Rider’s Spirits (XSX) Review

Shinyuden and Ratalaika Games deserve credit and recognition as they have been on a hot streak of re-releasing forgotten retro games on modern consoles. Available for the first time in the West, their latest release is another Masaya classic called Bike Daisuki! Hashiriya Kon, better known as Rider’s Spirits, a 16-bit Super Famicom original.

As a quick summary, Rider’s Spirits is basically Mario Kart but with motorcycles, a weird cast of playable bikers, and a lacking weapon system. In fact, this motorbike racer plays, looks, and even sounds so much like Nintendo’s original title that it feels like a rom hack of the first Mario Kart title.

From the sprite work to the way the Mode 7 split screen gameplay moves and rotates, everything plays almost identical to Mario Kart. The only difference visually is that the always-split screen gameplay displays a constant rear-view mirror perspective instead of a zoomed out real time map. When playing in Time Trial mode, each track is displayed with beautifully rendered 3D rotation that looks impressive here in 2024.

Instead of being categorized as 50cc/100cc/150cc difficulties, each set of tracks is basically organized as beginner, medium, and hard. However, there is an annoying barrier of entry. To access the later tracks, players must place first in the opening circuit to unlock the next batch.  Unfortunately, I was unable to gain access to the last batch of tracks due to the crazy difficulty spikes. No matter how well I played, I just couldn’t finish with anything higher than fourth place. All the Achievements are simply tied to completing a race on each track, regardless of finishing position. But in order to play the later tracks, you need to best the initial tracks, which is way more difficult than it needs to be thanks to the brutal AI.

Completing the Mario Kart-like presentation is the soundtrack. Each musical track is catchy and way better than it should be and reminds me of the Mario Circuit or Koopa Beach themes. In a way, the upbeat and cartoony soundtrack is so good, it feels out of place when paired with the grizzly motorbike racers. Also, the better you play, the worse this game sounds. The problem is, the hum of the engine gets to be so loud, it is off putting and distracting. Like the other retro Ratalaika releases, there is no option to adjust volume levels in the options menu either. However, the emulation features found in the other releases are here including save states and package/instruction manual scans. Granted, these scans are all in Japanese so there is no chance of gaining knowledge by reading them.

In addition to the unfair AI, Rider’s Spirits lacks the fun weapon system found in the Mario Kart games. So, there is a weapon system, because the controller map on the main menu says that “Y” switches weapons and LT unleashes the weapon, but these buttons do nothing in-game. Tapping “Y” switches between fists and a face icon during gameplay, but then tapping LT doesn’t do anything. There are no weapon boxes to drive over like in Mario Kart so the player has no instruction how to use or initialize weapons. Weapons are in the game because I collided with grenades that were placed on the ground by AI opponents, but the player just doesn’t have access to these items that would make the game more fun. And if I am simply doing something wrong, well, the game never explains how the weapon system works other than maybe in the un-translated instruction manual scan.

Unfortunately, I am torn with Rider’s Spirits. On one hand, I am happy to see this game get a Western release and I feel like fans of the original Mario Kart would be interested in playing this motorbike version of such a classic game. On the other hand, the sharp difficulty spikes, annoying engine hum, and confusing weapon system doesn’t do the fun factor any favors. At the end of the day, replaying Mario Kart on the SNES Switch Online app or on the SNES Classic mini console is preferred in comparison to this release, but it is still really cool that Ratalaika is revitalizing some deep cuts. Personally, I am very much looking forward to whatever comes next.

SCORE: 5/10

Don’t Forget About: the re-release of Moto Roader MC

Also Try: Mario Kart Super Circuit’s single-pak link multiplayer mode

Wait For It: the next Shinyuden re-release

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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