Sometimes the simplest ideas hit big. Chase H.Q. is basically Outrun gussied up with a cops and robbers theme. Except instead of pulling them over you instead ram into criminals to cause a fiery wreck that would kill the suspect in the real world. But such is the magic of video games that this simple premise became a huge hit. Big enough in fact to land on almost every possible format at the time. But sometimes a port isn’t enough to warrant a purchase no matter how successful the arcade game was and in this case the game could have used plenty of extra content to fill it out.
Chase H.Q. was a stable series for Taito as it was successful enough to spawn numerous sequels and console exclusive editions. The series was still notable enough to receive one last arcade sequel as recently as 2006, the aptly named Chase H.Q. II, long after the last loosely affiliated game in the series, Ray Tracers for PlayStation. That’s not to be confused with the Genesis game of the same name. The Turbo Grafx port is pretty excellent all things considered and one of the best among the numerous versions of the game. It still can’t overcome the fact that this is an arcade game at heart. That means the game is over in less than half an hour with little reason to revisit it.
It’s almost creepy just how much Chase H.Q. resembles Outrun. I’m not just talking about the car but the roadside detail and environments you are driving in could be pulled straight from Sega’s classic. The similarity was noticed by Sega as they created Battle Outrun for the Sega Master System, which aped the gameplay of Taito’s game. A copy of a one game inspired the original to create a copy of the copy, how often does that happen?
Although the two games look alike in terms of gameplay they are anything but. Chase H.Q. is a simple game when it comes down to it. At the beginning of each mission you are given a target that needs to be chased down. The initial first phase is merely catching up within the time limit, at which point the police light comes on. You are then given extra time to ram their car into submission to “arrest” the suspect. Were it not for that last element this would be near indistinguishable from the typical racing games of the time.
The controls aren’t the greatest considering the simple setup. One button accelerates and one brakes with up/down switching gears. Unfortunately this is finicky and the game won’t respond unless you double tap the button. Shifting gears is crucial to getting back up to speed after you’ve spun out since every second counts. You can lose up to 10 seconds at which point the suspect is so far gone you shouldn’t bother trying.
This is an arcade game at heart which means there were numerous punishing elements designed to drain your quarters. With each new level the amount of time you are given to catch the suspect becomes tighter. By the third stage you really can’t afford to make mistakes. Or at least you wouldn’t normally since the game gives you unlimited continues. Even though you have to get back up to speed with infinite credits it’s just a matter of time until you have the game licked.
And therein lies the problem. Overall Chase H.Q. is incredibly short with only five levels. That’s the perfect length for someone looking to kill time in an arcade or grocery store but for a home release is lacking. Especially when you can brute force your way through it in about 15 minutes. There is a hidden sixth stage but you’ll need to amass over 5 million points to see it. That will require you to go through at least 3 loops and I don’t see anyone going to the trouble.
As a port this version of Chase H.Q. turned out pretty great. But as a game it needs more meat on its bones.