Format: Coin-Op Genre: Racing Released: 1986 Developer: Sega (AM2)
Back in the very first post on this blog, I said that all racing games before about the mid-nineties were “pretty rubbish”. I stand by that comment, but with two obvious exceptions: Chase HQ, which we’ve already covered, and the mighty mighty Out Run.
Out Run was amazing. The graphics were phenomenal (for the time), and it had a fantastic sense of speed – the gorgeous scenery whipped by you at an eyeball-spinning rate. Add in the wonderful music (which I’ll come back to in a minute) and you end up with one of the best arcade games of all time. And it was way ahead of its time too – things like branching levels were pretty much unheard of in games in 1986, and even the behind-the-driver viewpoint was a new and exciting concept (it had been pioneered by Pole Position in 1982, but by 1986 had only been used in a handful of games – many racing games still had a top-down view).
The whole thing had a kind of holiday feel to it (which was probably helped by the fact that I mostly played it in beach-front arcades whilst on holiday with my parents). There you were in your Ferrari Testarossa, cruising along sun-drenched highways with an unnamed blonde woman at your side and not a care in the world… except the odd Volkswagen Beetle and generic truck of course, which had a nasty habit of getting right in your way at a crucial moment and triggering a spectacular crash.
I’ve got to admit though, watching the smug git of a driver get totalled was a source of secret satisfaction to me, even if it meant a Game Over screen. He was obviously a smug git – I mean, he had a Ferrari.
Out Run‘s graphics may have been astounding, but its crowning achievement was without doubt its music. The game gave you the unique option to choose which background track you’d like before you started the race, and all four tunes were absolutely brilliant. My personal favourite was ‘Magical Sound Shower’, which is still as intensely catchy today as it was nearly 25 years ago (scroll down the page to have a listen). It’s a real tribute to Sega’s sound engineers that they were able to come up with such infectious tunes with the limited technology available to them.
There are very few games that stand the test of time. The games industry moves at such a blistering pace that games can look horribly dated within a couple of years, but there’s something about Out Run that means it still looks fresh today. Maybe it’s the eternally blue skies so beloved of the designers at AM2… whatever it is, Out Run remains a stone-cold classic that reigned supreme in the arcades right up until the 3D big boys (Ridge Racer, Daytona) came knocking at the door in the nineties.
But then again, Ridge Racer didn’t have ‘Magical Sound Shower’…
And as a special treat, here’s the legendary S.S.T. Band (Sega Sound Team Band) performing ‘Magical Sound Shower’: