I've felt a little down lately. A touch gloomy. Why? Who knows. Maybe it's because 30 Rock is ending soon, maybe it's the continued decline of Western civilisation. It doesn't matter, because if you're a miserable weirdo who spends their time writing about old videogames then there's always one thing you can turn to that'll lift your spirits - Sega arcade games. This one's called Racing Hero!

Hell, I feel better already. The title screen may say '89 but apparently Racing Hero was released in 1990 on Sega's X Board, which also powered games such as Thunder Blade and Super Monaco GP. Between the title and the picture of men riding motorcycles, it does not take a Sherlockian intellect to figure out that Racing Hero is a motorcycle racing game.

Pictured here: an indecisive person who cannot decide whether they want to race or not. Look, either get all the way on the bike or all the way off it, I don't have time for your dilly-dallying.

That's better.
Immediately I'm confused by the set-up here. Let's disregard the giant ogre giving a thumbs up for a moment: why are cars and bikes racing together / against each other? Surely the differences between the two types of vehicle are so great that they render any contest meaningless? The only feasible explanation is that the bikes and cars are participating in two separate races, but to save time and money they are being run on the same course, simultaneously. I'm a racing hero all right - a hero of efficiency!
Back to the thumbs-up ogre. It's not just me, right? Her face is disturbingly asymmetrical  with her right eye being much higher than her left? Good. Just checking.

Palm trees, blue skies, wide open roads... all things I'm not especially fond of in the real world (see my previous "miserable weirdo" statement) but in arcade games from twenty years ago? Love 'em.

Racing Hero is a quintessentially Sega-y title, a checkpoint racer that utilises sprite-scaling to create the appearance of 3D movement and a sense of speed. The controls are simple, even simpler than OutRun due to the lack of a gear system. All you have here is accelerate and brake, and your job is to weave through the traffic, avoid the other racers, try not to crash and reach the checkpoint before your time runs out.

It's an evolution of the gameplay from Sega classics such as OutRun and Super Hang-On, the intervening years allowing for improvements in the scaler technology that turn the graphics up a notch and give proceedings, especially the trackside buildings and objects, a greater sense of solidity and "there-ness."
The fact that you're riding a motorcycle invites comparisons to the Hang-On series, but it feels closer in spirit to OutRun. I'd go as far as to say that it feels more like a follow-up to OutRun than most of the actual OutRun sequels. It has the same traffic-dodging moments, the same beachfront beginnings and the same choose-a-route system that sees your path through the game split at the end of each stage.

It's not exactly the same as OutRun, though - rather than the road physically splitting into a forking path beneath your wheels, you have to select your next destination from two options. I assume Sega made this decision because Racing Hero takes place all over the globe and having a roadsign marked "turn left for France and right for Brazil" would seem a little ridiculous. Then again, a couple of years later Sega released a game about a blue hedgehog who can run really fast, and even Racing Hero has its own unbelievable moments: crashing into a truck at 200 miles an hour is not generally something you can just walk off with an apologetic shrug of the shoulders.

The first stage takes place in Australia. The game doesn't tell you this, but I managed to puzzle it out thanks to the roadside signs that say "KOALA" on them in much the same way my hometown has signs that say "MALTREATED PITBULLS, LARGE RATS" dotting the area. After that, it's a whirlwind tour of the planet, so let's take a look at the other countries you'll be travelling through (assuming you haven't crashed and died of course, those high-powered motorbikes are deathtraps.)

Like OutRun, the right-hand course is harder than the left-hand one, although there seems to be much less difference in challenge between the two routes than there was in OutRun. After an accident-free jaunt through Australia, I was feeling confident so I chose the right-hand option: Brazil. Brazil is a land of lush greenery, waterfalls and weird statues that look like nervous frogs wearing boxing headguards.

The statue of Christ the Redeemer gazes serenly down onto your race, because Jesus was bang into his motorsports.

Sticking to the right-path takes you to Italy. Really high up in Italy, apparently, because you can see all the way to Spain and the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. This is the point where someone leaves me a comment telling me that's actually a cathedral in Italy that just looks like Gaudi's work, and that's fine, but I'm going to stick with my high-altitude racing hypothesis.

The final course on the hard route is good old Great Britain, a land of thatched cottages, red London buses and Tower Bridge in all its grey, out-of-place glory.

Cor blimey, strike a light, it brings a patriotic tear to my eye guv'nor. The best thing about the UK course is that when you finish it, the crowd that gathers to cheer your victory is truly an insightful cross-section of British society.

See, you've got punk rockers rubbing shoulders with children and what look like earless Playboy bunnies. Truly, this is a faultless portrayal of the melting pot that is our sceptered isle, all peoples coming together to stand in front of a motorcycle travelling at 300 kilometres an hour and casually gambling their lives that it'll manage to stop in time.

France obviously can't compete with Britain, but they put on a good show with some lovely-looking buildings and an inordinate amount of sunflowers. Oh, and the Eiffel Tower, that's there too, looking as always like a less-impressive version of Blackpool Tower. Does the Eiffel Tower play host to organ performances (not a euphemism) by the legendary Phill Kelsall, MBE? No, I didn't think so.

China? Bamboo, pictures of pandas and pagoda-style houses. Nice to see that Sega had the same set of vague clichés about China as everyone else. Actually, if you asked people in Britain to sum up China, most answers would probably revolve around Chinese food. I know that's what I'm thinking about. That and how much Beijing is starting to resemble Blade Runner.

Just past the bamboo forests is the, um, Taj Mahal. This isn't like a building which may or may not be the Sagrada Familia appearing in Italy, that is straight-up, unquestionably, 100% definitely the Taj Mahal. Which is in India. Not China. C'mon Sega, at least get an atlas out or something, damn.

Pictured above is the final stage of the left-hand route. It is The Netherlands. The Netherlands course is flat and, honestly, a little boring. That is, unless you like windmills. If you like windmills then you'll like this stage. If you love windmills, you'll love this stage. If you find yourself with an uncontrollable yearning to be physically intimate with any wind-powered milling equipment, please stop playing this game and seek psychiatric help immediately.

The Japan stage shows that Sega were at least even-handed when it came to stereotyping countries, and so their home turf is a mixture of pink cherry blossoms and crowded urban areas. Like the Netherlands, this stage is one of the less interesting routes. No matter how well they're drawn, there's only so much wonderment I can summon up for pink trees.

There's a course in the USA, naturally, although it's dusty and brown rather than looking like an advert from the Bermudan Tourist Board. You have to appreciate the effort expended in capturing so much of the essence of America in one small stage, though. Sure, some minor inaccuracies may be present - I'm no geographer, but even I'm aware that the Statue of Liberty isn't located in a small area of woodland near the Grand Canyon - but these famous landmarks, combined with the thinly-veiled roadside McDonalds' and the billboards starring a fist-throwin' superhero called Captain Eagle, really bring the Home of the Brave to life.

Finally, there's Egypt. It's got sand and pyramids. What the hell else did you think it was going to look like? Maybe one day people outside Africa will think of Egypt without their brains immediately lurching towards enormous, show-offy tombs and lions with the heads of men, but that day is not today and it certainly wasn't in 1989.

That's pretty much the entire Earth traversed by motorcycle, but was driving through all these places any fun? Well, I'm happy to report that it was. Racing Hero is a further refinement of things that Sega were already doing pretty damn well with games like - well, you know the ones, and if you enjoyed Hang-On and OutRun then Racing Hero will not disappoint you. Of course if you don't enjoy behind-the-vehicle viewpoint races against the clock in Sega's trademark bright and cheery style, this game won't change that, and I think there might be something wrong with your brain.

The Super Scaler graphics look fantastic, much improved even in the short time since the first games to use them were released. The controls are smooth and responsive, with just the right amount of "grip" to them so that the sensation of turning corners feels like something you're causing and not like you're being funnelled around the bend, which can sometimes happen with games like this. As I've mentioned, the graphics are excellent: technically very accomplished, more unabashedly vibrant than a Rio carnival putting on a stage show of The Wizard of Oz and full of detail, especially the billboards along the courses are packed with Sega references.

These are just a few of them, and boy are there some obscure games on display here. At the risk of destroying the carefully-cultivated yet utterly false image of me being some all-knowing games wizard, I had to look up whether Flash Point was even a thing. Turns out it's a Tetris rip-off that Sega released in 1989. There are plenty more famous names in there too, but my one disappointment is that I couldn't get a decent screenshot of that Megadrive billboard, hidden as they were behind the mighty palm forests of Australia. I kept expecting to see Sonic the Hedgehog on a billboard - that's just where the mind naturally goes when you think of Sega and their characters - but of course Racing Hero was released before the first Sonic game. Don't worry, he appears in plenty of other games.

The graphics are good, but if there's one part of a Sega arcade game that'll pique my interest, it's the soundtrack, and I'm happy to say that Racing Hero delivers on that front. It's not a huge selection of tracks, just four in-race tunes and various short jingles, but each of the four main tracks fit neatly under the banner of the "Sega Arcade Racer" while still managing to feel musically distinct from the other games that Racing Hero would be compared to.

This is my favourite track, which as far as I can tell is just called "BGM 3". Composed by Hikoshi Hashimoto, it's the bassline that does it for me on this one because lord knows I can't resist that synth bass, (see also Chrono Trigger, Jaleco's E.D.F.,) but all the tracks are excellent and will be going onto my MP3 player so I can relive the high-speed thrills of Racing Hero while my bus is stuck in traffic.

Racing Hero serves up a very enjoyable slice of classic arcade-style racing action, but it's not one hundred percent perfect. It's flaws are small, but they exist. It doesn't feel quite as fast as other Sega racers, for one thing. The collision detection, while generally good, seems to get a bit confused when you're passing close to another bike. Even my own incompetence - a force not to be underestimated - could not account for the amount of times I though I was clear of my rivals only for the game to say "nope, your bikes meet in a feverish embrace of steel and sparks and you are thrown to the ground, destroying any hope you had of victory."

That's the other thing about this game that I wasn't wild about - the difficulty. This is a tough game. It's a race against the clock, and the clock really does not want to be beaten. Even on the easiest difficulty settings, the time you're given to complete each stage is far from generous, especially if you take the right-hand courses: despite racing through the Great Britain stage without so much as grazing an obstacle or letting go of the throttle unless it was absolutely necessary, I still ran out of time and only completed the game because my bike's forward momentum carried me over the line. When the game actually finished I must have had -2 seconds left on the clock, which does make for an exciting finale but feels rather unfair. I have no problem with the game being tough, but there's no reward for doing well and the lack of leeway from the timer can kill your game dead. Crash big on the first corner and I'm sorry but that's it, you're done, you might as well give up now because you won't make the time back.

None of those things are game-breakers, though, and they don't account for the fact that Racing Hero is somewhere down near the "what the hell are you talking about?" end of the obscurity spectrum. Racing Hero has no console ports, no remakes, barely a second thought given to it, but why? Saturation of the market, maybe - Sega put out plenty of arcade racers around this time, and Racing Hero doesn't quite have what it takes to stand out. The lack of a console port is probably down to the systems of the time not being about to really do justice to games like OutRun, never mind something more advanced, until eventually home gaming hardware had moved on and Racing Hero was forgotten.

Mostly, I think Racing Hero was forgotten because it's kind of... forgettable. It's a good game, very good even: smooth, responsive, well-crafted fun wrapped up in the sunny embrace of that famous Sega style. That's the problem, though. It doesn't have its own style. You can look at it and you'll probably think "yup, that's definitely a Sega arcade game from the early nineties," but that's all the definition it has and when it's compared to true, enduring classics like OutRun and Hang-On it's just a bit generic.

I'm still recommending that you play it, of course. An ever-so-slightly bland Sega racing game from 1990 is still a Sega racing game from 1990 after all, and while Racing Hero might not quite live up to its illustrious forebears that's hardly a crime, is it? I mean, what games could? Just take Racing Hero on its own merits, enjoy the ride and always remember that The Netherlands are made up of nothing but grass and windmills.



When it comes to selecting a game to receive the VGJunk treatment, I sometimes wonder if I should set up a machine to make the selection process easier. A Heath Robinson machine-slash-bagatelle table where I can drop in a ball and watch it plink and plonk its way through several categories - into "games where you hit things," down through "games where you hit things with swords," further narrowed into the "those things are dragons and snake-people and hired killers called Steve" portion of the machine. It could be fun, you know?
I didn't have to do any of that with today's game, mind you. It's an arcade fighting game, released by Data East in 1989, and it's called Hippodrome. The name made me imagine a version of Videodrome where James Woods' character is played by a hippopotamus. That was enough for me to choose it.

There's a dragon, so the "hitting dragons" part of the gameplay is pretty much assured. The game's title is displayed in the famous "Arnold Böcklin" Art Nouveau font, which seems a strange choice because I don't think there's much correlation between the gladatorial struggles of one armour-clad hero and European art at the beginning of the twentieth century. I know next to nothing about art, though. There's a decent chance I'm wrong about that.

In Japan the game was called Fighting Fantasy. I don't think there's any connection to the series of choose-your-own-adventure books by the same name, other than that I died a lot during both. If there are any other differences between the two versions, I couldn't spot them. I know they both have the same plot - and what a plot it is!

It's that plot! You know, the one sets up almost every fighting game in the vast realm that is "videogaming". There's a battle for superiority, and you're determined to prove that you are the best despite being hopelessly outmatched by the cavalcade of mutants, mythological creatures and, yes, dragons that stand in your way. What is your reward for winning the tournament? Why, the knowledge of your own superiority, of course! If you're in the lawless blood-sport game for any other reason, you're going to end up sorely disappointed (also dead).

There's only one character to play as, but you do at least get to select which of these foul beasts you'd like to face first. Look at that sadsack at the bottom - the beaming smiles of the other two competitors show a love for carnage that should hold them in good stead, but that miserable green lump does not look like he wants to be there. Perhaps he's embarassed by the disgusting leathery avalanche of his neck-folds. I'll put an end to his misery soon enough, but I think I'll start with the blue chap at the top-left.

Cawnus the Lamia, huh? Sorry, the Lamia noble - wouldn't want anyone thinking that this some common, low-bred snakeperson. At over two metres tall and with a muscular yet disgustingly-coloured body - I mean, dull orange and blue, really? - Cawnus seems like she could put up a real fight.

That's me on the left. The one who's not half-snake. No, the playable character being a snakeman would be far too interesting for a game like Hippodrome, a game with ambitions so low they're practically subterranean, and as per bloody usual you're put behind the metaphorical wheel of a muscular blonde man who has deemed that his shoulders and shins require the protection of armour but that his midriff must remain exposed and unrestricted. Well, how else will everybody see his chiselled abs?
I know I say this a lot, but Hippodrome's hero really does look like a character from Fist of the North Star. I guess it had a pretty huge influence on the games developers of the late eighties and early nineties. It explains all the shoulderpads, at least.

My worries about Cawnus' fighting prowess were well founded, and she didn't give me a chance to figure out the controls or anything before I was crushed to death by her tail. She's got a great big grin on her face, much like on the character select screen. I guess she's just naturally cheerful.
One quick continue later, I managed to re-engage Cawnus in battle and figure out the controls, which didn't take long because there aren't many of them. You have a jump button, for jumping, and an attack button. Pressing attack makes you swing your sword, and when combined with various directions on the joystick, you can attack in those directions: diagonally-upwards, while crouching and even - get this - straight up. Pressing back and attack forces your character to block, although he really is dead set against the idea and will only block for a second or two before lowering his guard.

My primary method of attack was to wave my sword around in front of me in a slightly unhinged manner, like a kid chasing people around with a dog turd on a stick. It worked, and Cawnus died. Then turned to stone. Then her torso fell off. Lamia death is a long and multi-faceted procedure, it seems.

After the slaughter comes the shopping, and between bouts you can spend the money you earn on... these five items. I want that halberd, based on the assumption that it'll give me a much longer attack range, but it's way out of my price bracket so I settled for the mace. The game calls it a hammer, but that's clearly a mace, or maybe a centuries-old toffee apple.

Just in case you were wondering whether Cawnus could somehow survive her petrification and subsequent transformation into so much driveway gravel, Hippodrome makes is very clear that she is DEAD. You can tell by the way is says DEAD over her portrait now. Well, on to my next opponent. Hey! You with the skull! What's your deal?

Well, this guy's a skeletal gargoyle, which is scary and all but his name is Gran. It makes him kinda hard to take seriously. You know who else I call Gran? My gran.

The sword-waggling tactics that saw me through the first fight are not nearly as effective here, partly because I'm not using a sword but mostly because Gran spends most of the fight flying across the top of the screen on his big veiny wings. This is a problem, because sword-or-mace-waggling was really all I had to fight with. Hippodrome comes from the pre-Street Fighter II era of fighting games, a dark and dismal time before the innovations that Capcom's seminal brawler brought. There are no special moves here, no fireballs or spinning bird kicks and no throws: all you have is your weapon and the ability to jump. I say jump, it's more like aimless skyward floating with no feeling of weight. There's no feeling of weight to any of Hippodrome, in fact, with blows that are hardly noticable and deaths that seem sudden and weak. Hardly the stuff from which legends are hewn, unless you're recounting a legend about two carrier bags blowing into each other on a moderately windy day.
In the end, Gran decided to land - out of sheer boredom, I reckon - and I stoved his head in with my mace. That makes it time to fight the depressed-looking frog man.

His name is Norfolk? Maybe he's named after England's rural flatlands, and maybe it's because he's an inbred bumpkin. I'm not going to ask him about it, because he has a sword.

He's got a shield, too. I wish my character had thought to bring a shield. I wish there was a shield for sale in the shop. Frankly, I wish I had some attacks in my arsenal that aren't just "stab in a vague forward direction." It may be a one-on-one fighting game, but Hippodrome has less gameplay depth than almost every side-scrolling brawler out there. At least Final Fight and its ilk let you thow goons around or use a health-draining special move.
It turns out that bringing a shield was not quite be the tactical masterstroke that Norfolk thought it would be, because once you attack him he just stand there, absorbing blow after blow on his shield... until it disintergrates. I'd like to say that this makes the fight even but of course it does not, because my character still barely has enough chopping and slicing attacks to qualify as a tree surgeon, never mind the world's most powerful warrior.
In the end, I beat Norfolk by standing still and swinging my sword back and forth. Norfolk kept jumping into it and eventually died. If I'd know he was suicidal, I'd have been less flippant about his depression.

Three more opponents have appeared on the character select screen: a dragon, a bust of a sad, bald man carved from Spam and what looks like a killer whale vomiting out the head of a wizard. I think I'll start with the whale-wizard.

Oh, he's just your average wizard. That makes more sense. And his name is Solomon, which is definitely acceptable as the kind of name a sorcerer might have, although I'm not sure that "Wizard" is a race. Surely you can learn magic, and there's not a group of people who are born with robes, beards and an innate understanding of the thaumaturgical forces which underpin the cosmos? I'll check next time the census comes round, but I'm fairly certain there's no choice for "Dark Adept of the Enchanted Vortex" under the "ethnicity" heading.

Solomon is a prick. He's got no sense of fairness, and he spends the whole fight bombarding you with an impressive array of magic spells and painfully-delivered voice acting. "Ice storm," he says in the tone of a disinterested and possible tranquilized pensioner, and chunks of ice fly horizontally across the screen at you. "Acid Rain!" he croaks, and some blue lines slowly move toward you in a curved path that in no way resembles rainfall.

The reason I dislike Solomon is that he forced me to get better at Hippodrome. Just hacking away won't work, because he'll simply blast you with projectiles. Instead, you've got to memorise his attacks and take the appropriate action: back away from the acid rain, block the ice storm and only move forward and attack when he uses his lightning or fire pillar spells because they leave him vulnerable. In many games this would be a good way of testing the player, but it was far too much effort to be worthy of a game as tired, unambitious and limited as Hippodrome. I'd committed myself to writing about it by then so I had to make the effort, but I still resent Solomon. I'd resent him more if I hadn't bought the halberd, though. That thing really does add some extra range.

Daldnoa is next, and he's a scorpion man! Full credit, Data East, the scorpion man looks pretty cool. Apparently, his weapons are his trident, his poison stinger and gum. I hope he's not going to rub the gum in my hair. Dalnoa himself is bald to prevent just such a nightmare from occuring.

As the fight begins and I find myself coated in a sticky white goo that Daldnoa squirted at me, I begin to desperately pray that the "gum" in his character bio was not a typo.
The goo paralyses you, natch, and wiggling the joystick and hammering the buttons is your ticket to a slime-free life. Status effects are Daldnoa's whole shtick, and he can also poison you with his stinger and jump on your head. That last one's not a status effect, it just looks kinda neat.
Happily Daldnoa is nowhere near as difficult to beat as Solomon, especially not when I have the mighty power and seven-foot reach of the halberd, and soon it's time to fight a dragon.

Ah yes, Sharon the dragon. Sharon. Maybe this is just me being from Britain, but Sharon is the name of forty-something women with bad red dye-jobs, not shiny golden dragons.
I was going to say that this fight also loses points for not taking place in colosseum with an name like an obscure metal band - instead it sounds like an attempt to transcribe the sound of an unexpected sneeze - but apparently Gladsheim is the part of Asgard where Valhalla is located, and you don't get much more metal than that.

Finally we reach the "hitting a dragon" portion of the game, although that's easier said than done because Sharon here is designed to to keep you as far away as possible. She (and I'm going with "she" because she's called Sharon) attacks with her dragon breath, both in fireball and plume of flame form, and they do big damage so standing close is a problem. Even if you do manage to get near her, she flaps her wings and the resulting wind pushes you backwards. If you walk forwards, you can just about stand on the spot, but you'll never get close enough to hit her. Unless you have the halberd, of course. Sorry, Sharon, but you should have flapped you wings harder.

Next up: two men in masks that must really hamper their ability to breathe.

Oh man, if "wizard" wasn't an eligible race then "assassin" definitely isn't. A race where every single member grows up to be a hired killer is not going to survive for long. Did anyone grow any crops? Or build some shelter? Or care for the assassin babies? No, they were all too busy performing murders for profit and thus this race of assassins disappeared almost as soon as they were founded.
Also, these guys are called Charry and Steve. Sorry, Steeve. Yep, that extra "e" makes all the difference.

There's two of them. This is the point where Hippodrome's difficulty level reaches a point beyond "frustrating" and becomes almost completely unplayable. You character, who was not particularly adept at fighting in the first place, now has to contend with two opponents who are more than happy to work in tandem. One dashes across the bottom of the screen while the other jumps into the air, or they stand on each other's shoulders and fill the screen. Worse still, they'll stand on opposite sides of you, completely negating your ability to block properly because it's very difficult to move the stick away from an enemy when there's an enemy on both sides. So you die a lot, and if you're playing Hippodrome yourself then I suggest that you stop when you reach this point - there's certainly nothing that follows which is worth the time and aggravation of defeating Charry and Steve. Steeve, I mean.

I'm not sure how I beat them, in the end. A large slice of good fortune, I reckon, coupled with realising that they're at their most vulnerable when they climb on each other's shoulders. Even the halberd's extra reach didn't seem to be helping, so before I attempted the final battle I thought I'd buy the last weapon: the battle axe.

Why in the hell did you let me buy it then, you insufferable sack of digital crap?!

Halberd still gripped firmly in hand, I entered battle with the final boss - Pon the giant. He's, what, ten and a half feet tall? And here I was expecting a real giant. Skyrim has given me an inflated sense of giant-ness. I'm sure I'll be the new champion in mere moments.

Okay, first things first: this battle is not supposed to be taking place in a featureless black void. It's a problem with the emulation. While there is supposed to be a background, it's just another colosseum-type backdrop so you're not missing anything.
Then there's Pon. He's big. He's got two health bars, and all your weapons will only do one point of damage per attack. He can kill you in four or five hits, either by ramming into you or by using the Rygar-esque bladed yo-yo thing he has strapped to his arm.

This has to go down as one of the most tedious, least entertaining boss fights I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. His yo-yo has surprisingly long range and is big enough that avoiding it is extremely difficult, and because it is a yo-yo if it hits you once, it's probably going to hit you on the way back, too. There's just no sense that any care or effort was expended on Pon and his final fight: it seems like Data East (probably correctly) assumed that very few people were going to have the patience / stupidity (I'll leave you to decide which it is in my case) to struggle past the twin assassins, and so they went for a big shirtless man with a hyper-extended health bar as the final boss.
I suppose this fight sums the whole of Hippodrome up rather neatly. It's frustrating and boring because there's not much you can do, and there's very little pleasure to be gained for a game that would have felt basic even in 1989. There's little wrong with the gameplay mechanics that are there - the collision detection is alright, and up until these last few encounters the enemy AI had been challenging but reasonably fair - it's just that there aren't enough of them.

I won, eventually, and immediately wondered why I had bothered. The graphics are decent and the music isn't terrible, but the art design is mostly predictable and there's certainly not enough in terms of good presentation to carry the undercooked gameplay.

The ending shows all the opponents you have defeated on your way here. They're still dead, which the game reminds you of by showing your their corpses. That seems a trifle unnecessary, flaunting the dead bodies like that. People might start to think our hero has issues.
The kingdom and it's queen are mine for the next year, until I have to go through the tournament again. That's... exactly the same as Taito's dino-fighting wonk-fest Dino Rex. Dino Rex was a terrible game, worse in gameplay terms than even Hippodrome, but by virtue of a far more interesting setting it's the one I'd choose to play again. If I was forced to, I mean. It'd have to be by gunpoint, at the very least.

The voice acting is the one thing I'll remember from this game, what little there is of it. The wizard's cry of "lightning" that makes him sound like an Old West prospector and the hero's victorious and faintly camp cry of "HAAAA!" when he wins a fight are the two stand-out moments, and all the voice acting rather reminds me of Data East's 1990 arcade title Dark Seal. I wonder if they share a voice cast.

Bloody hell, just look at that mullet. If my words have not been enough to clue you in that Hippodrome isn't worth playing, then let that hairstyle convince you. One parting note - hippodromes were where horse racing took place. There are no horses in this game. For shame, Data East.

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