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OutRun (Arcade) artwork

OutRun (Arcade) review

"Accompanied by those all-important accessories of the '80s – a cool pair of shades and a hot beach bunny – you too can climb behind the wheel of a cherry-hued Ferrari Testarossa and experience the simple pleasures of tearing through picturesque countryside at nearly 200 miles per hour."


Sorry, wrong game.

This similarly memorable coinop hails from a simpler age, when all SEGA needed to serve up in exchange for stacks of crazy money were quick joyrides of furious thrills and spills without resorting to such ridiculous gimmickry as pugilistic bounty hunters, dancing statuary, or The Offspring – and damn it, we were glad to get it!

Accompanied by those all-important accessories of the '80s – a cool pair of shades and a hot beach bunny – you too can climb behind the wheel of a cherry-hued Ferrari Testarossa and experience the simple pleasures of tearing through picturesque countryside at nearly 200 miles per hour. Our cross-country tour of America begins on Florida's sun-kissed shores before proceeding through the expansive fields of the Midwest, the desolate wastes of Death Valley, and (this being a Japanese game) the quaint stone towers of medieval Europe right before hitting the Autobahn, but no matter the locale they're always zooming by at a breakneck pace – and practically lined with hazards should you stray from the frequently serpentine road. Unfortunately back then even state of the art hardware couldn't handle crooning Japanese men, so you'll just have to settle for one of three upbeat and infectious FM melodies like "Magical Sound Shower," as made famous on the totally awesome S.S.T. Band Live! album.

Of course while Outrun itself is famous for its relentless sprite scaling to create an illusion of intense speed, simply burning rubber the whole time is a sure recipe for disaster. A minor collision merely causes the car to spin out and your livid ladyfriend to apply a series of affectionate blows to your head and neck, but careening into a diabolically-placed billboard at Mach-5 catapults the both of you straight into the unforgiving dirt while your ride majestically twirls off towards the horizon complete with a deafening crash. Despite the fact that repeatedly emulating a crash test dummy always makes for great entertainment, this is actually the KISS OF DEATH for your remaining coinage.

You'll often find yourself weaving in and out of heavy traffic while navigating one series of downright wicked curves after another, but you're not actually trying to outrun any of the other cars – instead a rapidly dwindling time limit is constantly breathing down your windswept neck as you scramble to reach the next checkpoint before the diverse landscapes and sweet tunes come to a sudden, ignoble, and above all final end. It's not merely possible to make it through the entire game on a single credit, it's required – and recovering from spectacular yet reckless crashes all but devours your precious seconds; a seasoned player might indeed floor it down straightaways, but while simultaneously easing down on the gas to glide through the many turns with precision timing.

Even a victorious run is seemingly over before you know it with only five stages and roughly ten minutes of play time, but every checkpoint gives you a momentary decision between two completely different paths for a total of fifteen unique areas and significant replay appeal. Only on subsequent attempts can you experience these roads untaken and several humorous endings, as when being presented with a magic lamp in lieu of the standard trophy, with which you naturally conjure up a harem of Bedouin beauties.

Hence despite this game's lasting popularity leading to a bazillion ports of various quality over the years ranging from the primitive computers of the day to the thermonuclear warhead-launching PlayStation 2, none can successfully capture the charm of the original. A few quarters took you on a brief but exhilarating ride that you could ultimately finish in triumph before emptying those pockets on the other games, and on your next trip to the arcade you could play it again and still encounter a bunch of new stuff. Well, that and the fact that this was one of the first arcade cabinets to sport an optional deluxe model.

Stumble onto one of these babies and you get to sit down in a sturdy faux-Ferrari chassis that actually moves or shakes in response to your questionable driving and also features a gas pedal, (seldom used) brake, stick for shifting gears, and a steering wheel that violently resists high-speed turns – ejector seat and leggy blonde not included. Even the standard upright is pretty decent, but any collector with taste and ample space (not to mention huge wads of cash) knows that no vintage coinop den is complete without the real thing. Me, I'd need one of those enchanted lamps before I could even dream of such a thing.

Now you've depressed me. Go away.


sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (November 12, 2010)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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