HANG ON / Sega / Arcade

Here's the problem with Hang On. It's just not the same without playing it on an arcade cabinet. Preferably, the full-sized motorcycle cabinet on which you rode and actually had to lean left and right to turn - though that was kind of a rare showpiece even in its heyday, and certainly is a lot harder to find now. But the more common stand-up cabinet with the handlebar controls was passable too.

I remember both of these from my childhood, and when you're trying to play a straight port of the game slapped onto another platform a la MAME or the version included in the two Shenmue games, it just isn't the same. The digital pads and keyboards and such just can't get the "feel" right for controlling the bike to the level of precision it's supposed to have, and something is lost. It's still passably fun even in MAME or on Shenmue with the stock Dreamcast controller, but just not the same thing. The control just isn't precise enough and it gets frustrating.

Hang On was Yu Suzuki's first really successful arcade release for Sega. It basically just took the concept of Pole Position - a smooth 3D effect by using scaling sprites at a high speed along with custom vehicle controls - but put you on a bike instead of behind a steering wheel. The full-sized bike cabinet is marketed as "the first full-body gaming experience", and I can't really think of anything to disprove that, unless you count shaking pinball tables too hard and knocking them over.

It's a game that has aged well thanks to minimalist design, a good challenge level, and a satisfying sense of speed and bike control. The whole game only lasts about five minutes from start to finish, but as with most of Suzuki's games, it is a "perfectionist" game that requires you to drive a nearly-flawless course to have any hope of crossing the finish line. You start with only seven other bikers around you, who get that mysterious nitro boost that racers in early racing games always seem to get off the line, but you'll pass at least 100 of them along the game's course, which is divided into five "levels" with varying scenery. It can be frustrating since the other bikers are completely invincible and apparently have some force field that sends you flying off the course if you so much as clip one of them, and have no qualms about plowing into you, but the game never gets as obnoxious as the later Outrun can be, thanks to the short overall length preventing you from wasting too much time if you wipe out and render yourself unable to make the next checkpoint in time.

If you're interested in a home version, I'd actually look at the various ports of Super Hang-On rather than this one. They were adjusted better to deal with the control setup of the systems they were ported to, without losing as much of the arcade look and feel.

Videos :

* Gameplay video
* The arcade machine