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CONSOLE: Super Famicom (via SuFami Turbo) DEVELOPER: Natsume PUBLISHER: Bandai
RELEASE DATE (JP): August 23, 1996 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Harness your horsepower to fight evil rival bikers. Seems legit.

While North Americans may drool over the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Japanese audiences have been salivating on their rugs for much longer. Super Sentai is an ongoing and constantly refreshing series produced by either Toei or Bandai that focuses on teams of superheroes. It's a major player in the "tokusatsu" game; that is, live action (or drama) with a heavy focus on neat-looking special effects. Super Sentai has been going since 1975, ever since the premiere of Himitsu Sentai Goranger (roughly translated to "Secret Squadron of Five Rangers") and continuing to this day with annual instalments. Super Sentai is also relevant to us because its battle footage was actually "morphed" if you will (Get it? Come on, you get it.) into what we know as the Power Rangers series, just with more sassy teenagers, juice bars, and excessive use of the word "totally".

In order to play this game, you needed to have the SuFami Turbo accessory for the Super Famicom. What? Never heard of it? Let me shed a little light on this mystery. In 1996, Bandai released an accessory that plugged into the Super Famicom and could hold one or two smaller cartridges (about half the width of a typical SNES cartridge). This was a cheaper way for Bandai to produce and release games quickly, and in a surprising move considering their authoritarian business style at the time, Nintendo actually approved this! Who would've thunk it? The dual slots allowed some games to actually link and share data with each other, an idea previously explored with the Game Boy Link Cable and the unreleased link cable for the ill-fated Virtual Boy. Not every game supported this function. There were only 13 games released for the SuFami Turbo, all created by Bandai, the majority of which were based on the Ultraman or Gundam franchise. But there were indeed other unique games, including the aptly-titled Gekisō Sentai Carranger: Zenkai! Racer Senshi.


Unleash your inner Ferrari! (Or, if your skills are sub-par, whip out your Gremlin.)

Gekisō Sentai Carranger is the 20th series in the Super Sentai franchise. As a strange tribute to itself, this series is a parody of what Super Sentai really stands for, although it is still considered an official entry. It involves five teenagers (as usual) who work at a car garage. Somehow they uncover an extraterrestrial being known as Dappu who boasts the ability to use Carmagic, as dictated by five star constellations in the sky shaped like vehicles. Dappu dons upon them the titles of "Carrangers" (Car Rangers? Really?) and requests that they defend the Earth from the onslaught of the Space Bōsōzoku Bowzock, a rebel alien gang who wants to take over the planet. Yep. And they can use the power of fast cars and "RV Mechas". Yep.

Then they turned much of that footage into Power Rangers: Turbo. Citizens rejoiced, kinda.

But we're not talking Turbo. We're talking turkey about Gekisō Sentai Carranger: Zenkai! Racer Senshi, and let me tell you, without pun intended: this is one heck of a ride. It's a side-scrolling action game where, after choosing your Carranger of choice, you get to punch out members of those Space Bowzocks (called Wumpers... who want to impede your path. Wumpers are pretty weak but still somewhat strange. Why do some of them belch purple gas clouds?! We need Dr. Mario in here. Call him up! ...Wha—he's too busy throwin' pills into a plastic bottle to come help out his buddy for an hour or so? Then I regret helping him move!

But are your fists not enough? You might be lucky enough to grab a sword hidden inside a car or street sign. Or, if you're even more lucky, you'll uncover a fast-attacking car for a few seconds, obliterating any enemies on screen. It's a brief adrenaline rush before you run out of Valvoline and have to start punching again. Many of the crazy-looking bosses are pulled right from the show as well, and unless you've seen it before, you're going to think that their designs are absolutely kooky.

And... yes, they are. Need proof?

But your ultimate goal isn't to sock the 'zocks, although that does help make your day a little more pleasant. The parts for your RV Mechas have been stolen... somehow. You have to collect as many cogs as you can so you can revive your RV Robo! By punching various enemies, cars, and even street signs (yeah, they took this car theme a bit too seriously), you can pick up cogs. Fifty cogs ("parts" as they call them, although a robot is generally made from more than simply cogs) will revive one RV Mecha. Once you get all five mechas back, you'll unlock the good ending. Otherwise, the Space Bowzocks will overtake the planet and the game will literally say "BAD END". All that hard work for very little. Sadly, reviving the RV Robo doesn't actually let you play as the mech itself, which is disappointing. It's like having an episode of Power Rangers, showing you the Megazord coming to life, and then rolling the credits. Not cool, Bandai.

The controls are quite responsive, just as I would expect from any Natsume-based brawler. They also created the hip Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers game for SNES, and that one was pretty good as well. Then again, it's hard to mess up a platformer, I suppose...

Oh.

I really enjoy the bright, cartoonish graphics, even if it gives off a vibe as though the game is for children (and in a way, it is — it's not as though the game is impressively challenging). Everything looks very smooth; considering it's a later-generation Super Famicom title, I would expect nothing less. The music is also pretty rockin'; I was halfway over to the local department store to buy an oversized long rocker wig just to play this game before I realized how ridiculous of an idea that was and returned home to instead just headbang. Yes, it's that influential.

If you love flashy beat-'em-ups or just straight-up action platformers, or if you have an unquenchable thirst for all things Super Sentai, put yourself into overdrive and give Gekisō Sentai Carranger a try... if you have a Super Famicom... and a SuFami Turbo... and a copy of the special cartridge... Hmmm, on second thought, this is going to be a far more difficult endeavour than originally imagined.


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