Reviewed in 2013 by Tibe

OMAR SHARIF STRIKES BACK

by Tibe

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After the revolution, well, I'd better say the tremendous earthquake in the gaming world that happened with the release of Stakes Winner in 1995, one could only expect a sequel from the prestigious Saurus, strong on his mountain. Stakes Winner 2 arrives the next year, in a pumped up version with (horse) hormones: no less than 178 megs in the saddlebags! Enough to put a bunch of nags in your Neo Geo, lucky boy! In short, with this new volume, the developers have been imaginative and the least we can say is that the improvements are many. You can still play two simultaneously, and now the game features no less than a dozen different race horses. Some new features also make their appearance in the gameplay, and among these, some are pretty good, as we'll see in the following lines.

Bonus and malus are all around, so anticipate your trajectory!
Bonus and malus are all around, so anticipate your trajectory!

The C button is now triggering a new ability, the 'Burst': unlike in the first Stakes Winner game, our horse now have this new element to take in consideration. It's an energy reserve that can be used for the final sprint. 'Strength' is now replaced by this 'Burst' characteristic, alongside the 'Speed' (top speed) and 'Stamina' (endurance). The A and B buttons keep their previous functions (A for a moderate acceleration, B uses the whip to unleash the full power of the horse). But the biggest addition here are the special moves that the jockey can perform during the races! You will be able to learn those at the 'Jockey Training', available with the bonus stages. These will be very useful during races, triggering overpowered sprints, saving your horse stamina or doing housework in a platoon. Otherwise, trainings for the horse are still included in the game, significantly improving the statistics if you pass the tests. 

The Jockey Training appears in Stakes Winner 2.
The Jockey Training appears in Stakes Winner 2.

Another brand new element bringing more interest is the store: between two races, you can go spend your money at the nice brunette's shop... and this can be helpful! For example, the Aero Suit allows you to increase speed without spending more stamina, the Soft Saddle saves the stamina of the horse during the whole race, the Zapper boosts its acceleration... and the Judges Pardon will have them forget all the sins committed during an event. Latest development, and not least, it's now possible to choose either to try a career in America or in Europe, which offers a new diversity rather welcome. So the gameplay shows a brand new skin, and let's face it, what Stakes Winner 2 is complete and can only arouse the curiosity of adventure /RPG games fevers, with some nice options. In any case, if the two-player mode does not bring much to the action, the story mode for a single player is more worthwhile.

More technical and complex, the races require great strategy.
More technical and complex, the races require great strategy.

The realization has also been refined, with racetracks finely designed and even more varied than before. Sometimes it even rains during the races. The animation has a little improved, with a faster-paced action. Another change that will not harm: the soundtrack! Saurus has completely revised its copy in order to offer a wide variety of themes. And now those fit better the action, with some that are very catchy. Sound effects have also been revamped, in fact, it's all good. Saurus manages to pull Stakes Winner 2 in the category of the 'respectable' weird games. Indeed, if for any 'non-japanese' player, a videogame featuring horse races stands as a real UFO, the fact remains that this SW2 is still an enjoyable title, packing a gameplay more than decent. Of course, nothing to rally the crowds or make KOF and other Metal Slug fans swoon , but it's still a nice try in a genre rather not easy!


GRAPHICS

68%

Game nicely improved since the first one, with more intermediary and presentation screens successful. The courses are more varied and have been partially re-drawn. It's still basic for a Neo Geo, but it looks good.
ANIMATION 79%
SW2 is faster than its grand-brother with scrollings and horses animation, plus more detail too.
SOUND 72%
Saurus started back from zero with a nice new soundtrack, better fitting the action. Tracks are more varied and catchy than before with a quality one notch higher.
REPLAY VALUE 60%
We still can play two simultaneously, with a twelve horses roster and a more fun & longer  story mode. You can now race in Europe or America.
GAMEPLAY 54%
The editor improved it nicely since SW: special moves, special objects to buy, bonus stages, and races more interesting and taking than before. Anyway, this is still very limited, but it's no more that bad.

NEOGEOKULT

RATE

59%
Stakes Winner 2 raises one big step ahead of the first game, whether for the realization or for the gameplay. We're probably here reviewing the number one horse racing videogame, face it!

VALUE FOR MONEY

Ok, the second episode is much better than the first. Note too that it is pretty rare, and still more expensive than Stakes Winner, with a price around 500 euros. Do you love horses enough for that?

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