RELEASE DATE: October 1987
It’s a little insane to think that Square, the inventors of the emo-RPG, should have invested themselves so heavily into an arcade racer. But in the late Eighties, things were different for the developer now known as Square Enix. Rad Racer was pre-Final Fantasy and Square was hungry for a hit game. As such, borrowing the motif from Sega’s then-popular OutRun didn’t seem like a bad idea (especially since 3-D World Runner failed to blow minds or bring boys to the yard). Rad Racer may have been too influenced by OutRun, but it distinguished itself on the NES by being one of the console’s first arcade racers. While the racing doesn’t contain any real depth – accelerate, turn, brake, repeat – its thrilling sense of speed and excellent play control set it apart.
Rad Racer gives you two fast cars, eight crazy courses, and a plethora of obnoxious drivers with which to contend. Pick the Formula One car if you’re feeling snooty or the Ferrari 328 if you plan on picking up chicks; both cars have the same top speed. Once you’re on the course, hit the ‘A’ button and go. Signs will warn you before big turns are coming up, leaving you plenty of time to slow down. You have a full three-lane highway to maneuver on, but that won’t stop the drivers from getting in your way. On the first few courses, you can bump them with little to no damage, but in the later courses, they will flip your car if you touch them. Your car will also flip if you hit a sign or a tree or other such debris on the side of the road. On each course, there are several checkpoints that will give you more time once you pass them. Besides potential litigation and car damage, it’s crucial not to crash because your time will not stop, regardless of your tango with the road. Once your time is up, that’s it, game over. All your accomplishments are for naught and you start at the first course. If you can keep your Ferrari from crashing, maneuver around the clueless station wagons, and keep the fire burning in your heart, you might be the raddest racer of them all.
PRO TIP: While Nobuo Uematsu’s music fits Rad Racer, I recommend playing while listening to Kavinsky. His tracks – especially “Testarossa Autodrive,” “Deadcruiser,” and “Grand Canyon” – glitter like beautiful Eighties neon.
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