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The arcade version of OutRun was created by the legendary Yu Suzuki and AM2 team at Sega who’ve been responsible for the likes of Shenmue, Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA. The game featured sprite-scaling technology seen in many other popular titles they developed such as Space Harrier, After Burner and Hang-on, and was playable in both upright and sit-down style cabinets. In fact it was one of these sit-down units that made me fall in love with the game. Physically being sat in a basic replica of the car that moved about as you drove was an amazing experience. It really helped this game stand out and I’d love to own a real arcade cabinet of it one day. For the time being though, I’ll have to make do with the home conversions.
Unlike most conventional racing games, you’re competing against the clock rather than other cars. Along the way the road often splits in two, where you’re given the choice of which direction to take, affecting the areas you drive through, how challenging the race is and what reward sequence plays at the end. This offers a lot of replay value as you’re likely to want to experience each route and try to beat your best time… or your opponent’s.
With the limitations of the Mega Drive and Sega Genesis hardware, they’re not able to achieve the sprite-scaling technology of the arcade, however I feel this version is a good compromise. The colour pallette looks a little darker, but the way the cars and roadside objects scale is fairly good, considering it had to be achieved using a completely new method of delivering different sized sprites, especially when compared to the Master System release which is understandably a lot more “choppy”.
In terms of music, these renditions are also fairly authentic, with an additional track provided called “Step on Beat” which is unique to this version. Personally I’m not a huge fan of this track and much prefer listening to either “Passing Breeze” or “Splash Wave” as these are so iconic to the series.
Gameplay, of course, is the most important factor and OutRun on the Mega Drive does not disappoint. Each of the 15 possible environments are present from the arcade original and the experience feels very authentic. As mentioned previously, the direction you take as the road splits affects the challenge, with the left route typically being easier than the right. You’re also able to amend the overall difficulty in the options menu if you wish to make things easier or harder, including a faster “Hyper Mode” which you can unlock by completing the game on “Pro” difficulty, or with a cheat by pressing “C” on the controller ten times on the main menu, before going into the options settings.
The only real downside to OutRun for some is the limitations of the arcade gameplay experience. Other than doing each race, exploring the different routes and trying to beat your best time, there’s not much else to do, so if you’re looking to play something with more of a career mode, different courses and opponents to compete against, I’d recommend games like Super Monaco GP or Road Rash.
As for OutRun on the Mega Drive and Sega Genesis, I feel it’s a solid conversion of the original arcade game, ideal for quick pick-up-and-play and competing against friends for the best time to completion. If you’re looking for a more faithful version, I’d recommend either Sega Ages Volume 1 for the Sega Saturn, which is almost identical, OutRun on the Nintendo 3DS or possibly playing the version within Yakuza 0 (Zero) on the PlayStation 4. Personally, I’d go with the Sega Saturn version if I had one.