After over 25 years, the follow-up to Nintendo's classic dirt bike racer is finally available in North America. It may just be more of the same with some added extras, but when it comes to Excitebike... is that really a bad thing?
For those unfamiliar with the original, Excitebike is played by racing a dirt bike across tracks filled with obstacles. You control the bike by shifting between lanes, tilting forward and backward, and accelerating with an optional booster that overheats after a while. It's simple, yet mastering how to tilt your bike effectively to not slow down or crash is both tricky and necessary if you want to win. The amount of depth and ingenuity put in to Excitebike's core gameplay is something that game developers are still striving to achieve. Being able to launch off ramps at an angle that allows you to gain the most speed while landing perfectly without slowing down will make you feel like a true daredevil. On the road to stardom, you'll probably crash a lot which is a fun learning experience in itself. Watching the little racer run back to his bike as you mash the buttons will make you try harder next time you attempt that race. You can teach other racers a lesson as well by cutting in front of them which makes them crash if their front tire touches your caboose. Overall, when it comes to gameplay Excitebike still manages to leave gamers impressed with all of its enjoyable intricacies.
If you've played the original then you'll be pleased by how much better Vs. Excitebike is. Even small changes make a world of difference such as the fact that music plays when you race. The single player mode combines the original's two modes to craft a seamless experience. Instead of selecting whether you want to race with or without opponents, you race each track by yourself first and if you beat it in under the par time then you qualify to race with opponents. Once you pass that, you move on to challenge the next race and with seven in total; you're bound to make multiple attempts trying to master them all. At two points throughout the campaign you'll get to play a bonus round where you leap over trucks which is an enjoyable diversion to the otherwise hectic races.
Besides trying to work your way through the seven stage campaign, you have the option to create your own tracks. Luckily, the track editor featured here is much more intuitive that its predecessor. This is because you can actually see the pieces that you're selecting as opposed to arbitrary letters. Considering you can save up to four custom tracks, you have plenty of freedom to let your imagination run wild. In the end, seeing as the only single player content consists of playing through a brief campaign and making tracks, you'll end up wanting much more. I know this is an old game, but for today's standards there simply isn't enough to keep you entertained by yourself for as long as you'd hope. So, invite some chums over and get the Excitebike party started!
Of course, a game with Vs. in its title would be incomplete without a multiplayer mode. Thankfully, you can race against a friend in customizable split-screen matches. This is a ton of fun for the short while that it lasts, but the lack of content makes it overstay its welcome sooner rather than later. The largest contributor to its briefness is the available selection of tracks since there are only three premade ones to choose from. That being said, you could always make more in the track editor. In other words, although it's definitely a worthwhile addition for an afternoon of retro gaming with buddies; don't expect to race for hours on end.
Vs. Excitebike is an impressive improvement over the original that may not keep you in the driver's seat for too long, but it's enjoyable enough to play every now and again when you're in the mood for some classic 8-bit racing.
- + Awesome classic Excitebike gameplay with more bells and whistles than ever before
- + You can now race against a pal
- + Much improved and intuitive track editor
- - Lack of single player replay value due to a slim selection of modes and content
- - Only three premade multiplayer tracks