The funny thing is, I had a decent remote control car as a kid. One would hope that would translate into some, vague ability to control a simulation of a remote control car. Except the cars in R.C. Pro-Am appear to have tires made of butter and Astroglide, and all the tracks are covered in black ice and silicone. But hey, who ever applauded NES games for their realism?
R.C. Pro-Am was an NES exclusive produced by Rare (yes, that Rare – Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker, etc). R.C. Pro-Am ranks highly on a lot of top NES game lists, which makes me feel like less of a person for never having played it until now. R.C. Pro-Am set itself apart from other racers at the time by showing the action through an overhead, isometric perspective, rather than the over-the-shoulder third person view most NES racers at the time used (Rad Racer, Mach Rider, RoadBlasters). Coupled with the loose driving style of R.C. cars, this game succeeds as a quality racer despite the inherent limitations of digital input. R.C. Pro-Am also provides for mild vehicular combat in the form of bombs and missiles. Think of this game as an earlier version of Micro Machines, except with weapons and an official 10NES chip inside.
R.C. Pro-Am features on track hazards, as well as power ups. You can upgrade your tires, engine, and turbo by picking up power ups to increase your odds of winning, but this game proves to be quite difficult regardless of your car’s setup. The ultimate goal of the game is to get to the end of all 24 tracks; placing in the top 3 guarantees you a spot in the next race. Things start to get difficult very quickly, however, and by the fifth or sixth race, inexperienced players (like myself) will find themselves struggling to stay on the podium. The super loose and drifty controls work quite well for digital input (I need a whole other article for my tirade on digital controls in quasi-first person racing games), but do make it hard to reliably exit corners pointing in the right direction. I found myself humping along the sides of the course quite frequently, and subsequently losing the later races until I improved. Sometimes, the only way to stay ahead, is to annihilate your competition.
The main thing R.C. Pro-Am suffers from, is the same thing that affects all isometric view games: the complete inability to see what is coming. This is doubly-bad in racing games, where you are inexorably hurdling forward into the unknown. This makes constant glances at the map almost a requirement, because the on-track arrows that warn you of upcoming turns are only half-helpful. If you could only zoom out, just a little bit, it would make a world of difference. R.C. Pro-Am’s courses also get a little monotonous after awhile, with nothing but green grass as far as the eye can see.
Gameplay: An isometric view, combined with very drifty controls makes for a challenging game; however it feels more legitimate than most first person racers for the NES. Mistakes are the players fault, and can’t be blamed on digital controls married to an inherently analog problem.
Sounds: R.C. Pro-Am takes a serious hit here. I know, an 8-bit game in 1987 doesn’t necessarily need amazing sound – but this gets pretty monotonous. Especially the constant screeching of your sliding tires – you hear this more or less constantly, so it sounds like someone is more or less constantly stepping on a nearby cat.
Nostalgia: None whatsoever – I had never played this game before this past weekend, although I could recognize it by name as an NES game
Worth Playing? Yeah, why not. Honestly, it’s a fun, quick game that provides a good level of challenge. A little less variety than Micro Machines, but a solid game all the same. If you can pick it up for cheap, do it.
Buy it on Amazon: R.C. Pro-Am for NES (disclaimer: this is an affiliate link, if you click it and make a purchase, I receive a commission)
Up Next: I’ll either continue the racing binge with F-Zero X for the N64, or the ‘games I’ve never played produced by Rare’ binge with Captain Skyhawk. Unless, that is, I manage to finish Gauntlet Legends first (last set of stages to go).