Thanks to Flying Tiger Entertainment for the review code
Title: Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Express Raider
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 07/12/2018
Being the first Johnny Turbo Arcade title to be from the mid 80s, the visuals are a lot more basic than the late 80s/early 90s stuff we’ve seen so far, looking similar to their other titles from the same time period such as Ring King and Captain Silver. The sprites of the characters have little detail, (most evident on the cougar you can beat up for bonus points) although the detail ramps up a bit when you go on horseback, and the saturation seems to be a bit higher than you’d expect, especially in spots such as the lives counter and the pre-train sections of the battle stages. There’s no music to speak of, but there are sound effects that get the job done at not boring you. As always, the Johnny Turbo visual options remain available and untouched.
Express Raider is an Arcade Game through and through, with no end goal to achieve outside of getting the highest score. There are two different types of stages to go through as you accomplish that feat, with the first one being the Brawler Stage. In this one, you must defeat someone guarding a train before it takes off, and doing so early enough will lead to you fighting a persistent Cougar that you can kick in the face for bonus points before proceeding to the train, where you have to fill up a health bar completely in order to knock the opposing enemy off the train, using the B and A buttons to attack and the joystick to duck or jump until you reach the front of the train and get the loot at the end of it.
Since the train is moving non-stop, there’s a risk of having hazards fly right at you and sending you to your death if you don’t duck in time. From signs, tunnels, or boxes, dodging is key to survival in these stages, and these are easily the most enjoyable parts of the game. Once you clear one of these brawler stages, you move onto the Horseback Stage, which is significantly harder and may even come off as a gigantic difficulty spike at first. In this mode, you have to move a horse around with the stick and fire with the A button, shooting down a certain number of enemies before they shoot back at you. The B button is used to duck on your horse, which is helpful against the hard-to-see enemy bullets, (more of a problem in TV mode) but is pointless against thrown objects which will still knock you off anyway. Clear out a section of the train, and you move onto the next one to repeat the process.
Progressing in this stage takes some getting used to, but once you do it ends up becoming a really addictive gallery shooter, although you can’t shoot wildly as sometimes a woman will pop out and drop some money, (which can be shot for points) but if you accidentally shoot her a giant “NO” will pop up and you’ll die instantly, so you need to aim carefully. Reach the end of the train and you can spend the rest of the time shooting all over it to uncover bonus points, before the game repeats with harder layouts before going back to the first one. It’s basic, yet addictive and a ton of fun!
In conclusion, Express Raider is a short yet addictive Arcade experience. Fully focused on chasing hi-scores, this game is absolutely perfect for handheld sessions and getting the best score, although the lack of online leaderboards are a huge bummer, as this game suffers the most out of the entire lineup from the lack of them. Using the save state feature to save your high-scores is handy, and while there wasn’t much DIP Switch options to change in the original to begin with, it is unfortunate they’re still unavailable as per usual in this lineup. For $8 it may be hard to recommend compared to similarly priced Arcade Archives titles with online leaderboards, but I still had a ton of fun with it despite those faults and how hard it was to see enemy horseback bullets on my TV. (the RGB filter actually helped a ton in this case to fix that issue) Give this ride a shot, you’ll be surprised at how addicting it still is all these years later!
I give Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Express Raider an 8 out of 10.