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Old 04-22-2008, 03:54 AM   #1452
Joe Redifer
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Denver, Colorado
Posts: 20,149
Rad Racer
Nintendo Entertainment System

Similar in style to most other early NES boxes,
Rad Racer conveys a sense of grandeur and class.

Back in the so-called "8-bit generation" of videogames, I purchased a Sega Master System instead of an NES. Among the games I owned for the SMS was a nice little gem called Out Run. While it certainly couldn't stack up to the arcade visually and aurally, it was a competent conversion given the machine that it was running on and it even had some great music. The hills animated in a choppy manner, but that was really the game's only major flaw. I had heard of a game called Rad Racer on the evil Nintendo system which supposedly their take on Out Run. I looked at screenshots, saw the TV ads and read the instruction booklet that a friend brought to school one day cover to cover. I wanted to play it and compare. I was understandably curious. So a few months later I rented an NES system from a video store with a bunch of games. This was to be my first experience playing the system, ever. Previously I had only watched videotapes of games made by another friend (who did not have Rad Racer). Along with the system I rented World Runner 3D (because it kind of looked like Space Harrier, another SMS game I owned and loved), The Legend of Kage, Tengen Pac Man (a normal NES cart, not a Tengen cart) and of course Rad Racer. I rushed home and was very excited to try these games. But let's focus on solely on Rad Racer (and Out Run, of course).

A typical shot from Rad Racer on the NES.

Here is a shot of Out Run on the SMS for comparison.

Graphics: 6/10
The first thing that stood out to me was that the hills animated very smoothly. They weren't choppy like in the SMS version of Out Run. I thought that was really cool and wondered why Out Run didn't do it this way. However I also noticed that the hills looked kind of weird. It was basically as if the road was curving up and down at its own random discretion. The road's perspective was a bit messy, and I am a big fan of perspective, it was part of everything I drew in high school. Even on a perfect straightaway like the one in the very beginning of the game, if you moved to the left or the right side of the road, the road in the distance would curve inward for no reason at all. Very amateurish, even for the time. The colors looked drab compared to Out Run and the other cars were friggin' huge and plain. The backgrounds had 2 layers of scrolling and that was cool, but it wasn't as well done as World Grand Prix's multi-layer backgrounds on the SMS. Yes, I was comparing everything. There is a 3D mode that can be accessed by pressing the SELECT button at any time (just like World Runner 3D). You need to use anaglyph glasses (red and blue) for it to work, but the screen still flickers back and forth like a Sega 3D game despite not having shutter goggles to compensate. The 3D effect is pretty bad and doesn't work well at all. I couldn't really compare it to the SMS 3D at the time as I hadn't purchased the Sega 3D glasses yet. The animation in the game is fine, though your car sure does seem quite bouncy. Overall it didn't look as nice as Out Run on the SMS, but to be fair Out Run had far more MEGA POWER than Nintendo could ever afford at the time.

The 3D mode didn't work very well and they even
required the glasses be worn backwards, with the
red covering the right eye instead of the left.

Sound: 5/10:
I had also heard about this game having multiple music tracks, just like Out Run. I was excited. I had already heard NES games like Mega Man 2 and Blaster Master on videotape, so I figured that Rad Racer must have great music as well. Perhaps I was being a bit too hasty. At first there wasn't any music at all, just your typical 8-bit racing game noise. Then I realized that you must press DOWN on the d-pad to enable the music. If you keep pressing DOWN, you'll cycle through all of the music tracks available. Unfortunately, none of the music tracks are very memorable. It seemed incompetently composed by a talentless musician. Sega definitely had the better musicians. Each one of Out Run's selectable tunes are memorable and enjoyable even today even when playing the SMS version despite its technically inferior sound hardware compared to the NES.

Here is a short example of the music in Rad Racer, recorded from a real NES - MP3 Format, mono, 1 MB

For comparison, here's an example of Out Run's music, recorded from a real SMS - MP3 Format, mono, 1.4 MB

Gameplay: 5/10
About the only thing gameplay-wise this game has in common with Out Run is that it is a racing game and you race a Ferrari. I was used to Out Run's branching multiple paths, but Rad Racer was a straight shot. Fine, I can deal with that. However the game is extremely difficult and the controls really aren't very well done thanks to the underskilled programmers who did this game. You hold up for a boost and try to make it to the next checkpoint, which you can't really see anywhere. The actual checkpoint markers are tiny little posts on the side of the road that you can only make out if you hit zero on the timer and your car is slowing down as a result. It is easy to accidentally keep switching between music tracks when you turn if you aren't holding the boost. Why they didn't put up a screen before the race to let you choose the music instead of mapping it to a direction key was an obvious oversight by the worthless programmers who surely never went on to greatness. The game would be more enjoyable if the timer wasn't so rigid, but as it is it gets boring even back in its day. Amazingly, there are no emo characters or sappy teenage drama in this game. This actually raises the score a little.

It is way too damn easy to crash in this game.

Wrap up:
I returned the NES to the rental store feeling that I had made the right choice as it was clear to me that the Sega Master System beat Nintendo's own releases with better graphics, better sound and music and better gameplay. The only real advantages Rad Racer had over Out Run were the smoothly animated hills and that you could select from two cars instead of just one (which didn't seem to make much of a difference). Sure, the NES had many more games, but it's not like a 15 year old kid can afford to buy shitloads of games anyway. I would eventually get an NES in 2006. To end the story, I do own Rad Racer for my NES now, and it has been fun to revisit. It was stale in its time and it has aged much worse than Out Run and not many people really discuss, care about or even remember Rad Racer. Too bad Square didn't just stop there and go away.
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