Sega's been branching out lately. They've taken the big leap from arcade playing to console gaming to computer entertainment. Their latest offering, Sega Rally, has been enjoying success in arcades across America. I still remember the first time I played this gem. I was spending a glorious five days at Disney World a couple years back when I first laid my eyes on Sega Rally. The arcade experience came home a little over a year ago when Sega released it on the Saturn gaming system. Now they've cleaned up the graphics a bit and even threw in a few surprises for the computer version.
First of all, what exactly is Sega Rally Championship really about? If you haven't had a chance to play it yet, you're in for some arcade style fun. You get your choice of two different vehicles (and a hidden vehicle, but I'm not sure how to access it yet), the Celica or the Delta. You can choose to have either manual or automatic transmission. There's even an option available that allows you to customize your car even further by adjusting the handling, tires, front suspension and rear suspension, and even the blow off valve (to make your car sound a little different). These options aren't there for looks, they really do make a difference in how well you're able to control your car. Once you've selected your vehicle, you're ready to race. There are a few different modes of racing. You can select the championship mode, where you race against the computer through the three available tracks. This is the most common choice and is the way the arcade machine plays. You can give it your best in the time attack mode where you try to beat the best times. There's a two player mode so you can take on a friend. When playing in this mode the screen is split in half, but the action remains just as fierce. The final mode to choose from is unique to the computer version. The link option allows you to challenge a player over the internet to a game of Sega Rally. You can play over a network, over the internet, use a modem for a direct call, or use a serial cable to hook the two computers together. It's nice that Sega included all these options in this title.
Sega Rally is a different type of racing game. Instead of the standard "go around the track for 8 laps" game (i.e. Daytona USA), Sega Rally focuses on the off-road experience. The roads vary from dirt, to mud, to asphalt, and you'll need to learn how to properly control your car on each type of surface. The tracks aren't just flat either. There are plenty of hairpin turns, bumps and jumps, and other hazards that help to make the game more fun. Like most arcade racing games, you have a timer that's counting down. Once it reaches zero the game ends. There are checkpoints along the way that will increase your time. When you begin the championship mode, you start off in dead last. The game has three different courses, with the possibility of a hidden course. You'll begin in the desert course, move on to the forest course, and finish the game on the mountain course. They get progressively more difficult, with the most fun being had on the first two courses. A nice feature in Sega Rally is that when you finish the first course you get to keep your position you achieved for the next course. Hopefully by the end of the third course you'll be in the number one position.
The graphics in Sega Rally are amazing. The amount of detail in the cars is amazing. The wheels turn, the brake lights actually go on, the car leans into the turns, and it even leaves the track if you hit a wall too hard. The tracks are a delight to look at as well. You'll see zebras grazing in the grass, elephants walking around, birds flying around, mudpuddles to splash through, tunnels to drive through, and spectators all along the courses cheering you on. When you play the two player split screen version, the action doesn't slow down a bit, which is really amazing. It's great to see that the graphics aren't sacrificed in the two player mode. The graphics are obviously at a higher resolution than the Saturn version.
Controlling Sega Rally is a breeze, especially if you have a joystick or a gamepad. The keyboard works fairly well, and the layout works fine. It can get a bit cramped if you're having to share the keyboard with another person, but it's not too bad. Some gamers may have trouble controlling the cars at first. Don't worry though, Sega Rally is supposed to have a bit of a learning curve. I've played it so much on the Saturn that I was immediately used to it on the computer. The cars tend to slide more than your average racer, but that's due to the dirt roads. Once you learn how to slide through corners and use the brakes effectively (if you get really good, you won't need the brakes), you'll begin to slide up in the ranks.
The sound in Sega Rally is equally impressive. It's identical to the Saturn version (and probably the arcade as well). The music fits the tracks and the cars sound fairly realistic. You have a co-driver in the passenger seat of your car that gives you advice. He can be annoying at times, but he only talks when you get to a corner on the track. He warns you what kind of corner is coming up, and how sharp it is. From the squealing tires to the sound of the car scraping the mountainside, Sega Rally delivers.
Sega Rally is a great game to have in your library. The game may have gotten an overall score of five if there would have been a few more courses to spice up the action. This is a highly recommended game, way to go Sega!
People who downloaded Sega Rally Championship have also downloaded:
Sega Rally 2 Championship, Daytona USA: Deluxe, Sega Touring Car Championship, Screamer Rally, SEGA Worldwide Soccer, Rally Championship, Sega GT, Virtua Tennis
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