Due to hardware limitations, it's impossible to directly transform a 32-bit 3D racing title into an 8-bit 2D Game Boy Color game. However, a respectable attempt is possible, provided the handheld release contains a good combination of skilled developers, old-school gameplay, and adequate visual homage to the original work. Codemasters' Micro Machines and Infogrames' Wacky Races are great examples of how the feel of a console racer can be miniaturized into a successful handheld game. Containing ten tracks, five cars, a password system, and a top-down racing viewpoint, Midway's San Francisco Rush 2049 seeks to join the elite crowd of 3D to 2D conversions.
As far as homage goes, the Game Boy Color port of Rush 2049 contains a number of futuristic tracks, each with its own unique smattering of shortcuts and pitfalls, just like in the Dreamcast release. Similar to its big brother, you need to complete earlier courses with a certain rank to unlock later ones. In your search for first place, there are five bizarre vehicles to choose from, each of which handles differently from the rest. The purple car excels at cornering, while the yellow and orange cars exude speed. As you race, you can grab speed boosts to give you a slight edge and collect bonus coins to unlock a few unadvertised secrets.
Unfortunately, the similarities that the Game Boy Color version of Rush 2049 shares with its console brother end with the above. Visually, aurally, and in terms of gameplay, there's nothing good about this version of Rush 2049. The game's three-quarter, top-down, isometric-style viewpoint mimics Codemasters' Micro Machines, but the jagged track lines and muddled colors aren't appealing. It is impressive how the game has a 3D look, but the shock value diminishes quickly once you get used to bridges, signs, and other items blocking your view. Sonically, the engine sounds lack variety, the crashes are weak, and the background music doesn't even come close to resembling the catchy tunes of the console release. Digitized speech snippets, such as "3-2-1, rush!" add some semblance of respect to the equation, but not much. As far as control goes, Rush 2049 further mimics Micro Machines in that the direction you steer depends on the way your car is pointing. However, the game tends to randomly center your car in varying degrees without any obvious explanation as to why. Oversteer is also a problem, but worse than that, the game has some bugs that exacerbate the problem. Sometimes, your car will fly off the track or get stuck on walls for no apparent reason. Combine this with CPU AI that always has the ability to drive 20mph faster than you and never deviates from a set pattern, and Rush 2049's feeling isn't one of homage, but one of frustration.
Ultimately, the GBC release of San Francisco Rush 2049 is Rush in name only. Some slack must be given for the graphical alterations required to bring the title across, but no amount of lowered expectations explains away the rest. The game doesn't play like Rush, it doesn't sound like Rush, and most importantly, it doesn't feel like Rush. People seeking a good top-down handheld racer should pick up Micro Machines instead. Those seeking a good handheld version of Rush should simply save their pennies.