Tag Archives: Racing

#6: Ridge Racer

Format: Playstation Genre: Racing Released: 1995 Developer: Namco

There was a time back in the late 80s and early 90s when you just couldn’t escape the phrase ‘arcade perfect’ in computer game magazines. Or rather, endless moaning about how ‘arcade imperfect’ most console games actually were. Basically, there was a substantial gulf between the version of, for example, Street Fighter II you played in the arcade and the slightly-tatty-round-the-edges version you bought for your Sega Megadrive, and the release of any arcade conversion would always be greeted with frenzied playground speculation as to whether it was ‘arcade perfect’ or not. The arcade version of a game was the zenith of graphic perfection that all home versions aspired to reach, yet always fell short.

However, all that was to change with the release of the Sony Playstation and one of the first examples of a ‘pixel-perfect’ arcade conversion: Ridge Racer.

ridge-racer-box1

It wasn’t actually ‘arcade perfect’ of course – the frame rate was a little slower and, most notably of all, you didn’t get a full size Euros Roadster to sit in (a la the ‘Full Scale’ arcade version, which could be found in the London Trocadero once upon a time) – but it was hugely impressive nonetheless.

ridge-racer-full-scale

I remember setting up my brand new Playstation on the big TV in the living room and being utterly blown away by how good this game looked. It’s no exaggeration to say that this game, along with the Sony Playstation, was at the  forefront of a total revolution in gaming. One minute we were all happily playing our 2D platform games, and the next minute we were in the midst of a new 3D age. I doubt we’ll see another such big jump in terms of graphical power for many years to come – until they get around to making truly 3D games anyway.

ridge-racer-screenshot1

The game wasn’t without its flaws: cars often clipped through each other, and there was some truly horrendous pop-up. Most heinous of all, there was a paltry one track on offer – admittedly, it could be played in various configurations, but still, one track is a slim offering by any standards. Having said that, I was happily enthralled in that one track for months on end, and I can’t think of many games that have as compelling a ‘just one more go’ factor as this one.

A large part of what made this game so compelling was the soundtrack – the music was excellent, and the game-show-host-style commentator was not to be missed (bear in mind that actually having speech in a game was almost unheard of before the rise of CD-based consoles).

“Alright everyone, one minute to go, are you ready? The engine’s now locked and ready to go, are you all set?”

Indeed sir I am.

Lewis

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Filed under 1995, Namco, Playstation, Racing

#1: Stunt Car Racer

Format: Amiga Genre: Racing Released: 1989 Developer: MicroStyle

Bizarrely, the inaugural post on this blog is for a racing game. Bizarre because generally I don’t actually like racing games that much; yet, when I think about it, the two or three that I’ve really enjoyed (Ridge Racer, Burnout 3, Gran Turismo) probably rank up there as some of my favourite game experiences, and Stunt Car Racer certainly deserves a special mention.

Most racing games before the mid-nineties were pretty rubbish. It was only with the 3D revolution that racing games really reached their full potential – before that it was all stripey grey race tracks and simplistic leftright leftright holddownthebutton gameplay (try playing a game like Lotus Challenge now and I guarantee the nostalgia won’t last beyond a couple of pixellated crash barriers). However, Stunt Car Racer WAS in 3D at a time when perhaps only a handful of games were, and what’s more it used the 3D space in a way that few games have, before or since.

The raison d’etre of Stunt Car Racer is the tracks – glorious, insane, rollercoaster-like tracks that leave you gripping the joystick for dear life as you hurtle through the air after burning up impossible ramps, then gritting your teeth as you plummet back down, engine still racing, the screen cartwheeling as you miss the track by inches and smash into the dirt below with a bone-shattering crunch. At a time when racing meant dodging in and out of identical 2D cars, Stunt Car Racer did vertical – and how. There was even a loop-the-loop…

The key thing about all this vertical fun was the ever-present sense of danger – there were no barriers to any of the tracks, so you always felt that just one small slip of the wrist could send you hurtling into the abyss, costing you valuable time as your stricken vehicle is winched back onto the track and, more importantly, causing potentially race-ending damage to your car. Above all, it was the intense adrenalin rush this caused that is my stand-out memory of the game; that and the excellent two player mode (only available over a link cable, but more than worth the considerable hassle of stringing together several wires and tellies).

I sold my Amiga recently (sacrilege I know), but I booted up Stunt Car for one last go before I carted the whole lot off to Mr Ebay. It’s lost none of it’s charm: sure, the graphics are basic (even for the time) and there’s only one other car on the track at any one time (believe it or not, that blocky red thing in the screenshot is a car), but it still retains an impressive sense of speed and danger as you hurtle round those suicide bends.

The creator of the game, Geoff Crammond (dubbed ‘Sir’ by Amiga Power), later went on to create the seminal Formula One Grand Prix series on the Amiga, but I’ll always remember him for this classic game. Nice one Sir Geoff.

Lewis

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Filed under 1989, Amiga, MicroStyle, Racing