Forgotten Worlds
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Forgotten Worlds

The worst reviewed game in Mean Machines history

That 9% Road Fighter review

“A shambling mockery of a sick parody of a game cartridge…”

They don’t write game reviews like they used to.

But the overall quality of games has also improved dramatically. You’ll still get the odd duffer, sure, but it’s not like it was back in the day.

And even by the lax standards of the early 90s, Road Fighter on the NES is a bit special. I’ve never played it, obviously, but the 9% review score it received from Mean Machines suggests it’s a disaster for the ages.

Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall had this to say in issue 19, released in April 1992:

“Appalling, ruinous, awful, dire, hideous, tragic, frightful and ghastly are just some of the words you could use to accurately describe this festering catastrophe of a shambling mockery of a sick parody of a game cartridge. I quite honestly haven’t seen a game so fantastically bad for many, many years, and the only ones I recollect being as disgustingly rubbish as this were old computer games that cost $1.99 each. This pustulent title cost ten times more!… “ And so it continues.

Rad Automatic shared that sentiment: “Although I was warned that Road Fighter was bad , I wasn’t quite prepared for the grotesque malformation of a game that assaulted my senses. Right from the cheap title screen and lack of options, Road Fighter just screams ‘low quality’. Press the accelerate button and the speedo leaps up to several hundred kph, but your car doesn’t move until the other racers are out of sight. The fuel allowance is ridiculously imbalanced, you’re not given enough fuel to complete the race to start with… Road Fighter is a game which induces sheer hatred within minutes of play. I know it’s easy to put the boot in but Road Fighter really does justify it.”

Two things immediately come to mind…

  1. I miss old school game reviews, and this one reads like an interpretation of the Simpsons’ “Stop, stop, he’s already dead,” joke.
  2. What the hell happened with Road Fighter?

Road Fighter on the NES was never going to set the world on fire. But its 9% score says plenty about the weird state of the games industry at the time.

Originally released in arcades in 1984, Road Fighter was Konami’s first ever racing game. It was then ported to the Nintendo Famicom in 1986 for release in Japan. By 1986 standards it was probably, maybe, ‘okay’.

The problem is it didn’t find its way to the west until 1992, when it was released by Palcom for the Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe. Why they bothered is anyone’s guess. What we do know is Palcom was a shell company set-up in Europe to get arounds Nintendo’s licensing rules. Basically, Nintendo would only let companies release 5 games a year for the NES. They did this to try and encourage quality over quantity.

Konami went “yeah, nah,” and set up a couple of shell companies to sell their games in Europe and the U.S. The end result was an infamous 9% review in Mean Machines.

So I guess Nintendo had a point…

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Forgotten Worlds

Old video game magazines from 1988 to 1994. Plus extras. By Mikolai