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3D Super Hang-On Review: Turning an OK Game Into an Amazing Experience

Sometimes, it's all about the presentation.

Review by Jeremy Parish, .

Unlike the other 3D Classic remake Sega published last week for 3DS (3D Space Harrier), Super Hang-On doesn't really hold a place in the upper ranks of classic video game canon. Where Space Harrier always shows up in lists of must-play Sega classics, Super Hang-On is practically forgotten.

It's not hard to understand why; with its chunky, scaling sprites, Space Harrier was like nothing anyone had ever played before (well, besides After Burner). Super Hang-On, by comparison, was pretty much just a Pole Position clone with motorcyles. Sega traveled well-trod territory with this one, offering a modest graphical embellishment to the formula done first by Irem's Mach Rider and more thrillingly with their own Outrun.

No, the real appeal of Super Hang-On came from the limited edition version's arcade cabinet, which took the form of a motorcycle-shaped seat that tilted as you raced, just like a real bike. Pitching left and right as you leaned into a turn helped a fairly straightforward racing game transcend its mundanity to become a thrilling physical experience. Even the more standard upright version of the game managed to offer a superior thrill with its handlebar controllers. Unfortunately, the sheer physicality of Super Hang-On's arcade incarnation simply didn't translate into a compelling console game, forever dooming a giddy coin-op title to a future reputation as a second-tier home version.

Until M2 came along, that is. Somehow, the studio that has evolved into Sega's personal archival team managed to come about as close to recreating the complete arcade Super Hang-On experience on a standard console. And not just any console! A handheld, of all things.

It sounds contradictory, but the portability of of the 3DS platform is precisely what makes it so perfectly suited to emulating (or at least, imitating) the physicality of the Super Hang-On cabinet. By combining gryoscopic sensors with a tilt-capable inset screen design, M2's 3DS rendition of this old coin-op manages to convey the head-tilting, body-shifting insanity of the "true" version of Super Hang-On. Unlike previous console ports, which simply reproduced the game graphics, the 3D Classics version attempts to recreate the essential feel of playing Super Hang-On.

You can tweak the game's presentations to a number of different formats -- an M2 tradition -- and among those many permutations is the ability to enable gyroscopic controls and scale the screen graphics down to a windowed view that places the action within a frame designed to resemble the arcade cabinet. When you corner, the frame actually tilts along with the inset graphics, imitating the way your body leans to control the bike on the special edition arcade cabinet. You can elect to deactivate gryoscopic controls, but turning them on creates a truly unique 3DS sensation. Suddenly, you feel like you're playing the arcade game, not a feeble reproduction of it.

While the fundamental gameplay of Super Hang-On remains unchanged, as you scream down the road trying to hit checkpoints to extend play time before the clock runs down, the essence of this loving 3DS recreation transforms it from mediocre racer into gripping, visceral arcade action. Add in a bevy of other options, from the basic (difficulty selections) to the nuanced (racer data recording) and what you have is perhaps the finest-ever example of how to dredge up a forgotten game from the dustbin of history and make it into a showcase in interface design... and a heck of a lot of fun, to boot.

I never particularly cared for the Hang-On series, having been largely familiar with the unimpressive console versions, but 3D Super Hang-On is more than a mere port. It's a piece of loving craftsmanship, an attempt to translate the ephemeral qualities of a bygone arcade racer into a must-play title. Even if you don't enjoy the game itself, everything that surrounds it demonstrates the importance of imagination and passion in video game preservation and design. You wouldn't think your 3DS could emulate a fancy sit-down arcade cabinet effectively, but you'd be wrong.

Even if you don't enjoy the game itself, everything that surrounds it demonstrates the importance of imagination and passion in video game preservation and design. You wouldn't think your 3DS could emulate a fancy sit-down arcade cabinet effectively, but 3D Super-Hang On proves you wrong.

4 /5

3D Super Hang-On Review: Turning an OK Game Into an Amazing Experience Jeremy Parish Sometimes, it's all about the presentation. 2013-12-04T23:59:00-05:00 4 5

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for Folkenhellfang #1 Folkenhellfang 3 years ago
    I don't like feeling like if I don't buy a game I have years of proof of not ever liking that we won't get the next round of 3D classics.
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  • Avatar for pashaveliki #2 pashaveliki 3 years ago
    @Folkenhellfang well there are multiple games in the series so you can pick and choose.
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  • Avatar for pashaveliki #3 pashaveliki 3 years ago
    I think Nintendo should just hand the keys to the archive over to M2 and say, "Virtual Console is all yours. Do what you will."
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  • Avatar for orient #4 orient 3 years ago
    Playing with the gyro didn't even enter my mind for some reason, despite using the screen tilt. Now I need to test it out. Fantastic port.
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  • Avatar for novo1858 #5 novo1858 3 years ago
    Space harrier 3D is the best port of an arcade game I Have ever played with the inclusion of cabinet emulation. When I get bored with that one I will be picking this one up as well. This is the future of emulation, I applaud you M2.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #6 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @pashaveliki That is absolutely correct. M2's work shames Nintendo's half-hearted attempts.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #7 Thusian 3 years ago
    Hope quite a few eShop cards land my way at Christmas so I can fill up on goodies. I want these Sega goodies and I haven't even gotten to steamworld dig yet.
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  • Avatar for raymondfernandes09 #8 raymondfernandes09 3 years ago
    I'm foaming at the mouth for more of these. The Nintendo ones were a bit half baked with the exception of Kid Icarus and, surprisingly, Urban Champion.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #9 Sturat 3 years ago
    I love M2's ports, but I prefer their sequels. Fantasy Zone IIDX was amazing, and the Rebirth games on Wii were very good considering their presumably small budgets.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #10 DiscordInc 3 years ago
    I concur with the review. I knew of Super Hang-On, but never thought of it more than another arcade racing game with fancy sprites. The quality an effort put into Space Harrier 3D convinced me to give it a try to see they could change my mind, and I was blown away.

    Also worth mentioning is that the Sega Blog site is running a series of interviews with M2 that go over the development of each Sega classics title. They really show the care that they took in each of these games, when they could have just have easily done quick ports.

    http://blogs.sega.com/category/sega-3d-classics/

    I'd love to see other developers take note when they port their classic titles. This is easily the closest we're gotten to a Criterion-style treatment of a game, and it'd be great to see more retro releases get this level of polish.

    Also, if you're still not convinced about 3D Super Hang-On at least look up Outride a Dream on Youtube. That track is fantastic and one of the few songs I could listen to forever, even though I wasn't familiar with it previously.
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