Enduring endless obstacles
Enduro Racer (1987) was not a spectacular game. It wasn’t Hang-On, for starters. Released on the Sega Master System, it wasn’t even a faithful port of its own arcade namesake. But boy, did I love it nonetheless. My first taste of a console was the Sega Master System Mark I, owned by my older brothers, and had that “snail maze” game built into it. It was fine, but it wasn’t a visit to the arcades. We weren’t able to regularly spend money on new games so the two sources of home gaming goodness were borrowing and lending between friends or visiting a video rental shop once a month or so. Enduro Racer was one of those cheaper titles that everybody seemed to have, however, and it didn’t hold much value in the friendship rental business. That meant it got a good deal of playtime in our household; I saw a ton of Stage 1 between the ages of four and six.
It was an isometric view motorcycle racing game – mostly off-road with dry dirt courses, desert stages in what appear to be either Greece or Africa and later, North America, a stage that was like a bog or marsh, a mountainside course and various others akin to beaches and tarmac. The point was to get to the finish before the time limit ran out and to pass as many vehicles as you could in doing so. The greater number of overtakes, the higher the number of points awarded at the end of a stage to spend on bike upgrades. Obstacles blocking your path to glory included boulders causing slowdown, other riders and drivers causing swerves and collisions, possible Greek ruins (those Tetris-shaped blocks strewn everywhere on Stage 2!), trees, snowmen and many, many more.
It was frustratingly difficult at the tender young age of four, five, or six, and it remains trying to this day. You’re able control your jumps in mid-air which can prevent accidents but swerving around obstacles in rapid succession after a series of jumps is a feat accomplished through practice and repetition alone. But the game remains a fondly remembered gem – even if the bikes weren’t really capable of 200 km/h. It hit the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console in late 2008 (North America) and early 2009 (Europe) and is still available now for 500 Wii Points. What are you waiting for?
It came from a time when Sega really were top notch – perhaps their golden ages – and it is still highly replayable. There is no other fitting way to end this tribute that to transcribe the message that plays after completing the game:
“Enduro” is a symbolic journey through life via the media of a race.
The results are insignificant and what really counts is competing.
Of particular importance are the lessons to be learning concerning one’s self from the various encounters you experience along the way.
There is no victor or loser in this test of endurance.
The only thing that really matters is that you make a commitment to begin the long and trying trek.
This game is then dedicated to all of the “life riders” who have started out on the solitary trip to find their own individual limits.
Last, but not least, may we sincerely congratulate you on a perfect run.