Excitebike — 3Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamefaqs.com

Noth­ing to get excit­ed over

Near­ly every­thing game indus­try leg­end Shigeru Miyamo­to touch­es turns to gold. The key­word there is near­ly. While it might be con­sid­ered blas­phe­mous in some cir­cles to ques­tion the god­like ten­den­cies of Miyamo­to-kamisama, there are some­times valid rea­sons strewn about his resume. Excite­bike is one of those excus­es to point to when some­one says that Miyamo­to is capa­ble of com­mit­ting no wrong in game design.

Excite­bike isn’t a ter­ri­ble game. In fact, it’s one of the bet­ter games to come out of the NES line­up. But that isn’t say­ing much in the long run. Excite­bike takes a sim­ple con­cept and makes a moun­tain out of a mole hill. So much so that if you have no idea how the game works, you’re not going to imme­di­ate­ly fig­ure it out just by rum­bling through a cou­ple of tracks. My per­son­al learn­ing curve stretched from age 8 to age 28, and it was only because I asked some­one about the nuances that I became a bet­ter player.

That’s the thing about Excite­bike, though: I get that it’s a real­ly sim­ple game. You, the dirt bike rid­er, are gift­ed and able to chal­lenge a mul­ti­tude of tracks. You aim for the high­est score, stay off the rough patch­es, use your boost to speed up and attempt to keep your bike lev­el with the course once you make big leaps. That’s the extent of the game. There’s a track edi­tor thrown in for good mea­sure and a sec­ond type of race that’s basi­cal­ly time tri­als. Sim­ple, right? Yes.

And frus­trat­ing. No one knows what I would have giv­en to know that press­ing A rapid­ly when you fall off your bike helps with recov­ery. I would have trad­ed my tiny king­dom in lit­tle old Colum­bia, S.C., to know that. It would have also helped to know that dri­ving over the arrows on the ground reduces bike tem­per­a­ture. Know­ing these two impor­tant pieces of infor­ma­tion might have made a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence in my con­tin­ued career of dirt bike rac­ing. But, alas, that dream went right out of the win­dow with my incli­na­tion to con­tin­ue rent­ing the cart back in the day.

If you want nos­tal­gia and you can appre­ci­ate being forced to learn the ins and outs of dirt bike rac­ing, by all means pop a wheel­ie in Excite­bike. But don’t be sur­prised with the unimag­i­na­tive locales, race lay­out and pen­chant for keep­ing you the play­er in the dark. Sim­ple con­cept? Check. Sim­ple con­trols? Check. Mario cameo? Triple check. But Shigeru Miyamo­to’s genius touch to make the game a bet­ter expe­ri­ence for the unini­ti­at­ed? Nope. That’s still sit­ting in the garage with my dri­ve to play the game as a frus­trat­ed 8‑year-old and now as a more dis­crim­i­nat­ing 32-year-old.