OUTRUNNERS / Sega / Arcade

This 1993 addition to the Outrun series got things back on track, successfully blending elements of the first two games and making everything look much more polished and appealing courtesy of the then-new System 32 arcade hardware. Unfortunately, since the original dropped in 1986 and Turbo Outrun never made much of a splash, gamers had kinda moved on from the series by the time it came out and it had only a middling life in arcades.

It's arguable whether this is better than the near-perfect simplicity of the first game, and probably down to individual taste. But it's definitely a worthy sequel and a better-end arcade racer that deserved more attention than it got. It's effectively double the size of the original game - at the outset you opt to steer onto either the "east" or "west" track, each of which has their own set of courses and is about as big as Outrun was.

The gameplay repeals the changes made in Turbo Outrun for the most part. It's back to relatively short branching course segments, and you can no longer continue - you've got to one-credit-clear the whole thing as you did in the original game. The turbo boost button, police cars and the girlie-swiping rival are also all gone.

The game does introduce some key changes, however. It now has a Cannonball Run sort of theme, with teams of two racers that you choose from. This is something that Yu Suzuki actually wanted the original game to have, but there wasn't a good way to implement it at the time. They don't interact on the road in single-player mode, but you do get a set of eight cars to choose from. Aside from their operators, the cars differ in their handling, acceleration and top speed.

Basically, car selection all comes down to a simple tradeoff of handling vs. speed. The faster cars are easier to make mistakes with, but they're best for very skilled players. The cars with the best handling are more forgiving on those challenging corners, but you basically have to drive a perfect race with them as they're too slow to make up ground after mistakes.

Outrunners also shipped with a two-player split-screen cabinet, with different speaker sets on either side so each player would get their own sound effects and could pick their own music. Up to four of these cabinets could be chained together to have eight players on the course at a time.

The gameplay is the same perfectionist style that Outrun demanded, requiring you to skid around all those corners at juuust the right angle so you don't have to let off the gas at all. It's a bit more well-hidden here, however, as crashes and oopsies take less time to recover from. There are also a couple of "hidden seconds" on the timer in that when it hits zero, you'll gradually drift to a stop rather than getting kicked out of the game - if the drift manages to carry you across a checkpoint you get to continue. That means you'll get farther into the game, but crash more than maybe two times at most and you can be assured you're going to run out of time somewhere in the last two legs.

Great-looking, great for multiplayer and with double the track segments to explore than the original game had. Unfortunately, the only home port of the game to date is for the Genesis and it isn't nearly as good as the original. Fortunately, this plays quite well in MAME.

Videos :

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