Horizon Chase, a retro, low-poly arcade racer that’s been available on everything from smartphones to PC for years now, will gain an Ayrton Senna-themed expansion on October 20. Called Senna Forever, the update includes generic old-school Formula 1 cars with familiar liveries, and simplified takes on tracks like Suzuka, Interlagos, Monaco and the Detroit street circuit that staged some of Senna’s most stunning drives.
Senna Forever will include its own campaign mode split into five chapters taking the player through moments in Senna’s career, according to Traxion. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Ayrton Senna Institute.
It might seem odd to pair a cartoony racer where you’re picking up coins and fuel with perhaps the most internationally beloved racing driver of all time, but there’s a very good reason for it: Brazil.
I’ll explain, but before I do, I implore you to watch the trailer that Aquiris Game Studio, Horizon Chase’s developer, just dropped for the expansion:
Look, I’m not one who likes to celebrate ads, but damn if that one isn’t a tear-jerker. The key to understanding why this partnership is so perfect is that, besides Senna, one of the biggest cultural forces in Brazil in the early ’90s was a game called Top Gear for Super Nintendo. (No, it’s not related to the auto media empire.)
I’d always known Top Gear was popular in Brazil, but I never understood the extent of that popularity until I happened across a blog on Destructoid by a Brazilian writer named Nior. The retrospective, clearly penned by someone who experienced the game’s impact on the local culture first hand, crystallizes Top Gear’s significance better than I ever could. Take “Las Vegas” for example, the standout tune on Top Gear’s soundtrack. Of it, Nior writes:
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this song is the single most popular element of the entire game and it is to Brazil what Super Mario’s theme is to Japan. It opens with a flaming fast arpeggio that became synonymous with Top Gear and there is not a single Brazilian alive that doesn’t recognize those notes.
I’m not Brazilian and I’ve played Top Gear maybe twice, but even I recognize that arpeggio and know I’ve heard it lifted in at least a dozen vaporwave songs since. “Las Vegas” is so ubiquitous in Brazil that one time a guitarist even played it live on a talk show over there. Wouldn’t you know that when Aquiris, a Brazilian studio, decided to make Horizon Chase as a modern take on Top Gear, it hired Top Gear composer Barry Leitch to lend the proper vibe.
So you understand that Top Gear was very important to Brazil; of course I don’t need to tell you how important Senna was to Brazil. I can’t explain why Top Gear became so big, but Nior believes Senna positively impacted the game’s success. That doesn’t seem like a stretch. After all, it was Sega’s Brazilian importer Tectoy that connected Senna with Nintendo’s rival and offered the three-time champ’s likeness to Super Monaco GP II, which released the very same year as Top Gear in 1992.
Top Gear was just a little before my time, but I have fond memories of its Nintendo 64 sequels, Top Gear Rally and Top Gear Overdrive. I enjoyed what I played of Horizon Chase years ago, but I think I may have to revisit it for this Senna celebration, as it truly seems like a labor of love.