With the resurrection of interest in remote control (RC) cars in gaming, (assuming that the cars in Rocket League are RC, and honestly judging by the picture below how can they not be?), I decided to go back to the game that started it all, R.C. PRO-AM: 32 Tracks of Racing Thrills for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Rare's 1987 game on the NES, ripped down to its chassis, is a caRPG. Not in the depth and style of Gran Turismo, nor in the charming fashion of ChoroQ, but in the grind-heavy, early Dragon Quest/ Final Fantasy-esque manner in which repetition and dedication is rewarded with loot that slowly develops and builds your character['s ability -ed.].
Expressed in the simplest manner, R.C. PRO AM is a top-down, isometric, arcade driving game in which the player drives around tracks (32 to be exact) where, beyond racing against other cars driven by the game (AI if you will), you are able to collect items left on the track that will slowly develop your vehicles abilities. There are, of course, items left on the track that will cause you harm as well. Weapons, like tyre-piercing spikes and landmines can also be picked up, and just as easily deployed, though their presence in the game is not sign-posted in any manner.
As long as you place, you are allowed to continue onto the next track, and your ability to place is heavily reliant on picking up the vehicle upgrades that are strewn on the track. These items, are often outside of the natural driving line, which while annoying, rewards players who regularly replay the game.
For the readers benefit I played both the original cartridge on an NES and the version released on the exceptional collection of Rare(TM) games on the Xbox One's Rare Replay. I found both versions to be equal in all ways, though the NES version benefited from being able to play within seconds of having to turn on the console, whereas with the Xbox One the minimum time-to-play is almost five minutes.
R.C. PRO AM, follows the convention of a steer-when-must controls where the player only touches the directional pad when a turn is coming, (as opposed to constant steering foudn in most racing games). Due to the high speed of the RC vehicles, this is certainly beneficial. The Xbox One version does allow you to use the analog stick as an alternative, but this immediatly brought to mind the intentionly clumsy controls of games like Octodad and Surgeon Simulator.
The first version of this game, is certainly commendable given the hardware, and still enjoyable to play. At release, this certainly would have been a great game to play with a friend, taking turns for each lap, and even today it is something that two friends might enjoy in that manner, but stacked up against the later games in the franchise R.C. PRO AM can be enjoyed as a foundation rather than a capstone.
- Phil Fogg