Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Top Gear/Racer 16-Bit Trilogy

John Marine | 10/31/2010 12:31:00 PM | | |
Kemco's flagship racing franchise has seen three iterations on the Super Nintendo (and one on the Genesis). Kemco's Top Gear series is not to be confused with theworld-renowned Top Gear on BBC. In fact, Kemco's Top Gear in the United States is called Top Racer in Japan. It began with Top Gear/Racer in 1992 with eight different locations boasting four tracks each for a total of 32 races. Top Gear/Racer 2 was released in 1993 offering sixteen different locations with four tracks each for a total of 64 races. Top Gear 3000 (called The Planet's Champ) is a futuristic title taking you to multiple planets and galaxies. All three titles were created by Kemco with development from Gremlin Graphics (which has created a number of great racing games in the early 1990s). All three titles feature races with as many as 20 cars to a track. All three titles offered their own challenges. All three are classics among 1990s racing games. You're about to read (and see) why in this blog entry.

--- Top Gear/Racer ---
In 1992, Top Gear/Racer debuted with fast-paced racing. The unique aspect of this game is that you have to perform pit stops in certain races. You compete in over eight different locations (I say locations, though the game uses "countries," and some of these locations are mostly international regions). Players had to choose between four cars (all fictional) with varying characteristics to each. When you go racing, you will always be in split screen. Your rival will be below as he/she tries to better you in each race. It doesn't matter if you beat your rival or not. The most important thing to remember is that you must finish 5th or better in each stage to advance to the next race. You are allowed a maximum of three turbos for each race, so use them carefully. There is no damage in the game, so the pit stops are only to add more fuel to the car. You will know where to pit when you see pit signs along with a tire wall. Go into the pits to refuel your car. Press any button during the pit stop to abort the pit stop with the amount of fuel in your car. It is recommended to stay in for the full duration so that you won't have to pit again (unless you have a car that consumes fuel rapidly). If you run out of fuel, you're basically going to have to retire. Cars will just pass you by as you can do nothing about it.


The four cars to choose from are all fictional and are not really based on any real cars. Here is a look at the four cars:

* Red car: 147 mph () - 5.9 seconds - low tire grip - high fuel consumption
* Purple/Violet car: 137 mph () - 5.0 seconds - low tire grip - mid fuel consumption
* White car: 131 mph () - 3.5 seconds - high tire grip - low fuel consumption
* Teal and gray car: 137 mph - 4.3 seconds - mid tire grip - mid fuel consumption

Countries and Regions.

You race in eight different regions. I am using locations because some of the venues are just international regions. This will be your trail of racing action around the world:

* United States
* South America (Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Mexico)
* Japan
* Germany
* Scandinavia (Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark)
* France
* Italy
* United Kingdom

If you want the best action, try to win on the hardest level (Professional)! Here are some of the many cities you will be racing in: New York City, Tokyo, Rome, and London among many others. The best advice I can give is to pay attention to the number of laps and the length of the race. Most races lasting more than three laps means you will need to make a pit stop in that race. Also great advice is that if you want to race for long without having to pit constantly in longer races, it is absolutely recommended you race with the white sports car. It consumes the least amount of fuel of the four cars.

Finally to cap this off, here is a video demonstration of Top Gear/Racer for the Super Nintendo:

^ YouTube video courtesy of: yukmouth23jayrich23

--- Top Gear/Racer 2 ---
Top Gear/Racer 2 was released in 1993 featuring many more places to race. All of the locations, including the cities you race in) from the previous game are in Top Gear/Racer 2 along with many new locales. The field is now level as everyone races the same car (including you). Unlike the previous title, you must finish 10th or better to advance to the next stage (compared to 5th or better in the previous title). Qualifying for the next race grants you money you can use to upgrade your car. Once you complete a country or region, you will get a password to help track your progress. Fast-paced gameplay and some creative use of 3D makes this game a total classic. I may even say that some of the cities in this game are places I've first become introduced to in this game. This game, for example, helped spur my love of Auckland, New Zealand.

Gone is the split-screen deal (unless you're doing two-player racing) where you're always seeing the rival at the bottom of your screen. Instead, it's just a full view of you and the 19 others who want the same thing you're after- finishing first. Get ready for an intense world tour of racing. Effects such as rain, snow, and fog will be hazards you face in trying to become the fastest driver in the world. You can collect nitro and cash in certain tracks. Each credit you pick up is good for an extra $1000 to use upgrading your car. This game was also available for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive.

Cars and Upgrades.

Looking ahead to the challenge of Top Gear/Racer 2, you will be able to take part in a much more competitive style of racing. There are no pit stops of any kind in this game. While you can't change cars, you can now upgrade your car. Each upgradeable element consists of three different upgrades. Here are the upgrades you can purchase for your car:

* Engine - more powerful engines give you better top speed.
* Wet Tires - improves grip in rainy/snowy races.
* Dry Tires - improves grip in dry races.
* Gearbox - more efficient use of the engine's power, and may even add some extra gears.
* Nitro - improves the output and power of nitro boosts. It may give you that added edge to win races.
* Side Armor - reduces the impact of collisions to the side of the car during races.
* Rear Armor - reduces the impact of collisions to the rear of the car during races.
* Front Armor - reduces the impact of collisions to the front of the car during races.
* Paint Shop (not an upgrade) - pick one of over eight colors for your car.

Countries and Regions.

Have a look at the locations you race at in this game. Each region is featured in alphabetical order as the order of locations you race in. Here are the countries where you will do your racing. New locations are featured with exclamation points (!):
* Australasia! (Australia and New Zealand)
* Britain!
* Canada!
* Egypt!
* France
* Germany
* Greece!
* India!
* Ireland!
* Italy
* Japan
* Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland)
* South America (Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil)
* Spain!
* Switzerland!
* United States

When you begin a race, you get a look at each track. The length of the track, number of laps, weather, and time are all featured along with a lovely scrolling graphic of the track's horizon. To give you a preview of the new venues you will be racing at, here are a few cities from the newer venues you will race on in this game: Auckland, Cairo, Lucerne, Seville, Dublin, and Athens. Maybe a problem I'd have with this game is that there are probably more cities you could have visited. I'd be interested in racing in a few more cities in this game.

This is your video preview of what Top Gear/Racer 2 has to offer [for the Super Nintendo]:

^ YouTube video courtesy of: ShiryuGL

--- Top Gear 3000 (The Planet's Champ TG 3000) ---
In the year 2962, you are part of a major racing event that rocks in outer space. You are racing a futuristic car across a number of different planets and in various systems. The past two Top Gear/Racer games have you racing in real-world locations. In this game, however, get ready for out-of-this-world racing with the same intense action provided in Top Gear/Racer games past. Your car is equipped with four nitro boosts. There are no pit stops, but you can run over certain areas to service your car on the fly. Run over the red areas to recharge your car, and run over the blue areas to repair damage to your car. You may find some yellow areas in some races- those are turbo boosts, my friend! You must place 8th or better to receive points, and you must finish 10th or better to advance to the next race. After clearing each system, you will receive a password to help store your progress through the game. Are you the greatest racer in all of known space? Prove it in this game!

Cars and Upgrades.

As in the previous title, you can upgrade your car. Throughout your playing of this game, new items will be made available to you ranging from various upgrades to new weapons and features. The available upgrades feature nice descriptions on the features of each upgrade.

* Paintshop - color your car.
* Engine - upgrade your car's top speed.
* Tires - improve the grip of your car.
* Gearbox - improve the efficiency of your car's engine, and it may also add some extra gears.
* Armor - increase the rigidity of your car all around.
* Boost - improves the performance and efficiency of your nitro system.
* (Special) - various weapons and items I can't disclose here. Play the game to find out all that it has to offer!


Your journey through this galaxy starts off on the tail end. Throughout this journey, you move closer and closer to the center of the galaxy. Each race is marked by its galactic system and the planet you are racing on. Each system features two planets you race on. Once you clear each system, you will receive a password before heading on to the next system. If you want to race in the all of the races races, you will need to race this game on the hardest difficulty.

The venues are listed by their galactic system and the planet you are racing on. The challenges vary greatly depending on the planet you're racing on. You could be racing on a perfectly fine planet for one race. Then, you may be racing on a track on another planet that is very hot or is raining hard. Lots of unique challenges await you.

After each race, you will earn credits based on your finish and in other departments. You may earn bonuses for your performance during the race. For example, you may pick up a bonus by going the entire race without using a boost. There are many other ways to win credits, so race as hard as you can and as best as you can! If you REALLY want to beat the game, play the game on more difficult levels, because you race on more tracks. In addition, some systems have more race tracks for you to compete on. In other words, racing the game in Easy difficulty only gives you so many tracks. Try racing in harder difficulty levels to race on more tracks (including those not found in easier difficulty levels). Here is your encouragement to race in the harder races (information taken from Easy Mode features a total of 25 tracks, Medium difficulty features a total of 34 tracks, and Hard features a total of 47 tracks. Want to BEAT the game? Play the game on Hard. There is even a rumored 48th race in this game.

Now I provide you this video preview of Top Gear 3000 (or The Planet's Champ TG 3000):

^ YouTube video courtesy of: ShiryuGL

--- What The Top Gear/Racer Trilogy Demonstrated ---
The Top Gear/Racer series demonstrates some of the last great racing games. The first three titles in the series all demonstrate high-speed racing. Not many racing games of its day allowed you to race competitively against 20 cars. Kemco and Gremlin Graphics have collaborated to create some of the finest racing available to gamers back in the early and mid-1990s.

I would say the first title had a real racing touch while it was purely arcade. There wasn't as much strategy, but it was a game that had you think about pit stops to refuel your car. It was a realistic racing element implemented even before Gran Turismo came along. Again- you just refuel a car, but the action is still fairly solid.

Top Gear/Racer 2 shown you much more of the world with double the races of the first title. Everyone races the same car. Races and series that have only one car means the action ultimately comes down to the driver and his/her skills. This game just took what the first title did and make it worlds better. Perhaps not having pit stops made the action focus more on arcade racing rather than focus on any kind of real racing aspects. Top Gear/Racer 2 is personally my favorite of the three games I've discussed in this blog post.

Top Gear 3000 provided a futuristic touch while still delivering great racing. Racing in different worlds and systems made racing just that much more intense. It also, however, opened the possibility of incredible unworldly racing possibilities.

The Top Gear/Racer games of the past wouldn't have established its sort of character had it not been for these three installments of the series. Future games would come along from the Top Gear/Racer series. My favorite Top Gear/Racer other than the three I've mentioned here is Top Gear Rally for the Nintendo 64. I will blog about Top Gear Rally in a future blog post. For now, though, thank you for reading! If you want to buy any of these titles online, here are some Amazon items featuring these classic games. Read my John's Shop Space blog entry on classic gaming to buy any classic systems if you don't have the classic systems to play these games. Anyhow, here are the three titles for you on Amazon:

^ "Top Gear" for the Super Nintendo.

^ "Top Gear 2" for the Super Nintendo.

^ "Top Gear 3000" for the Super Nintendo.

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