Monday, September 23, 2013

The Eye Candy of Racing Games

Side note: Retronauts actually discussed arcade racers last week. I swear, I started writing this blog before I knew that was the topic. Figured I should give a shout-out to them though as they jolted my memory into remembering some other games.

Racing games were one of the last games people went to arcades to play, and are often used in demonstrations of the new hardware's capabilities.

Those gorgeous cars can show off the new lighting effects as streetlights and buildings reflect off of the hood of the car. It can show how the physics engine uses the processing power of the console to create realistic damage.

My first memory of a racing game is a little foggy, but I know it was in an arcade. It was either Pole Position or Cruising USA.

I played Pole Position much later than most people did because it was only a quarter a play, but I hated the game. The wheel gave no feedback and the pedal was in an awkward position where I always missed the brake.

I was a victim of the digitized graphics of the early 90's. I thought Donkey Kong Country and Mortal Kombat were some of the best looking games I had ever seen. So sitting down in the giant arcade cabinet and driving through California was an overstimulating experience. I didn't play Cruis'n USA as much as I would like since it was one of the first machines to break that dollar line.

One of the first racing games I remember playing at home was Nigel Mansell's World Championship Racing on DOS. I didn't understand Formula 1 racing (I still don't) but loved this game. Yes, that irritating buzzing noise was consistent during your entire play time, but I couldn't hear that because I had Disney Radio blasting the Bartman while I played.

A few years later, Virtua Racing for the Sega Genesis again captured my F1 imagination with the deliciously classic Sega "Virtua" look. (See Virtua Fighter) Sega had an entire line of games that looked like Max Headroom to show off their game system, and I admit, Virtua Racer still looks beautiful to me.

This game came on one of the larger cartridges and actually has the honor of being the game that ruined my first Genesis. Something fried and I had to get another Sega.

Ridge Racer spun in my Playstation 1 for more hours than a one course racing game should, but damn did the graphics blow my mind.

I think my favorite racing game of all time is Ridge Racer Type 4 for the Playstation 1. After all, it is the best looking racing game of all time according to critics of the mid to late 1990's.

The drifting in this game is beyond unrealistic, but it's fun, and that is what is important to me. Most of the racing games I've talked about are arcade racers rather than simulations. I don't understand or care to understand enough about cars to slowly tweak my setup for Gran Turismo or Forza.

I still play through Ridge Racer Type 4 on my Vita about once a year, slowly unlocking all the cars again. It surprises me how many cars I remember from my childhood.

Friday, September 6, 2013

One for the Playstation

One was a game I lusted after. The marketing on this game sold it to me. I knew I had to buy it before I ever tried a demo of it. I saved my money up for weeks. I scoured the Toys R Us video game hallway looking for the piece of paper I had to bring to the customer service counter. I had to pass by more deserving games like Metal Gear Solid to find One. But I found it.

This was one of the rare times where my mom talked me out of buying a game. I don't really know why she chose this one specifically, but she said, "Why don't we go rent this one? I'll pay for that. If you still like it, you can buy it."

I'm glad she did.

One is a fun game. It sort of plays like Contra but in a 3d space. It's fast paced, machine gunning hundreds of enemies, ridiculously high jumping platforming goodness.

The first thing I noticed was the difficulty level was way higher than I was used to. I think that was a purposeful design choice. The old arcade philosophy of "make it brutal, the game is only 15 minutes long, and we need quarters."

So after about 20 or so tries, I went to the ole' trusty Cheat Code Central website and found some codes to help me through the game.

I was able to enter the code for all weapons. That was really all I needed. I started flying through the levels.

Turns out the game is only about 30 minutes long. After 6 stages I was seeing end credits with my mouth agape. I took the game back to Blockbuster and spent my money on other things.

Recently I was at a retro video game store and found some other PS1 games I had been hunting for. They had a buy 2 get 1 free deal, so I decided to pick up One again and see if my impression changed.

It's still hard as can be, but I was able to beat the first two levels without cheats this time.

There are a couple of things I noticed that I don't remember from my childhood.

  1. This game is buggy as hell. I was falling through maps, clipping on invisible walls, and unable to make jumps that I very obviously should be able to.
  2. The auto-lock-on rarely targets the guy you're pointing at. It usually finds a guy in the background. So melee is king.
  3. And the game is "EXTREME." After I beat the first mission, I was given a ranking of "Pissed." That sounds about right.
If I had paid for this game, it would've been $2.99. Which is about the right price for it. It's an interesting piece of history and can be a fun game. If you find it for $2.99, grab it.