POWER DRIFT / Sega / Arcade

A 1988 release, Power Drift was the follow-up to Yu Suzuki's landmark Super Scaler racing titles Hang-On and Outrun. As with Galaxy Force, also released that same year as a similar evolution of Space Harrier and After Burner, Power Drift put some new technical tricks into play. Instead of simply using multicolored sprites to simulate background motion, Power Drift actually creates the tracks as something distinct from the background using bitmaps. They have something of a rollercoaster quality as they change elevation, and you can see portions of the upcoming track segments as you approach corners at times.

The racing action also moves to oversized go-karts with this one, beating Mario Kart to the punch by four years. You pick from one of 12 rather undistinguished weirdos, who are then dropped into one of five car types. The game seems to start you off with a random track each time, and the goal is simply to place in the top three in each race to move on to the next. This is a pretty tall order, though, as the top three computer racers always move fast enough that they'll lap you if you crash a few times on any given track.

As with Hang-On and Afterburner, this game was ideally meant to be experienced in a special cabinet with a tilting seat and vibration. At the very least, the cheapest stand-up cabs had a racing wheel and gas pedal. I gave the arcade version the NR as at the moment it's not playable in most MAME versions. It runs, but there's audio glitching and more importantly the auto-centering as you drive doesn't work which makes it virtually impossible to place in any race. It appears it may work in the Final Burn Alpha emulator with some messing around with the control configuration file, but I'm not familiar with that emulator and just don't have time for all that right now. The gameplay video linked below indicates it might also work in an offshoot called MAME 32 Pro Special if you can find a working download of it.

The closest arcade ports were on the Saturn and Dreamcast, and there was also a revamped version released for the 3DS (as part of Sega's revival of their Super Scaler series on that platform), so I'll give this one another run when I have access to one of those. For now it seems the arcade original needs to actually be experienced on an actual cabinet to enjoy it. Looks quite fun if the controls are working right though.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video