Review by Xodyak
Simple, Classic, SEGA Arcade Racing
As the years have gone on I have been playing video games looking for an outstanding narrative or complicated gameplay. I have usually scoffed at the games that were arcade ports, especially as time progressed when the console experience began providing much more robust, unique experiences. Then, just out of the blue, I decided to get my self a SEGA Master System, and with it came the often heralded but scarcely talked about (at least in current times) OutRun. I had played this game originally for the Genesis around the time of that versions release (when I was around 6), so other than knowing it was one of SEGA's original big marquee arcade titles, I knew very little about this game and what it was. After playing it, I could not understand why I had been ignoring games like this for so long.
OutRun is simple. Get from start to finish in your Ferrari with your girl. The fun thing with getting to the finish is that there are multiple pathways you can take to get to the finish, and each ending has something different for you. Along your way you will have to avoid other cars, manage your turns, and hope you don't run into something off road. That's it. The more you play, the (hopefully) better you get, and higher score you attain.
The different paths that are offered vary in what you have to do to get past them. Some are somewhat easy to navigate, others are a real pain. As having arcade roots you can imagine where in the game the pain stages are. Each stage is a different environment with different things to hinder your progress. There are stages with ruins, desert stages, country states, desert stages with ruins, etc. Learning the ins-and-outs of each stage is vital to your success of reaching the end of your desired path. With all these options, this game has a ton of gameplay. But being an arcade port, if it didn't, it would be a massive failure.
Now we need to talk about these graphics. Yes, they are bad by today's standards. This game was released in 1987, so if you are even reading this review you probably already know that and don't care. If you take into consideration what else was out there in 1987, however, this is quite good. Environments have decent amount of detail, the cars, while bland, are sufficient, and every sign, post, obstacle, what have you, is nicely made as basic as they are. While the sprites are as big as game like Rad Racer, it's overall more detailed and impressive than what the NES had for racing games at the time. There are times where the game is choppy, like when you are driving through stages with ruins in them. Also hills are hard to identify due to limitations. Other than that, this is a great 8-bit showcase of an arcade port.
Control in the game is great in the sense that it is simple, but has a major flaw. This flaw is mostly attributed to the controller for the SMS. We'll get to that in a second. The controls, as just said, are extremely simple being a controller that only consists of a d-pad and two buttons. The d-pad steers you left and right, and up and down change your gears, which there are two of (low and high). And, of course, there is the obligatory accelerate and brake button. That's it, and that simplicity is something I cannot talk about how much I love about this game. Some things I said we'd get back to here. First off, I don't like to spend much (any) of my time in the low gear. This is fine, but because of the d-pad that is graced upon the SMS controller, I sometimes find my self shifting to low gear while in a turn, greatly reducing my speed. What's worse is that it is REALLY hard to tell when you have changed gears as there is no audible tone or obvious visual cue or anything. The best advice I can give you with this problem is play this with a Genesis controller, as the occurrence is much less frequent with this option.
One thing of note is that this game has great music. Not a lot of options mind you, but what is there is extremely catchy and will have any fan of 8-bit soundtracks going crazy over this arrangement. I loved what was here, and even hearing the sound tracks of other versions of this game, this trumped some of what they offered (Passing Breeze I honestly think is at its best here). My only, minor gripe here is that when you start getting deeper and deeper into your path, I noticed that the track constantly repeats itself. While it does repeat itself at what I consider to be the best part of the tracks, it got annoying, even if it is somewhat cool that the game is letting you know that you are reaching the end of your journey.
OutRun is an extremely fun game. When playing this, I had actually slowed down my game intake substantially, and after playing it, it reminded me of why I played games to begin with. Its simplicity is addictive, its depth is limited but varied, and it has a difficulty curve that will keep you craving for more, it just has what you need when you need a quick fix or more. This makes me miss the days when you didn't need huge back stories or a deep plot or convoluted mechanics (as much as I do enjoy them for what they are), but something that had a simple hook and could keep you entertained. This isn't to say that this is the best version of this game, as there is the original arcade release and the Genesis port, as well as the remakes that made their way to various consoles, but I can say this is the first console port, and it is solid. If you own a Master System, you should add this to your collection, as it is relatively inexpensive and a great showcase item for the system itself, in addition to being a great game.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: OutRun (US, 12/31/87)
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