|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
It was without much fanfare that Ocean released Multi-Racing Championship for the Nintendo 64. A patient player may find it worth his time, though.
MRC is a realistic racer, more akin to Cruis'n USA than Mario Kart or F-Zero. It is neither futuristic nor fantastic; there are no power-ups, no items, no nitro boosts, or other extras or gimmicks. It is simply modern-day cars racing along varying versions of three different courses.
As the game is started, what first becomes apparent is the huge number of options. There are several vehicles to choose from, and each can be customized in several areas, including steering, aerodynamics, and transmission. The courses contain many on-road and off-road branches, which can be closed for practice runs. Weather conditions can be set for rain, snow, day, or night. All preferences can be saved to the controller's memory pack, and the top five races and best lap times for each track. No two people will find MRC to be the same game. The multi-player mode is limited to only two players, which is odd for a system that has four controller ports standard.
The control is simple, consisting of analog steering, and gas and brake. Manual transmission also uses buttons to shift up and down. Despite the lack of complexity, the controls may prove to be the most frustrating aspect of MRC. It's not as easy to steer in this game as it is in Mario Kart, a popular title most people are probably used to by now. Turning too little will result in banging into the walls, while too much will produce a fishtail, spinning out of control. The trick is to learn to let up on the gas a bit; the temporary loss in speed will result in a tight turn that'll shoot ahead of the pack. Fighting the road conditions, such as gravelly mountains or icy back roads, is a pain, but such natural circumstances are intended to be difficult. Once the control's mastered, MRC is a much better game than as it initially comes off.
The graphics quality varies from area to area. The backgrounds are great, apparent as hot-air balloons fade into a view than too quickly races past into a shadowy tunnel or a snowy crevasse. The vehicles are blocky and undetailed, but the roads are nicely tiled or gravelled, unlike the flat roads of Mario Kart, although MRC is not as colorful. All this can be seen from three points of view, including from the cockpit. The animation is smooth, unlike Cruis'n USA.
A powerful, pumping soundtrack is always appreciated in a good racer. At equal volume settings for music and sound effects, MRC's tunes are drowned out by the sounds. What music can be heard is decent, and the volume settings can be altered, but this shouldn't be necessary. The sound effects are a notch above the music quality. The announcer speaks often, but his aggravating prompts and useless advice quickly makes him a hated figure.
MRC's challenge is a fun obstacle to overcome. At first, placing tenth out of ten will be common. Yet the turns become easier and the track layouts more familiar with practice, and progression through the rankings will slowly occur. The first few laps give ample opportunity to move up, but an error in the end will often prove fatal.
Multi-Racing Championship does not have a single glaring flaw that renders it unplayable; rather, it seems each aspect it slightly defected. With three Nintendo 64 racers presently available, MRC is neither best nor worst. Gamers owe it to themselves to place MRC in their pole position for at least a few hours.
This article is copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 06-Oct-97