Our Generations Timeless Classics: ExciteBike
posted by B on 9/09/01
The first image of my ExciteBike article is one of myself locked in a locker, screaming for help down graffiti-ridden hallways. Eastside High wasn't always like this...the bastard bureaucrats on the school board felt that a slight increase in their pay was more important than a serious educator like me showing impressionable young people the joys of playing ExciteBike. I was expendable. Twenty years later I returned to the very place that rejected me, now on a quest to make these children...these Eastside Ghosts, spirits, that rise from the dead, understand that it is not their parents that are keeping them from succeeding...they can't blame the white man anymore. It is their responsibility to THEMSELVES to learn about ExciteBike, and to use it EFFICIENTLY if ever forced to stretch movie references around said game in an introduction to an article based on its exploits. Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm!
The joy of playing ExciteBike after a long absence is comparable to being allowed five minutes alone with a pair of humorously oversized scissors and the original print of "Two Can Play That Game." And trust me, I know what it's like to play a great game! I play more games than the whole NBA!
It is a genetic fact that every person who has ever played ExciteBike loves it like a child. It is not an exceptionally intricate or expectional game by any stretch of the imagination. Motocross, or, more specifically, riding a motorcycle and crashing repeatedly, isn't exactly our national pastime either. Sure, we all think it's awesome with fancy-haired lads like Vanilla Ice (who I hear is back with a brand new invention because something grabbed a hold of him tightly) and the WWF's Jeff Hardy go flying over massive replica anthills and swing their legs around until they crash into another massive replica anthill, but that deals more with our sadistic need to see feminine men do serious damage to their craniums than the sport of it. If Matthew Shepard had been a motocross guy those same homophobic yokels that murdered him would've cheered him on during the X-Games.
Drink Mountain Dew!!
ExciteBike's one of those cheesy old black and white movies about morality that make you smile for no real reason. It was released in the arcades in the Nintendo VS. series in 1984 and subsequently made it's way onto the company's entertainment system home console. This was before game systems had controllers you had to sit on and control like you were wrangling cattle. Do we need the "Z" trigger? And two analog sticks? Back in the day I felt like the freaking King of Siam because I had an "Advantage" controller with a joystick and some big ass buttons on it. The "rapid fire" feature made me want to dance fancy-free around my palace while chastising little bald school children, etc. etc. etc.
Unlike a lot of games of the time, there was no big mission. You just had to drive your bike as fast as possible on a variety of neon colored tracks and win all the races. Picture it like Speed Racer, only you don't have a retarded child and his monkey eating candy in the trunk of your motorbike. The developers for ExciteBike were pioneers in the racing game genre because of two undeniable innovations:
1. Adding a "create your own track" feature on the NES version. I can admit to spending hours creating replicas of places around my town in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 and then skating around on them mindlessly while a half-naked woman hunted and pecked at me, so I hold ExciteBike in high regard. It's fun to make up games to go along with Tony Hawk, like pretending you're listening to RANCID and evading the cops. Nothing compliments a blowjob like screaming "HAHA EAT MY DUST PIG, I'LL NEVER CONFORM TO YOUR RUUUUULES" before sporking all over a disgusted and confused face.
Here I aaaaam...doin EEEEV'rything I caaaan...holdin' OOON to what I AAAAM...pretendin' IIIII'm a superMAAAAAN
2. Bringing strategy into play for racing games. What did we have before ExciteBike? "Rad Racer?" That wasn't any fun, the only things Rad Racer ever did for the world was getting everyone to try that hard ass code where you have to hit the button 250 times and an awesome scene in "The Wizard" where Lucas the bad guy exhibits his proficiency with the PowerGlove. He loves the PowerGlove. It's so bad. Before, racing games were just "try to keep the car on the road until your time is up." ExciteBike played to the sadistic crowd that loved nudging rival bikers with their back wheel and sending them flipping to their doom.
The strategy in ExciteBike was simple but complex, different, yet unique, in it's own way, and not redundant at all in the least bit. The difference between winning and losing (or making or missing your qualifying time) rested on how well you responded to the (at the time) remarkably high jumps. If you landed in a patch of dirt your opponents could zoom by you. Never let Nintendo design your race track or there will be random piles of dirt just sitting around waiting to screw up the racers, and giant obstacles that look like down syndrome T-squares placed illogically in the middle of the road for people to fly off of. I would chalk it up to them just being Japanese, but then I remembered that this is the same company that has forever linked monkeys with barrel throwing so I stuck a fork in my ear and forgot about it.
The custom track feature was a fun way to plot the demise of your little racer. Some of the things you could select for the tracks include:
- Speedbumps. Just like in real life, speedbumps cause careless motorists to fly into the air (often over barns or into piles of hay). In ExciteBike they are the most annoying obstacle because unless you navigate them properly and at half a mile an hour your bike goes flipping end over end. Actually, thanks to the wonders of 8-bit Nintendo EVERY wreck you have sends your bike flipping end over end.
- Speed arrows. The idea here is to prevent overheating. After flooring your bike for a few seconds of normal bike noise, the high pitched SCREEEEE warned that you were pushing too hard...if you overheat, the bike crashes. Running over a little army stripes looking arrow on the road instantly cools your engine off and allows you to keep going the extra speed. It's really handy if you manage to hit them, but most of the time you fly right past them and shout obscenities, and then you crash. The upside to it, though, is that in the custom track you can put as many speed arrows down as you want. I love putting dozens of them all together right at the beginning of the track to patronize the little guy.
- Ramps. These make your rider fly way up into the air, so you can show off. This is only notable and fun when combined with...
Track design by H.R. Geiger
- Giant Wacky Obstacles. Normally they're just a headache, but when coupled with a ramp can be magic in pixels. Hit the ramp going full speed and fly headfirst into the wacky obstacle, and your rider flips end over end for like five minutes until he hits the ground. Besides, what self-respecting racing game can boast any kind of realism if the best drivers aren't killing themselves? It's like making a Freddie Prinze Sr. game without a gaping head wound.
The two most satisfying things about the game are the opening music and the victory screen. The opening song makes you want to strap on some German undergarments and dance around your bedroom slappin' your knee. Then you realize how sad it is that you're dancing to Nintendo music and hide your shame, until much later in life when you and your friends start a punk/ska band to cover said Nintendo music. This makes you COOL, because, as a wise man once said, "It's Hip to be Square!"
Click HERE to Download the Excitebike music! Rock like Amadeus! The music that will change your life.
The victory screen differs a bit in the arcade and NES versions. The only real difference is that the home console version was designed and produced by a group of orange midgets hired to do Nintendo's dirty work. It turns out Howard Phillips was giving these lucky kids a tour of the grounds, and one of the kids played ExciteBike when he wasn't supposed to and turned into a giant blueberry. So now whenever you win the race in the home version you see a goofy victory dance with the opening music and an eye-molesting blue background. No game can be completely perfect. Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he'd ever wished for.
He lived happily ever after.
This is the part of my article where the evil PTA wench begins unraveling my article from the inside, because I made a crack about her being on welfare and pissed her off. She can be played by Chief Lynne Thigpen. She'll tell me that ExciteBike really isn't that good of a game, and it's nostalgia and nostalgia only that allows me to remember it as being so fantastic. She will precociously remind me that the game kinda gets old after the first 20 minutes, once you've advanced to the uglier, greener stages and the computer starts cheating and running you off the road like it was programmed by Halle Berry. Then she'll point a finger at me to remind me that I have better things to do with my time than sit around remembering all the fun I had playing video games. I feel sad whenever I talk to the chief. At least she gave me this Carmen Sandiego watch so I won't go home empty handed, because even though I didn't win I was still a great detective.
If I could force my high school to hold hands and sing the praises of ExciteBike I would. I guess I'm from a different school of "hardcore gaming." I don't spend my weeks plotting to hook my computer up with air conditioners around it so my Diablo II expansion works properly and I won't have to endure the horror of thinking about my relationships with girls while it's loading. My memories of "hardcore gaming" was figuring out how to convince my Mom that I had a cold so I could stay home from school and finish my season in Baseball Stars. Which, by the way, is the best baseball game ever. Ninja Black Sox 4 Life!!!111
Sorry Dave, we're just not big fans of your batting.
So for as long as the Nintendo sits in my closet, sadly waiting for me to blow in it again and curse it for not working (possibly accompanied by a sad Sarah McLachlan song) like I used to, I will hold the memories of ExciteBike in my heart. When I was lonely, it was there to dry my tears, and when it was happy so was I. :'(
In the category of "Nostalgic Racing Game that is Really Great But Probably Not as Great as I Remember It," ExciteBike is better than:
It's so bad. Like the PowerGlove.
But not nearly as good as...
Super Mario Kart
The only competitive racing game to give me more joy.
That's a big compliment. Who says we never say anything positive around here! Let's end this with a song, shall we?Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on.
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don't let show
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on...
MISTA CLARK MISTA CLARK THEYS DRUG DEALERS IN THE CAFETERIA!
ROM Click Here to download the ROM version of Excitebike...FROM JAPAN. OF DOOM.
Special thanks go out to Tom with Two M's, for getting images of the Care Bears Movie because I forgot to thank him way back when. I love you Tommmy!!123
Much love to AMC Dave as well for help with the Excitebike images.
Also, the biggest thanks goes out to my Principal Mr. Clark. MISTA CLARK DONT PLAY!!