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Virtually Overlooked: Excitebike variants


Jerry "Tycho Brahe" Holkins and Mike "John Gabriel" Krahulik took the stage at the final round of the PAX 2008 Omegathon and introduced the climactic final game, which would decide which of two Omeganauts would win a trip to the Tokyo Game Show, cash, and a collection of customized, PAX-logo-emblazoned consoles. Last year, two Omeganauts vied for the prize in a round of Halo 3, which had yet to be released in stores. Everyone in attendance anticipated a similar surprise for this year's final round. The two competitors were introduced, and then the cartoonists/hosts unveiled the secret game that would be the arena for the final battle.

It was Vs. Excitebike. After some Famicom Disk System fiddling, the flashing Vs. Excitebike logo appeared on the giant projector screen. The crowd exploded.

We'd totally pay five bucks for that. Or even six.

Vs. Excitebike is precisely what it sounds like: a version of the classic sidescrolling motorcycle racer with multiplayer. Two players can compete in the "Vs. Excite" mode after choosing the number of rounds and the track. Being a Famicom Disk System game, and thus blessed with the rewritable memory that the original cartridge did not, Vs. Excitebike also allows players to save tracks. Imagine it, if you can: designing your best Excitebike track ever (made entirely of cooling strip M and awesome ramp H), then racing on it with another kid, then doing so again. Later. The impact of the track-saving ability has been reduced somewhat by the Virtual Console version of Excitebike, which also features this capability, but those of us who had the NES cartridge and tried to use its useless save feature will realize what a revelation this is.

Even more exciting is the rare Super Famicom iteration of Excitebike, released only via the Satellaview satellite download service. Basically a Mario Kart-ized version of Excitebike, ExciteBike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium was released in a serial format which added a new racer and track to the game in every iteration.

In this game, Mario and friends race dirt bikes in the Mushroom Kingdom, picking up coins and mushrooms to increase speed and reduce engine temperature. Picking up enough coins triggers a "super" mode in which turbo never causes the bike to overheat. Aside from that, some Mario Kart 64 voice samples, and the addition of minigames, it's Excitebike! But isn't that enough?

Nintendo's sitting on all these cool Satellaview/Disk System remakes or expansions of their most popular systems, when they could be simultaneously making a lot of fans of their biggest franchises happy and preserving some really interesting history. It's as easy as a ROM dump! Hudson seems to get it. Maybe Nintendo will one day!

Virtually Overlooked is a weekly feature that spotlights games that aren't yet on the Virtual Console, but should be. Want more Virtually Overlooked? Check out the first year!

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