Super Bikes 2 (Arcade) Review

There are few genres as uniquely suited to the arcade environment as racing. Whether a serious simulation like Maximum Tune or a kooky caricature like Cruis’n USA, the appeal of playing with a proper steering wheel, shifter, and set of pedals is undeniable.

After bringing cars to coin-op, the next logical conclusion is motorcycles, which provide the same high-octane thrills with half the wheels. I imagine the folks at Raw Thrills thought the same when spinning off the Fast and the Furious series into Super Bikes.

Today, I’m reviewing the jam-packed sequel to Super Bikes, as designated by the “2” following the title. Does Super Bikes 2 double the fun of two-wheel racing? Or does it fail to even cross the finish line? Find out below.

Super Bikes 2

Developer: Raw Thrills

Publisher: Raw Thrills

Release date: 2010

Gameplay

Super Bikes 2 provides the exact sort of arcade racing experience fans have come to expect from Raw Thrills—breakneck speeds, fantastical spectacle, and forgiving physics—but with motorcycles instead of cars. More specifically, Super Bikes 2 hails from the old-school lineage of point-A to point-B progression segmented by checkpoints instead of laps.

Each race pits you against 11 other bikers in your quest to cross the finish line first, encountering tricky turns, hair-raising heights, and sneaky shortcuts along the way. Barring some minute differences here and there, the core gameplay of Super Bikes 2 remains largely unchanged from its already phenomenal predecessor.

The mere act of turning is made all the more fun by drifting, which can be achieved by cranking the throttle before leaning into a turn. While its benefits are negligible on easy tracks, drifting is darn near indispensable on tracks rated “medium” and “hard.” Otherwise, you’ll find yourself barreling into buildings like some sort of buffoon.

Air time is also quite fun thanks to both the absurd elevations from which you launch and the ability to perform tricks. A true “high point” (ahem) of the experience was witnessing my biking guy or gal strike all manner of silly poses with his body as he or she soared through the sky. This ain’t your average street race, kiddos.

Of course, I’d be woefully remiss to not mention the oodles of shortcuts littered throughout the game. When blazing by the first time, you’ll likely miss your small window of opportunity to divert paths, but you’ll eventually memorize these alternate avenues. (I still have most of the shortcuts from the original Super Bikes down pat.)

Adding to the fun are the multitude of upgrades you can apply to your bikes as you progress through the game. If you want my honest-to-gosh opinion, I don’t think these upgrades actually improved my performance to any noticeable degree, but I still appreciated having something else to manage beyond racing.

My only concern with the game is its difficulty, which often felt totally random and out of my control. Sometimes, I would race exceptionally and finish in third place. Other times, I’d race abysmally and still squeak by in third. I won first a few times and never dipped below fifth. Did “rubberbanding” contribute to the results? I’m not sure.

Super Bikes 2 is loads of fun, striking the perfect balance between mindlessness and skill. Whether you’re new to arcade games or you’ve played them for decades, you’re sure to reap excitement from the gameplay. After all, I’ve been a raving fan of this series since I was 8 years old, and I’m 20 now.

Content

As with any good sequel, Super Bikes 2 takes everything I already love and piles more on top of it. The nine tracks from the first game see a riveting return—in addition to 11 wholly original tracks that meet or exceed the established quality standards. Four of these new tracks are classified as easy, four are medium, and three are hard.

Although I didn’t get to play through every single track during my time at Southern Lanes, I played 16 of the suckers in succession, a task which took me roughly an hour to complete. This satisfying sum of time is plenty for the lone player to enjoy, but I’m sure it would’ve been just as well spent with a buddy.

The tracks aren’t all you’ll enjoy, though. Super Bikes 3 also offers 12 motorcycles, nine characters, and five upgrade paths for avid players to mix and match to their liking. Maxing out the tires, engine, body, decals, and neon on each motorcycle is an absolute blast—and I’m not even close to finished. Super Bikes 2 spoils me rotten.

Long-time fans of Raw Thrills’ The Fast and the Furious series will notice the absence of a nitrous upgrade. That’s because nitrous is included on all bikes by default, saving players a touch of trouble and time. I’d imagine nitrous was the first upgrade most players purchased anyway, so I can’t really complain about this minor change.

All these upgrades are saved to a machine-dependent PIN. Obviously, in today’s world, a memory card or online system would be preferrable so you can take your progress with you to other locations, but we have to keep in mind this was 2010. (Not to mention American arcade developers and operators have proven rather internet-averse.)

While Super Bikes 2 may not have implemented the achievements system of its successor, Super Cars, you’ll still find plenty of replayability in setting new track times and discovering shortcuts. It’s an experience so easy to pick up yet so immensely rewarding to explore that I don’t intend to quit for the foreseeable future.

I only wish there had been a designated “single-player mode” for me to complete, much like what we saw in The Fast and the Furious: Drift. Sure, I can play all the tracks in a row on my own accord, but doing so feels more special if it’s explicitly packaged and concludes with staff credits. You know what I mean?

Super Bikes 2 sets a standard of content toward which all arcade racing games should strive. Unfortunately, the actual trend in the industry over the past half-decade has been literally the exact opposite, but at least we still have classics like this to cherish. (Goodness knows poor Super Bikes 3 will never compare.)

Controls

Like its predecessor, Super Bikes 2 eschews the perilously punishing physics of 2004’s The Fast and the Furious and the Cruis’n series before it in favor of something infinitely more streamlined and forgiving. The end result is a rock-solid set of controls that don’t baby the player too much.

This is most apparent in the way collisions are handled. If you veer into a wall or screw up a turn, the game will automatically correct your trajectory practically instantaneously, placing you slightly behind the racers who were nearest your position prior to the crash. Whether you find this too system too lenient or prefer it over the wacky physics of previous games is a personal matter.

All things considered, Super Bikes 2 is a remarkably seamless game to control. Lean left or right on the bike to turn; crank the throttle to accelerate; hit the handle to brake; and slap the start button to unleash a nitrous boost. A literal infant could probably figure this out, a testament to its simplicity.

The only bit that confused me was performing tricks. In the first Super Bikes, tricks were performed by quickly releasing and reengaging the throttle before a turn or jump. Doing so in the sequel rarely netted me results, whereas doing nothing often resulted in tricks occurring automatically. I couldn’t quite crack the code, so to speak.

Epic arcade gamers will appreciate the choice between automatic and manual transmissions. Being the pleb I am, I stuck solely to automatic during my playthrough, but I really should figure out manual one of these days. (After all, I’m always pleading with developers to include it in their racing games.)

The the bike on which I rode was not properly calibrated—tilting a hair to the right—but I was easily able to contend with this minor mishap and nab massive “dubs” just the same. I can’t in good conscience fault Raw Thrills for an inevitability that the operator will hopefully resolve soon enough.

Graphics/Presentation

When it comes to sheer polygon count, Super Bikes 2 doesn’t do much to impress, even by the metrics of 2010. Even so, the game performs so consistently and packs enough eye candy to more than make up for the dated visuals.

There’s no denying Super Bikes 2 looks like it’s running on a PlayStation 2. The environments are blocky, the characters are stilted, and the textures are muddy, with the high-definition resolution only exacerbating these facts. This title emerged in an era when Raw Thrills was still regularly behind the power curve in terms of hardware.

The frame rate, on the other hand, remains astonishingly smooth no matter what absurd antics unfold onscreen. Something new to this entry are the water and mud effects that splatter the screen under various circumstances. Little touches like that go a long way toward masking the ugliness of the renders.

Super Bikes 2 also marks the series’ drastic shift toward over-the-top spectacle. Whereas the original Fast and the Furious offered a fairly traditional street racing experience—and the first Super Bikes upped the ante—Super Bikes 2 doesn’t even pretend to be grounded in any semblance of reality.

Zooming through space as a John Terminator doppelganger on a light cycle lookalike is pretty silly. Plummeting hundreds of feet to the ground unscathed is downright preposterous. Yet I believe this increasing exaggeration was the right direction for the series. At this point, Raw Thrills had lost the F&F license, so why not go wild?

“Trophy girls” make their triumphant comeback, now after every race instead of just after first place victories. In fact, the sheer volume of these dancing dames has never been higher. Whether you like ‘em or not is a matter of personal taste. I think trophy girls are tacky—and likely not very appealing to real-life women—so it’s probably for the best Raw Thrills has dropped the concept in recent years.

My one complaint with the presentation is relatively insignificant: The 15-second menu timers felt tight. Frantically cycling through bikes, colors, and characters on the upgrades screen was not particularly pleasant, and I’d occasionally get stuck with a combination I didn’t like. I think a clean 30 seconds would’ve been eh-okay.

Still, Super Bikes 2 is a flashy visual treat that must be seen to be believed. Best of all, the zaniness doesn’t come at the expense of deep gameplay, unlike like Raw Thrills racing releases. I think you’ll get a kick out of this crud.

Sound/Music

I was utterly blown away by the audio pumped out of the cabinet as I played. The music and sound effects rumbled through my entire body as I straddled the bike seat, leaving me quite shaken up when I finally called it quits. Talk about wild sensations.

It certainly helps that the quality of the music matches the quality of the speakers. All the new compositions by What the Hale Music live up to the expectations set by Jon Hey and Ken Hale in the first game, which makes perfect sense considering Hale is the owner of the aforementioned company bearing his name.

My favorite song by far is “Continue Now!” from the continue screen. While my itch to keep racing was already at a fever pitch thanks to the impeccable gameplay, this groovy ditty had me raring for more like some kind of gosh darned addict. (Much to my relief, there was no one else in the game room to witness my head-bobbing.)

An honorable mention goes to “Track” from the main menus. I view this song as something of a successor to “Hip” from the first Fast and the Furious (and Target: Terror). Both manage to hype me up for the impending vehicular competition far better than any other menu theme I’ve ever heard—no kidding.

The entire game is chocked full of kickin’ electronic romps such as that, and thankfully, you can switch between them on the fly with the designated tunes button. Titles like Super Bikes 2 remind me that a good arcade game soundtrack—though not nearly as common as it once was—is far from a dead art form.

The sound effects definitely don’t slouch either. This a deafening game, from the raucous roar of the motorcycles to the smooth delivery of the announcer. (Oh yeah, she’s back.) Super Bikes 2 succeeds at sound design in spades.

Cabinet

The Super Bikes 2 cabinet is essentially a yellow Super Bikes 1 cabinet with a 32-inch high-definition display. Although I don’t find it particularly attractive, the mold captures the essence of a motorcycle spectacularly.

The cabinet art further contributes to this overall aura. Admittedly, the motorcycle graphics seem like stock photos, but even if they are, they get the job done. The “dinginess” surrounding the monitor bezel and logos is another nice touch.

As alluded to previously, the speaker placement is incredibly ideal. I had no trouble whatsoever hearing—and feeling—the music or sound effects. The button placement is nice, too, as nothing feels awkward or out of reach.

The seat is similarly ergonomic, at least for a 6-foot-tall guy. Hopping on and maneuvering virtual turns was a breeze. Leaning provides just enough resistance to feel natural without becoming legitimately cumbersome.

I never once noticed the colored LEDs during my time with the game. That being said, I think the lights are intended not for the player but instead for curious spectators. If the attract mode wasn’t enough to convince you to play, maybe the lights will.

I think an upright variant (a la Paperboy or Radikal Bikers) would’ve been a nice option for operators who don’t have the floor space for a big ol’ bike seat. Other than that, I dig the way the cabinet looks.

In case you couldn’t tell by the content of the above review, I really like Super Bikes 2. It’s the second-to-last in a lineage of Raw Thrills racing games that resonated with me when I was young and continue to do so to this day.

While I still consider Super Cars the pinnacle of the entire Fast and the Furious franchise, Super Bikes 2 is undoubtedly the crown champ of its little subseries. (I’m very curious to see if Super Bikes 3, which offers only eight tracks, will capture that same spirit.)

But yeah, Super Bikes 2 is a superb game. As such, I highly recommend you give it a spin if you ever encounter it in the wild. Considering how prolific it is, you probably won’t encounter many obstacles in that pursuit.

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