R.C. Pro-Am is one of the early innovators of vehicular combat games. It's got quite a lot of play in our house and for a very straightforward concept, this has very high replay value. There's a good chance that almost anyone who had an NES (or knew a friend who did) has either owned or seen someone play R.C. Pro-Am at some point in the late 80's and is a staple of an NES library.
Developed by Rare in 1988, R.C. Pro-Am places you at the helm of a radio controlled car facing off against three other R.C. vehicles of different colors. It was one of the titles that put the U.K. based Rare on the map on an international scale. The game uses an isometric point of view and it does a great job of capturing the speed and action. The courses (24 of them in total) have hazards like oil slicks, steel walls, and puddles of water that hinder your speed. The controls are pretty simplistic, left and right on the d-pad turns, and (A) fires any weapons you pick up. Bombs and rockets, specifically.
As mentioned, this lays the foundation for vehicular combat games like Rock-n-Roll Racing, Mario Kart, and Twisted Metal. Pro-Am may be a single player game, but the competition the CPU provides can get rather fierce as the levels advance. Throughout the courses, there's upgrades for your ride that beef up your variables. With the action whipping around as fast as it is, it's remarkable that I can snag them while focusing on a race. Also throughout the tracks are letters that spell out "Nintendo". acquiring the letters will upgrade your R.C. car to a new model. This resets the attributes you just picked up and you start from the beginning, however, but the new car has improved feats. I don't believe picking up the letters are necessarily required for completing the game, but there is a sense of progression in doing so.
There's such a strong sense of competitiveness in R.C. Pro-Am because unlike the later installments of Mario Kart, there's no rubber band difficulty. This game requires some pretty good skill and adheres to some physics that makes racing at high speeds never feel too fast or completely out of control. There's drifting and hitting the banks at just the right angle to get in on opponent's lane, for lack of a better term. Hit a turn too hard, your car will careen into a barrier or the grass and be totaled for a second, which is just long enough to lose your place. If you expect the weapons to bail you out, they'll buy you a good two seconds or so to grab a lead, but don't count on them to be an end-all be-all.
R.C. Pro-Am is so approachable while offering some great depth, it's one of the most addictive NES games on the console. Perfect controls, great visuals, good music (produced by David Wise. So if you enjoyed the great OST of Donkey Kong Country, he's the man to thank), R.C. Pro-Am incorporates elements necessary for a guaranteed quality video game that will take up a lot of your time. The only thing it's missing is a 2-Player mode, but its sequel fixed that. Radio control car enthusiasts will certainly get a kick out this, I'm sure.