Gameplay, Story and Value:
All things considered, Road Rash II is a very straight forward game. You’re given a chunk of change and an entry level bike and are simply told to “go”. You’re given a choice of five different courses as well as a bike shop from which to purchase new rides and, well, that’s pretty much it!
The different courses vary in difficulty, and placing at least 3rd will both earn you some cash, and mark the course as “qualified”. Qualifying in all five courses will unlock… the same five courses, only this time they’re be populated by more talented opponents. Basically, the entire game is playing the same courses to win money to buy better bikes to keep up with better racers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t really make an effort to try to hide just how shallow it is either.
Luckily, the game itself is great. Tearing down the tracks offers a great sense of speed, especially when racing over rolling hills, trying ot avoid oncoming traffic. There’s also the combat aspect, where you can attack other racers with batons, chains, or just your hands and feet. It’s basically just one big package of arcade goodness, and it plays really well. Bikes have different weights and handling, and learning how to not go screaming off the road on every turn is a rewarding challenge. Controls are simple enough with one button each for accelerate, brake and attack, and all in all it’s a very straightforward experience.
The courses and bikes are different enough to keep things interesting, but the lack of variety is still disappointing. The game is essentially a looping grind until you can afford the best bikes. Also absent is a save system, the the game instead opting for passwords.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
What do you get when you take the styling of Skitchin’ and mix it with the speed and pacing of F1? Pretty much this, and that’s a good thing! It’s not the best looking or smoothest racing game on the Genesis, but it still does an admirable job of presenting a sense of speed and scope during races. Bikes and racers are just recolors of eachother, and there’s not a ton of variance between courses, but it all looks good enough for the most part.
Every course has it’s own music track, which while a bit forgettable is still a nice touch. The tunes themselves are pretty nice, and often fairly subdued which can lead to some pretty chilled out races. Sound effects are light, which is surprising considering you’re racing loud-as-hell motorcycles. It’s not really something you notice while you’re racing, but in review it’s notably absent.
I remember having a lot of fun with this game as a kid, and I was concerned that like with a lot of other games my experience wouldn’t hold up to my memory. Luckily, Road Rash II is still a very fun game. Still, I really wish there was a bit more to it, and having to rely on passwords to save progress is unfortunate.