Top Racer Collection Review – Changing Gears in 16 bits

Top Racer Collection Review - Changing Gears in 16 bits

The illusion of nostalgia can be ever so alluring to a publisher in this day and age, and in many ways can also be a double-edged sword. 

I can see the allure of getting the rights to classic games for a cheap price, then putting the most basic of wrappers upon them before unleashing them onto one’s favourite digital storefront and waiting for the cash to roll in. 

Though as we reach the grim point where we’ve started to lose gaming’s pioneers, a more thoughtful approach might be to source development materials, and polish up the play experience to make a labour of love.

Surprisingly, QUByte’s Top Racer Collection manages to sit between these extremes, thanks to some thought being put into the play experience.

Top Racer

This collection features 3 well-regarded racers from the SNES era – for those who were around to experience them, the screens will look familiar, even if the names don’t (as these use Japanese names, as the originals have quite a few strings attached). 

From the outset, I love how this shows the progression of the series – though all of the games are focused on circuit racing, with the original Top Racer being the most traditional of them seeing as you not only need to place in the top 5 to qualify, but you’ll need to watch your fuel supply and pit at the right time to ensure you top up your tanks and stay ahead of your rivals. 

The first follow-up, Top Racer 2 ditches the pit stops, replacing them with an upgrade shop between races. Placing high in each race earns your precious cash which can be invested in upgrading your car, which is paramount to keeping ahead of the competition and making it to the final race. 

The other follow-up, Top Racer 3000 brings things into the future, builds upon Top Racer 2, but adds jumps, warps and other facilities onto the tracks which can give you the edge over your rivals if you take advantage of them. 

The final game, Top Racer Crossroads is a remix of the original, featuring vehicles inspired by the Horizon Chase games. It’s a nice bonus, but if you’ve had your fill of the original game, then this isn’t going to inspire you much to diving in for another turn. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that while these are solid racers, they’re probably not the most iconic ones of the 16-bit era. But I don’t think this is going to matter all that much, as I feel those more nostalgically minded will be sold already, and for everyone else, they offer a different style of racing which makes them worth a play.

Top Racer
Top Racer

For this latter group, I think the improvements added will truly add to the experience. Obviously, that includes support for multiple players, with Top Racer and Top Racer 2 allowing 2 players at once, with Top Racer 3000 supporting four! 

Even better is how your progression is handled, automating the cumbersome passwords of the original games. Instead of wrangling them onto a notepad manually, your progress is automatically saved allowing you to resume at a later time. It really goes a long way to helping these games be playable by those not used to collecting passwords. 

Something that might be at odds with purists is how the menus are handled. Rather than simply pick a game, and have the emulation fire, your choice of game and its settings is handled in a common frontend before you dive in. For those new to the games, this is handy as it makes accessing the manual convenient, and despite what these games look like at first glance, you’ll want to give them a quick read, even if only to appreciate some of the tips and tricks on offer. 

As for the racing itself? Overall, the emulation felt solid – I didn’t feel any input lag getting in the way, so making my way around the track was smooth and precise. A feature I loved was being able to redefine the controls. Being able to have the controls resemble a modern racer was a nice trick, even if there were no analogue inputs on offer.

To go with that, I found the games all played at a solid pace, with nothing getting in the way. Unsurprisingly, there are the usual options for visual flair – enabling a faux-CRT display, or scanlines, to go with customisable borders. All are welcome here and help contribute to building up those old-school vibes.

Top Racer

In a way, that’s really what the Top Racer Collection is all about. Bringing back the 90s vibe of an arcade racing series which isn’t necessarily the first one that will pop into your head should you desire some racing thrills. Each game by itself offers plenty of racing to work through, even if there’s not much to differentiate them from one enough in the long term. 

But if you’re all open to that, then you’ll certainly have plenty to enjoy here. I just wished the package included some historical details if only to help bring some context for those who weren’t there for the original releases.

Top Racer

The Top Racer Collection was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by the publisher

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