When the TurboGrafx-16 first launched there wasn't a big demand for racing games. And why should there have been? None of the consoles of that era were equipped with the technology needed to run a solid 3D racing game and it's hard to get people excited about a 2D overhead racer. But NEC bucked the trend, they decided to release a 3D racing game right alongside the TurboGrafx-16. Unfortunately Victory Run is hardly a shining example of what a good racing game is, but if you can get past a few of its quirks you will find that this is a solid racer that has a lot of personality and enough replay to keep you coming back for more.
Victory Run is yet another one of those early generation racers that only allows for one player at a time, it's a Cruisin' USA-style arcade racer that has you going from point A to point B while dodging cars and everything on the sides of the road. Since the TurboGrafx-16 was unable to recreate a realistic 3D effect, Victory Run is plagued with an old school scaling effect that is a little hard on the eyes (especially if you're used to today's racing games). But don't worry, the system's lack of scaling isn't as big of a problem as you might think, and Victory Run demonstrates that you can make a worthwhile game even if you don't have the best technology to work with.
The game balances the arcade and simulation aspects by giving you a choice as to what parts of your car (brakes, steering, tires, etc.) you want to upgrade. Once you've customized your car it's off to the races. This game is split into several different checkpoints, each of which you have to race in a certain amount of time. Make it and you're off to the next level, miss that time and it's game over for you.
Oddly enough you don't have a choice between automatic or manual, this game requires you to manually change gears, which is done by pushing UP and DOWN on the control pad. This isn't that big of a deal, but it would have been nice for them to have given me a choice in the matter. Thankfully it's easy to get used to the somewhat strange control scheme, so the only problems will be from other vehicles and turns.
This isn't a game with enormous production values. The graphics are mostly functional, though the scenery is generally vibrant with some nice touches on the side (though not subtle, day-night changes throughout the courses). The turns can be tough to gauge, and traffic seems to show up specifically when you are making them. In addition, vehicles frequently change lanes as you approach, making race-stopping wipe outs sometimes impossible to avoid. There is also a fair amount of memorization needed to succeed, due to certain obstacles approaching far too quickly to avoid if you didn't know they were coming. The audio clues, such as the squeal of your tires too fast around a bend or the high revved engine in need of a gear shift, are well implemented and assist the game play.
The biggest problem with this game is that the technology just can't hold up to the ambition. Had this game been done in polygons or using the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 capabilities it would have scored higher, but the 3D in this game is simply a disaster. That's not to say that you can't work around it, but without any multiplayer modes and a very limited single player race it's hard to be too excited about this game. Victory Run is a solid racing game for the TurboGrafx-16, but if you are used to the modern day racers this is one title you should definitely avoid. I want to like this game, but there's just too much in the way for me to have a good time.