Released November 28, 2013 / $5.99
Version Reviewed: 3DS
Original Release: Arcade / 1987
EDIT: I was just informed on Twitter by the producer of the Sega 3D Classics, Yosuke Okunari, that Super Hang-On was not actually a Yu Suzuki-directed product (he only produced, I believe). I’m leaving the original text as is, but keep this in mind as you read, and I apologize for the error!
P.S. The fact that Mr. Okunari took the time to seek out, read my review, and correct my mistake goes to show his commitment to Sega’s history, which is very apparent in these 3D Classics.
When Yu Suzuki’s Hang-On was released in arcades in 1985, I was far too young to enjoy (or even use) its fantastic holy-crap-you-actually-ride-a-motorcycle cabinet. By the time I was frequenting arcades during the brawler/fighting game boom, there apparently just wasn’t room for motorcycles, what with the 45 versions of Street Fighter II packed into the buildings. It wouldn’t be until the winter of 2000 when I would finally play Hang-On for the first time.
The way I would come to finally playing Hang-On was perhaps untraditional, but no less fantastic than finding it in an arcade in the 80s. In a way, I actually did stumble into an arcade in the 80s to find a cabinet, but it wasn’t me as much as my player character Ryo Hazuki, the protagonist of another Yu Suzuki game, Shenmue. Exploring 1980s Yokosuka in Shenmue is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had in my decades of playing games, and the “Game You” arcade is a big reason for that.
Inside the arcade, in addition to a QTE boxing game and darts, there are two accurately depicted arcade cabinets: Space Harrier and Hang-On. Seeing these detailed cabinets in their original time period and setting was amazing enough, but even crazier when you realize that you could actually PLAY arcade-perfect ports of them, using the in-game currency. Everything from Ryo’s stilted pronunciation of “Hang-On” to seeing him actually climb onto the bike is etched into my memory… Unfortunately more than Hang-On itself.
To be perfectly honest, while I played and enjoyed Hang-On quite a bit, I spent more time with Space Harrier (and even more time collecting Virtua Fighter gachapons) during my travels with Ryo. This would be the last time I would play Hang-On until the release of its sequel on Wii Virtual Console. As impressed as I was by Super Hang-On on the Wii VC, it’s nothing compared to the version recently released (at least in the west) on the 3DS.
3D Super Hang-On was developed by port gods M2, same as the Wii Virtual Console version, but this is no mere dump of the Wii release onto the 3DS. Instead, M2 took what they accomplished with the Wii release (which was quite excellent to begin with), considered player feedback, and thought internally about how they could take advantage of the 3DS hardware and create the ultimate portable version of Super Hang-On. For the most part, they succeeded.
The game looks absolutely fantastic on a 3DS XL screen. The smooth, fast, 60 fps gameplay combined with large sprites and distinct, colorful backdrops make it hard to believe that this is a game from over 25 years ago. The addition of a true widescreen mode (not available in the Wii version) is great, and the added stereoscopic 3D effect is well done, if you’re into that. The catchy and fitting music rounds out the excellent presentation. While not god-tier like the music in its sibling OutRun, the soundtrack to Super Hang-On is still charming and adds quite a bit to the experience.
Not only is this the best looking version of Super Hang-On ever, it’s also the best playing. The 3DS circle pad feels incredibly natural and responsive when controlling your bike- I actually prefer it over the dpad. If you are looking for a less accurate, but more interesting way of controlling the game, M2 has you covered there as well. The game also features touch controls using the bottom screen on the 3DS and tilt controls that utilize the built-in gyro. While both are well-implemented, at the end of the day I still preferred the circle pad. These extra options are still welcome additions- the more control options the better- and worth your time to try out.
The other key additions to this version of Super Hang-On come in the form of more variable difficulty settings and World Mode (which was also in the PS360 ports, but improved here). In the original arcade version, touching another bike would jolt your rider, oftentimes sending you off the track and crashing into one of the hazards alongside the road. Now, with the new difficulty tweaks M2 added to this version, you can opt for a setting in which you simply go through rival bikes as if they were ghost data.
You may want to drop the difficulty if you decide to tackle the World Mode. Unlocked after completing all of the individual stages, World Mode takes you through 48 sections back to back and took me almost 30 minutes to complete. Despite its grueling nature, I still completed the mode in one sitting (if I had wanted to stop at any point however, I would have been able to- this port supports save states).
While 3D Super Hang-On is pretty much perfect, a couple of additions could have made it, uh, perfect-er. While World Mode is a deep and worthwhile unlockable, some smaller bonuses would have been nice as well. Concept art, arcade flyers, and cabinet art are all things that I’m a sucker for when it comes to unlockables in arcade ports. Also, the lack of online leaderboards is a bit of a bummer as well. I’ve been trying to talk a few of my 3DS-owning friends into grabbing this (and 3D Space Harrier as well), and I think that the ability to compete against each other’s times could have sealed the deal.
Even with those minor complaints, 3D Super Hang-On remains an amazing value at $5.99 and a lesson to other developers (including Nintendo) on how to bring a classic game to a modern platform with class. While there is plenty here for nostalgic older gamers and Sega history geeks, M2 also added options to make the game more accessible to new players.
This incredible port has made me absolutely fall in love with an arcade classic that once only existed in the periphery of my gaming space. Perhaps more importantly, it has deepened my appreciation of the work of Yu Suzuki- truly one of the greatest designers the medium has ever known. Kudos to M2 for creating a version of Super Hang-On that is not only historically significant, but also addictive and fun- no matter what your history with the franchise is.
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