Sega Rally Online Arcade is the latest to attempt to wrest the crown from the original, and seminal, Arcade/Sega Saturn release from the ‘90s. But does it have enough horsepower under the hood to overtake its illustrious predecessor, or is it left idling on the starting line?
On the off chance that there is someone out there who doesn’t know, the original Sega Rally was the brainchild of Sega’s internal AM5 studio, headed by the incomparable talent of Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Utilising the then revolutionary Model 2 Arcade tech, Sega Rally was a smash-hit around the world that in turn led to it being ported to Sega’s home console of the time, the Saturn. While the studio no longer exists, with Sumo Digital taking on development duties here, the legacy of Sega Rally as the epitome of arcade racing still lives on for some.
Sega Rally Online Arcade (SROA) takes a similar route as the original Arcade to home console port, since this is essentially a version of the Sega Rally 3 Arcade game. This means the modes found in that title are present and intact here with Championship, Quick Race and Classic, along with online racing via Xbox LIVE.
Championship is as it’s always been; a set of three races where the player must fight their way through the pack of twenty two cars to finish first and trigger the bonus event. Quick Race pits the player in a `winner takes all` set of races, while Classic will appeal to those looking for a spot of nostalgia , featuring a one-on-one race with the now legendary Toyota Celica or Lancia Delta Integrale, on the timeless Desert stage from the original.
There’s a slender amount of tracks included, numbering four all told; Tropical, Canyon, Alpine and Lakeside. Each has that unmistakable Sega “blue sky” look, replete with the little touches expected throughout. While teeming with detail and flourish, they also feel compact and with no signs of unnecessary excess, meaning that races are short and keep the player focused on the action. Spotting the incidental detail as you power around the tracks is a fun extra, whether it’s a formation of jets flying overhead, or an old steam train rumbling through the stage. The track deformation is also superb, as each subsequent lap retains the tyre tracks of the cars. It’s these little touches that help keep the player engaged and coming back for more.
Handling of the cars feels spot-on, initiating power-slides by letting off the accelerator for a moment, then throwing the car into the corner. Tight controls means that the player can simply get on with the job of racing and, while it can be a fraught experience, it’s always fair. Nothing compares to the exhilaration of being in second place on the final lap, throwing the car into a medium left and right before powersliding round your opponent to steal the lead. It’s more in the realms of fantasy driving for sure, but it produces a wonderful thrill and feeling of power.
Sega Rally Online Arcade is a fun experience with enough scope to keep players entertained long after they’ve unlocked everything. The more dedicated fans of the original may feel let down in how the cars feel to handle and will no doubt find gripe about the framerate which is locked at a lowly 30fps (although the experience is smooth and steady throughout). For everyone else this is a fun approximation of a long-cherished title that has been given a lick of paint and feels just right sitting in anyone’s download library, ready to be fired up for a quick blast every now and then. It’s much-like the original Arcade cabinet, but without the wallet-destroying need to feed fifty pence’s into a slot.