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Originally released by Sega in the arcades, Sega Rally Championship was ported to the Sega Saturn in North America in 1995. The game has been hailed as a new milestone for racing games as it was supposedly the first to feature different friction properties based on the type of terrain the car was driving over. Let’s hit the dirt and ramp some hills in this Sega Rally Championship review!
Sega Rally Championship Plot:
Sega Rally Championship has a very in-depth dramatic story that revolves around the plot of your wife being kidnapped by the Yakuza. The only way to win her back is to beat the Yakuza’s top rally driver in head-to-head races. Fail, and your wife is killed. This makes for a white-knuckled race the entire way.
Just kidding, there’s no story. Just beat the other car in the race while passing the time checkmarks, and you’re good.
Sega Rally Championship Gameplay:
Sega Rally Championship probably holds a special place in the hearts of many who grew up in the early to mid-90s. Unfortunately, I never played the game until I decided to review it a few months ago. I had heard of the series before but wanted to learn what made it so special. The game was made for the arcades, and it feels very much that way. There’s not much to do except race on three courses with an unlockable fourth as opposed to including practice, car customization, or one-on-one racing against A.I. cars.
The game scores points for its history in rally car physics. As the terrain changes, so do the resistance of the tires. Surfaces can be slick or rough to drive on. You’ll have to memorize the courses to navigate the rally car to the best of its ability. Learning when to put your foot down on the gas and when to brake is key when memorizing every inch of the track. This isn’t a game where you can just hold the acceleration down the entire race and expect to win.
Where the game loses me is the short nature of it. I grew bored of playing it after an hour. There are only three rally cars to choose from which is pretty lame, and only two of them are available for the majority of the game. With a racing game, I’d expect at least four choices for your car. You can unlock the third car, but it will take a lot of work. For such a short game and one that gives you a beautiful replay of your race, it would have added style points for seeing different rally cars on the replay instead of the two standard ones that the game gives you. Simple customization of changing the color of your car, adding a different number, or slapping on one of a few generic logos would have been welcomed.
The main game is called “World Championship”, where the player must race through three courses against time. The first takes place on a desert-like course, which was relatively easy to win. The next course was “Forest” with some mud puddles, and the final course was “Mountain” in which the course circled up a mountain. I’ll spoil the secret right now and let you know I never came in first place during the third stage. If you end up in first place, you’ll reach a “secret” level called “Lakeside”, which you can unlock for the time attack and multiplayer modes. If you finish Lakeside in first place, you’ll unlock the third rally car. These cars can be driven in automatic or manual, but of course, I chose automatic, I don’t have time to learn when to shift!
Aside from racing opponents, you also have to reach checkmarks to refill your time. I found this added feature unnecessary and tough to continue. It really frustrated me to see a checkpoint ahead and realize I’m not going to make it. During my Sega Rally Championship review, I realized that this wasn’t about beating opponents, but a race against yourself. Sega Rally Championship in pure form is a time trial race. You aren’t racing the opponents, but instead, you are racing to beat your best time. There are some people that love those modes and love shaving seconds off their time, but I’ve never cared for “time attack” or “time trials” in racing games. In simple form, Sega Rally Championship is one big time trial. The opponents aren’t there to race you but instead act as moving blockades that delay you when going for your best time. The entirety of the game lasts under four minutes if you clear all the courses.
Sega Rally Championship needs a mode that isn’t timed. A practice mode where you can freely roam the course over and over would have gone a long way in mastering tracks. I must have played the mountain course twenty times before giving up on the time checkmarks. I will say that I did like the helicopter near the finish line in one of the races acting like they are filming the race.
Overall, there are many people that are very passionate about Sega Rally Championship. That’s great to see, but for me it wasn’t a game that I’d spend hours on just to shave off a few seconds. There needed to be more than time attack mode, more cars to choose from or at least a customization feature, and a different mode for racing. A one-on-one race against the A.I. would have been great. Sega Rally Championship is an excellent arcade game, but on console it falls short in terms or replayability and offering different modes for players interested in something other than a time attack.
Sega Rally Championship was a game that I never played until recently. Arcades were dying out when I was growing up, so I never was able to play its arcade form, which I believe I would have found much more fun. As for the Saturn version, the game just didn’t have much to satisfy me with. My only memory is cursing at the clock as the seconds ticked down.
Sega Rally Championship Review Score:
I really want some gamers to respond and tell me how wrong I am about this game because I hope my patience just got the best of me. Perhaps I didn’t give the game a fair shot, but I spent a few days playing it and never was able to reach the “secret” level. I would always finish second or third or not reach a checkpoint in time on the “Mountain” stage. The terrain changing the friction of the car is cool, and I think it helped shape future racing games like Gran Turismo, but it’s too short and too rough around the edges for my taste. I don’t see any replay value, and I don’t feel the need for anyone to play it today unless you love time attacks.
My Sega Rally Championship review score is much lower than the previous reviews that praised the game for its physics and “down and dirty” feel, but perhaps my score is a symbol of the time. I’m used to the feeling of my cars turning through mud or sliding on ice. Back then, I’m sure it was a big deal, but I didn’t play it back then. It’s odd to see this game get listed among the greatest Sega games from numerous magazines or websites. I just don’t understand the hype.
Sega Rally Championship scores a 5.5 out of 10.
What would you say in your Sega Rally Championship review? What did you think of Sega Rally Championship when it first came out? Did you play it in the arcade or did you have it on the Saturn? Were you blown away by the terrain resistance or were you like me and struggled with the timing checkpoints? Let me know your thoughts and memories of Sega Rally Championship, I’d love to read them!