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RELEASE DATE (JP): July 26, 1991 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Super Cario Land.

Cars are excellent machines. They get us from one location to another in a faction of the time it would take to walk instead. They help us move goods in a more efficient manner. They are a connection point between friends on a Saturday night. They can even provide shelter from the elements if circumstances require it.

But cars can become superior if they could only jump — a sort of Übermercedes, if you will.

And no, I'm not talking about those bouncing Oldsmobiles you see in rap videos from 2002. I'm talking about Banishing Racer, a 1991 Japan-exclusive Game Boy title from Jaleco, the company known for such impeccable hits as the Bases Loaded series, Ninja JaJaMaru-kun, and the never-quite-forgotten Astyanax. But this game reminds me of none of those things.

I banish this racer to the land of the mighty casinos!

There isn't much text to read in Banishing Racer, and what few words are available are in English (making this a very import-friendly cart for those so are so globally inclined). This does, however, make the backstory a bit difficult to understand, as there is no text whatsoever to guide ANYONE along, Japanese or otherwise. So, I'm going to interpret what I can from the little cutscene. One night, under a starry sky, a car with eyes in a junkyard drops a tear (presumably from the gas tank) and, after wishing on a shooting star, makes a giant fairy appear. She blinks at him, waves her magic wand, and magically transforms the dilapidated car into a magnificent shiny new vehicle... who then drives to the United States. Maybe he's going to locate his lost owner and run him or her down for abandonment.

The game really DOES take him through various locales in the U.S., including San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, and Denver. ...wait, DENVER?! Why is there a video game taking me through the supposedly mean streets of Denver, Colorado? Just what manifestations of trouble are going down in Denver?!

Banishing Racer is very short. Expert players with serious platforming game experience can probably whip through this one within an hour's time. Thanks, Jaleco, for that longevity. That being said, it's not as though the game is a total cakewalk. In fact, there is no walking on cakes to be had. The initial few stages are pretty standard fare with no major difficulty: your car buddy, who from here on in I'll be referring to as "Nedward", shows off his basic move set of driving forward, dashing with a poof of exhaust, and jumping upon other cars to knock them out. That's pretty much all that Nedward can do in most stages. The second level (and a few others in the game) actually switches things up by giving Nedward wings and letting him fly to the end.

Hold on another moment! So now we not only have a jumping car, but a flying one, too?! Flying cars?! So this is basically the Jetsons, just Japanese style. It's a shame I can't figure out a clean way to combine the words "Jaleco" and "Jetsons" to make a pun about this situation. Jalesons. See? I failed.

Initial stages are deceptively short and simple; even the boss battles don't quite illustrate how rough this game can get at certain times. Your goal is always the same: stomp on some trucks with eyeballs and get to the GOAL sign. Oh, wait, sorry: the "GO AL" sign. This Al guy must be quite popular.

But later stages require more precise jumping and have cruel enemy placement. One level has you hopping across moving platforms to avoid drowning in a river and becoming the new location of a fish school for a school of fish. Sounds easy, but considering you're a CAR, its challenge heightens somewhat, especially since the controls are fairly tight but just floaty enough to be noticeable. Oh, and the stage after that one has our pal Nedward swimming underwater anyway, just with a snorkel. And with this comes two more questions: Why does a car need a snorkel, and how effective is a snorkel when you're swimming far below the water's surface?

I think the strangest (and the most difficult by far) world is the final one, and I say this for two reasons. First off is the last level, which auto-scrolls, forcing you to move quickly while avoiding enemies, hopping on platforms without delay, and not getting stuck behind walls as the screen scrolls onward. It's the only auto-scrolling level in the game, and it's the lowest on the fun scale. But the second reason is because of 5-2. Yes, it's odd enough that you're a car with sentience, but is it even more unusual that you're in a long subway tunnel where giant turtles with nunchuks (typically four at a time) pop out of nowhere and pummel you. I'm not sure what's more humorous: the fact that there's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles homage in a platformer about jumping cars, or that the turtles look like they were drawn by a 5-year-old.

At least the rest of the game looks decent — in fact, it's quite good for an early generation Game Boy game. That's not saying a ton, but it is impressive enough. It's clear the developer was going for a comical look. Or at least I hope so. Otherwise, it might be embarrasing. Nedward has more sprites than I would have expected, notably himself looking up and down diagonally as he jumps in that direction. The music is easily forgettable and a tad gratingly chipper at times (and, in certain cases, non-existent just to give you that minimalist sensation).

Good ol' Banishing Racer. You're not a terrible game, but the concept of a leaping Buick was just too bizarre for anyone outside of Japan to comprehend and accept as entertainment. It doesn't appear as though the 3DS Virtual Console will be launching this title any time soon, so it looks as though, at least for now, this racer will forever be banished into obscurity.

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