Did you know that Excitebike was one of the first console racing games to come with a track editor? It's true. And it's back, as part of Nintendo's new Classic NES Series, which is devoted to releasing 8-bit NES games on the Game Boy Advance. This port of the original NES motocross game is true to the original, making it a solid choice for nostalgia buffs. It even manages to save your track designs, which is something that didn't work in the original US release of the game. However, if you aren't on a heavy nostalgia kick, the $20 price tag is pretty steep.
Excitebike is a really simple game. The two buttons are used to accelerate. The B button gets you going faster than the A button will, but it will also generate heat. If your onscreen heat meter fills up, that means your bike has overheated and you'll have to take a quick break to let it cool down. Aside from regulating your engine temperature, you'll also have to make sure you land on your wheels. The five tracks in Excitebike are full of jumps, bumps, mud pits, and other obstacles. Making sure you land squarely on both wheels will keep your speed up. The four-lane track can be ridden alone or with other computer-controlled racers to get in your way. Though there are other racers on the track, your only goal is to beat the clock. You'll have to beat one of the top three times to stay in the game. To be honest, making sure you do that isn't exactly difficult.
The track designer lets you choose from any of the prefabricated pieces that are used on the other tracks. You can drop them in any order you please. As stated previously, the game lets you save your track design, which is something the original NES version wouldn't do, even though it had options for saving and loading tracks in the game menu. These options were left over from the Japanese version of the game; it came as a disk for the Famicom Disk System, which had plenty of free space for your track designs. On the GBA, you can store one track.
In the graphics and sound department, it's difficult to ask for more than what Excitebike gives. Sure, it isn't much to look at when compared to modern standards, but that isn't really the game's goal. It delivers the same look and sound as the NES original, from the screaming whine of an engine about to overheat to the beeping noise that plays when you complete a lap. The only noticeable difference is that onscreen text in the game looks a little squashed, as the game's aspect ratio had to be changed around a bit to get it onto a Game Boy Advance display.
Overall, Excitebike is a solid trip down memory lane for fans of the original NES game. But is that trip worth $20? Probably not. If Excitebike had been part of a larger compilation of NES classics, it would be much more welcome. Standing on its own, however, it seems like a little more than you'd want to pay for a short burst of nostalgia.