Thanks to Ratalaika Games for the review code
Title: Moto Roader MC
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 02/25/2022
Hot off the heels of the fantastic Gleylancer and the decent Gynoug, another Masaya game is brought to the modern age by Ratalaika, with their first PC Engine CD game! The grand finale of the Moto Roader trilogy is here, sporting a fancy english translation just like Gleylancer. While there are cinematic cutscenes here, there isn’t a story to speak of, with said cutscenes mostly just being cute scenes to accompany the end of a circuit. There’s not even any voice acting in the game from what I can tell, which is rather surprising for a PCE CD game!
The same drill that we’ve gone over for other Ratalaika retro ports applies here, with all the usual goodies: the excellent CRT filter and display options are back, along with the same nifty UI. Even with a PCE CD game, not much has changed. There’s only one game option this time around, and it appears to have the English translation baked into the game itself, with untranslated menu dialogue all being worked into english, although the credits are still in Japanese.
True to the nature of the platform, Moto Roader MC ditches the chiptune days of the HuCard and goes for a Redbook audio soundtrack, which is a solid score, still packing the same kind of energy as other games from the platform did, with several tracks in the time attack and battle modes being pretty outstanding. From the same publisher behind the godly Langrisser PC Engine port, it’s no surprise at all that the music here would be great.
The visuals on the other hand do leave a bit to be desired. Then again, they still look miles better than the previous Moto Roader games, since for once you can actually see the whole track as you race! The original was absolutely terrible at scaling and keeping players on screen, and the sequel only could mitigate so much of this issue, leading to MC’s decision to go full-screen to be a smart one. The overhead perspective and faster pacing may remind you of the Midway Super Sprint series, and I feel that’s a good benchmark for comparison here. While the menus leading up to the game are pretty dull with basic color backgrounds, the actual courses aren’t half bad, with some of the later game tracks in the Special Circuit being pretty creative in terms of appearances and layout, at least considering the overhead nature of the game, and the tracks do have interesting hazards to keep you on your toes. Interestingly, the PC Engine BIOS is completely absent here, despite the game still being able to save your progress…
The first Moto Roader game was notorious for being absolutely abysmal in nearly every sense of the word. A weird control scheme that led to your car turning in the direction of your D-Pad, awful camera scrolling and really clunky track design lead to a racing game that had a lot of promise but was held back by pointless frustration.
Luckily, Moto Roader MC figured out the best solution to these problems were just to simplify things and pick up the pace: indeed, that’s where MC comes into play, as now you race on simplistic, overhead courses with nine laps each, each lap flying by in no time! The controls are what you’d expect, with one button for acceleration and the other for braking, but mashing either button will allow your car to pull off one of two attacks to disrupt opponents, either a missile that shoots from the front and leaves them spinning, or an explosive can from the rear that can halt an opponent in their tracks! Luckily these attacks are mapped to their own button now, so once you get the hang of the simple controls, all that’s left to do is just race!
And indeed, racing is the core of the game. There are several circuits to choose from, each with five tracks to go through, grand prix style. The higher you place on a course, the more points you get, and at the end of the circuit, the racer with the highest points wins! When playing alone, there really isn’t much to do besides beat the AI, so I can only really see this mode being the most frantic and fun with a full set of five players, and here on Switch, you can make that happen locally! (Preferably not during a pandemic, though…)
Upon beating a circuit, you also unlock a special battle mode, which tasks you to bump the opposing player into a pit in order to win. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to get to enable computer players for this mode or the Omake battle mode (which tasks you with shooting into goals, oddly enough), so I couldn’t test this much further besides a brief bullying of the unoccupied second player.
Thus, the only other option for a single player is the classic Time Attack, which you can choose to play against computers or other players if you wish, and if you’ve played any kart racer, it’s the same kind of drift as always, with you racing to try and beat your best time on a local leaderboard. Sadly it does not seem to record your times in the Circuit mode, and once you commit to a course, you’re stick with it until you reset the game (it just infinitely loops upon clearing it), but thankfully your progress is saved to memory so you can revisit for better times. It’s a rather fun distraction, but I honestly wish Masaya allowed for you to do all the tracks in order for time attack purposes, rather than having to constantly reset the game to switch courses and record time on another one.
Otherwise, there really isn’t much here, and this is definitely a game that wants you to have friends over, and with the core gameplay being such a blast, it absolutely is one I’m excited to give a spin with a crowd of friends when things get back to normal.
In conclusion, Moto Roader MC may just be a typical racing game better enjoyed with friends, but it’s easily the best installment in the Moto Roader trilogy, and the fact PC Engine games are now open for Ratalaika ports is huge in and of itself. Now classics like Dragon Egg and Langrisser are more possible to localize than ever, and it seems my dream of a four-game Shubibinman collection may be finally realized! If even a simple racer like this can get a well-crafted treatment of love, who knows what the future holds for their retro port lineup.
Still, at the end of the day, Moto Roader MC is clearly a game meant to be played with friends, and while Switch is the only version that will allow for local 5 player racing, there’s sadly not that much to do solo, even though the mechanics are a lot of fun to mess around with. Sure, you can time attack your favorite courses, or complete each of the circuits, but sooner or later you’ll get tired of blowing up cars with missiles by yourself and wish there was a bit more to this game, or at least some way of playing the battle mode against CPU players. Still, the core racing is incredibly fun and the fast pace of the game is greatly appreciated, so if you’re a fan of PC Engine games, racers, or multiplayer games, give this one a shot!
I give Moto Roader MC a 7 out of 10.