Published on July 13th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
F1 G.U.S. #10: A Review of Final Stretch: Uh-oh, Redline F-1 Racer Got a Sequel…
Year: 1993 // System: SNES // Publisher: LOZC G. Amusements // Developer: Genki // Genre: Racer
>>> When I saw that Aguri Suzuki Super F1 Hero, titled Redline F1 Racer in America, had a sequel, I was both shocked and appalled. How could Redline, with all of its turns that popped out of nowhere, inspire a sequel, especially with seven other competitive F1 games trying to overtake it for prominence? Well, it wasn’t called Super F1 Hero 2, but it was supervised by Footwork Driver’s Aguri Suzuki, making it more or less the spiritual sequel. Given how much Aguri’s first game let me down, I had little hope for this one…
Man, it’s good to be wrong! Well, sometimes…
But in this case, Final Stretch took on a completely revamped game engine. Pacing was slower without becoming sluggish. It was slowed up just enough to give the player an appropriate sense of speed while allowing him or her to view the turn up ahead without having to make like ninja. The screen was split to feature the third-person view for the player at the bottom, while the top half included a range of different options from a rear-view mirror to a bird’s eye view of the race car. I’m not one to comment on graphics, but the utilization of the rotating camera for one of the perspectives you could choose for the top half was breathtaking. Ridge Racer was only but a couple of steps ahead of this game graphically!
You had your choice of drivers and setups, and while they weren’t as deep or varied as other racers, you felt like there was enough to work with. The modes were your ho-hum choices of Versus, Time Attack, and World Grand Prix, but again, like every single other game in the genre, Final Stretch didn’t mean to separate itself from the rest through content, but instead through its style. It didn’t aim so much for realism as it did engagement. The cool 3-D effects, sounds, and upbeat music put the player in the mood to race! It didn’t matter if you were a F1 fan or not…this one was eye-catching.
Track designs were about as pretty as they could possibly be for an F1 game on the Super Nintendo. Each track looked different and reminiscent of the real-life course that it emulated. In other words, details weren’t so miniscule. You had a sense that the racing world was fleshed out in this title. Setup options are plentiful, easy to understand, and clearly indicative of my on-track performance. I know how a lowered car wing or slicker tire will affect my racecar because the setup displays tell me. These options aren’t exactly as direct as, say, Satoru Nakajima’s game, but they do the job in allowing you to see what will help you in taking on a particular course.
The racing itself has a couple of flaws that do threaten any attempt at realism, and therefore indicate that perhaps Aguri Suzuki’s sequel meant to rope in a more casual audience. While Pole Position 2 made it so that the slightest touch of another opponent sent you spinning, Final Stretch allowed you to basically run over opponents without penalty! Your car would pass right through them, as if they were holograms. How’s THAT for clean competition? At that point it’s not even a race! It’s like a virtual recreation- well, I mean, it is any way because it’s a video game, but it’s like if, in real life, all of the F-1 Drivers hopped into computer simulators and took each other on in a make-believe series. Probably the future, by the way.
So I thought that aspect, instead of being too punitive, made it too easy for you to just worry about the courses, which are rather steady courses that don’t involve too much headache when you’re pacing yourself through the corners.
The other issue, which ironically swings back over to the realistic but overly punitive side of things, concerns qualifying. Yes, it’s one of those games thatdoesuse the “Qualifying” label instead of the extremely misleading “Practice,” but qualifying for races is especially harsh. There are 18 drivers…competing for 16 slots… And trust me, qualifying, at first, is no easy feat, because the tracks, while fair, do require some skill for you to clock in expert lap times. Therefore, upon starting out in World Grand Prix mode, get ready to miss a few races…even in Beginner mode. This, out of the 40 or 50 racing games I’ve played, is the only game where a poor qualifying effort prevents you from racing. Granted, you only get points if you finish in the Top 6 any way, but even so! It’s just a bit on the cruel side to rob the player of a chance to enjoy his or her favorite track for the sake of realism. Given the poor implementation of the pass-through AI, the harsh simulation of elimination from a race before it even begins did anything but balance the casual elements with the realistic. But at least you can get into the field without too much trouble. It’s just bothersome that the potential for a missed race exists…
All-in-all, Final Stretch may be the largest improvement between two F-1 racers in a series that I will probably see within the genre. It’s certainly not the most polished, and its two biggest issues imply a torn identity between catering to the casual racer and gunning for an authentic simulation of the real thing. Even so, FS looks the best so far, and its game play, for all of its problems, keeps the player plugging away at the SNES controller.
Challenge: 5/10: Missed races due to poor qualifying efforts and a transparent set of AI racecars conveyed a sense of confusion within Genki’s labs. Do they attempt an easy-as-pie arcade racer, or do we simulate every single trial and tribulation of the F1 driver by making the player experience the failure of not making races? Strangely enough, the two issues balanced out the difficulty, but perhaps not in the way that the developers intended.
Handling: 9/10: Controls are basic but racing mechanics are smooth and fine-tuned. And hey! Turns don’t pop out at you like they do in the first game! That alone is enough to warrant a high rating in this section.
Innovation: 7/10: Nothing major…save the revolutionary racing viewpoints that gave you expanded coverage of track layouts and the opponents’ positions.
Core Experience: 8/10: Rotating camera angle, bird’s eye view, and alternative focus on other drivers fleshed out the details of each racetrack in simulating one of the most-eye catching F1 experiences on the SNES.
OVERALL: 7.3/Solid: Final Stretch is flawed and a little torn between lifelike and accessible. However, having improved upon a racer rated 5.5 is a victory all on its own.