Sunday 24 January 2016

Rad Racer (NES review)

Developer: Square
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1987

Rad Racer is an arcade style racing game that was developed by the same people that created Final Fantasy (1990, NES).

There's eight stages and the objective is to finish each one within a time limit. A handy marker shows your progress and if you collide with another vehicle at full speed or hit a roadside object your car flips and precious seconds tick off the clock. The B button brakes while A accelerates, but once you reach 100 km/h you can press Up on the d-pad to activate Turbo for up to 255 km/h! The driving is smooth with tight controls that make precise movements a breeze. Despite the simplistic gameplay there are a few advanced techniques; for example, hitting another vehicle doesn't always make you crash and you can purposely collide if you feel you're about to be pushed off-road. The action moves along at a brisk pace and the track selection is varied so you never get bored; highlights include the San Francisco course that takes place under a beautiful night setting, and Seaway in Typhoon which starts off looking dreary but eventually clears to show a coastline and blue skies. Similar to Outrun (1986, Arcades) you can choose between three songs and even switch them during a race by pressing Down; they're upbeat and wouldn't sound out of place in a Mega Man game but I did find myself accidentally changing them while trying to swerve round a corner. In terms of downsides the time limits are a bit strict and the A.I. can be overly aggressive. The graphics are functional at best and it would have been nice if more scenery was littered around the tracks. There's also a '3D mode' you can toggle using the Select button but the red/green glasses aren't convincing and you'll most likely see double.

Rad Racer is a top-tier driving game on the NES with great track design, fantastic controls and intense driving action. While it's certainly not a 'looker' it's expertly crafted with the emphasis firmly on fun and I was impressed by how well it manages to hold up today.

Random trivia: In 1990, a NES sequel called Rad Racer II was released exclusively in North America.

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