After over 8 years away from Nintendo, the Asphalt series makes a solid return showcasing this series has tons of potential to still be a force. Previously, Asphalt 9: Legends was available on smartphones which makes the Nintendo Switch version the sole console port of the title. The question that remains is whether the series can adapt back to console gameplay and move away from the microtransactions and paywalls which developed during its various releases on mobile platforms. At this time, Asphalt hasn’t overcome this barrier, but they’ve still managed to bring one of the top five Arcade Racers available on the Switch currently.
Ready, Set, GO
Jumping right into it, the gameplay of Asphalt 9: Legends is very fun. If you sit this game in front of most people, they’ll be able to get right into the action which these types of arcade-style racing games are all about. The controls for Asphalt 9: Legends translate seamlessly onto Nintendo Switch. Your default controls are acceleration and breaking on the right and left shoulder buttons, respectively. The left joycon’s analogue stick is used for steering and the “Y” button is used for nitro boosts which briefly speed you up. Those controls make for a comfortable experience however, you can alter them in the menu. Another accessible control scheme is the TouchDrive option, which allows you to worry less about steering and more about the action by handling it for you. TouchDrive gives casual and younger players a chance to get into the race without worrying about drifting mechanics and shifting their focus back into the overall gameplay experience.
Asphalt features multiple modes such as My Career which is the solo campaign mode and Quick Race, another solo mode with various challenges. Asphalt 9 plays its hand well in showing that it is a mobile game but with a hefty amount of content. In My Career, you have 71 different campaigns which each have around 10 or more races with numerous requirements to accomplish in order to receive flags that unlock even more races. The requirements range from pulling off 3-second-long Nitro boosts, to pulling off stunts, and just simply winning the race. Each race is intense and may require specific vehicles. Those vehicles are unlockable using blueprints which you obtain through completing missions, buying packs in the store, and other daily event tasks. Additionally, you can obtain new vehicles by using tokens to buy card packs, but this is where the game quickly reminds you that it’s a mobile experience first and foremost.
Pay to Play?
Starting off in My Career, you may want to do races back to back but there’s a limit on how many races you can do before having to recharge which is standard for mobile games such as Clash of Clans. This is singlehandedly one of the strongest detractors from Asphalt 9 since, you can’t campaign through the game and unlock new cars; you’ll end up shifting to modes such as daily events and Quick Races (which both have limits as well). Being constrained in this way hurts the gameplay and doesn’t lend itself to feeling like you’re playing a console game. The only other reminders that it’s a console release come from the Split-Screen mode which takes you back to the days of Burnout and Need for Speed games dominating the industry. Having those experiences flash by during Asphalt 9: Legends allows players to see the potential for the series when it isn’t constrained into micro-transactions.
Similarly, the gameplay does harken back to the fast-paced, intense races, and stunts from Burnout and Need for Speed’s earlier releases in the 2000s. In Asphalt, you’re able to hit fun flips and 360s on multiple ramps throughout a variety of maps. Also, each map has so many alternate routes, you’ll become obsessed with trying them all out and seeing which brings you to the finish line the fastest. Having these somewhat expansion maps allows the game to truly stay fresh, despite the fact you’re racing on the same map multiple times but accomplishing different objectives and missions on them.
Cruising with the Radio On
Jetting through each map, you’ll have somewhat unremarkable music playing the background, but the tempo and style of the music does keep the theme of the game. However, it would have been nice in this area to see tracks that reflect the area in the world you’re racing through. Inside the menus, you’ll enjoy some recognizable tracks from artists such as The Score (which is surprising considering this was a mobile game). Everything sonically seems in place for Asphalt 9 and doesn’t distract or take away from the experience.
Asphalt 9: Legends is a solid racing game and it was a wise choice to take the leap on to the Nintendo Switch and try expanding its audience. The series seems to be ready made for console releases and is visually stunning for a port of a mobile game. The only thing holding the series back is the remnants of its smartphone origins such as all the purchasing features from tokens to blueprints. There’s a strong chance if this series can shed more of its mobile exterior, it could be a mainstay on consoles going forward and truly build itself up to be one of the top tier racing experiences available on modern consoles.
Genre Newbie – This is a great game to at least try given the accessible controls and quick nature of races. There’s a free version available on eShop so, you can try it out before committing fully.
Genre Veteran – This game is worth your time if you can ignore some of the more bothersome microtransactions which may slow down your campaign mode progression.
Note: A review copy of the title was provided for this review by the publisher.