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.