a great game, but they didn't add anything to it while at the same time taking away plently. There was potential for making this a wonderful launch title, but they didn't do it. One of the problems I believe was that Sega was attempting, at this time, to make the concept of card titles popular. You take these little cards, which are no bigger than credit cards, put them in your pocket, carry them around and put them in your Master System to play. In addition, the cards cost a lot less than cartridges, perhaps helping out those less fortunate that owned a Sega Master System or had petty allowances. However, smaller game equals smaller space, so they lhad to strip down a ton to make this game work on the card. However, to add to my critique of the creativity, they rereleased the game in Europe in 1990 in cartridge format, but, yet again, didn't do anything. They could have perhaps created an entirely new game, but they decided to simply make an entirely new box, and it seems to have worked because that was one of the most successful titles on the PAL market at this time. At any rate, this dropped the creativity factor for me, because there just isn't anything here.
I must say that this isn't the worst port I've seen, and for some reason I've played it several times over the past few years, even though there's nothing really exciting to do. There is some sort of strange draw to this game, and I believe it's because it's so simple, you don't have to think about it or learn anything. You just lay down, play and hardly have to even think about it, so it has this excellent quality of taking your mind off of things. Heck, you can even play it while lying upside down and you'd still feel like it's a breeze. I have to give it some props for that and considering game length, if you really want to play it through to the end, I suppose it is fairly long but not too long, so it has a bit of potential in that area too, but not much.
Hang On isn't a total failure, just a general disappointment coming from a company that was trying to hype up their status in the console market. They could have pulled it off from the beginning, and did in Brazil, but what they didn't do was think through certain games before releasing them, this one included. They had to strip away so much of the original that there's essentially no reason you would have really wanted to pay for it, cheap or not, when you could spend a quarter now and then to sit on what felt like an actual motorcycle. They needed to launch the SMS with a powerful library, but instead they left players short in several cases. If you really care, this game was first released in card format and is exceptionally rare in the box, because it was usually the pack-in game with PAL systems for awhile. The separate card release is difficult to find, and perhaps the only reason I really own this game other than the fact that I'm a freak.
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|Written by Stan