GameSpite Journal 12 has the bluest skies of any self-published video game retrospective compilation on the market, which is why the coupon code WONDERFUL will net you 15% off through August 31 on our Blurb store.
Yu Suzuki is a man who enjoys the finer things in life. Things like good wine and cars from the famous italian manufacturer Ferrari. And while we’re still waiting for a game about Suzuki’s fondness for wine, we’ve been able to enjoy the whole Ferrari thing since the year 1986—that’s when Out Run came to arcades all over the world. Labeled a “driving game” instead of a “racing game,” Out Run is not about scoring first place and overtaking rivals. It’s more about the actual joy of driving along picturesque European roads in a fast red car that looks an awful lot like one of those aforementioned cars from Italy (or at least pixel cars that look an awful lot like the real thing without quite infringing) with a beautiful blonde woman sitting next to you.
In the days long before the dominance of the omnipresent polygon and all its texture, shader and mapper friends, Suzuki and his famous team AM2 used scaling technology to simulate depth and speed. The road, other cars, and all sorts of background decoration were made up of sprites that scaled seamlessly and gave a great feeling of speed. So Out Run was certainly a technical accomplishment, and the huge arcade-cabinets were absolute lookers, but it’s the game’s design, graphically and gameplay-wise, that makes it such an enduring classic even today.
The driving aspect was a big part of it, no question. If one were to shoehorn Out Run into today’s highly debatable categories, one might almost be tempted to call it a casual game! Although there is a merciless timer ticking down at the edge of the screen, Out Run is very relaxed and a lot less tense then other car-centric titles of its time. You’re meant to enjoy the tour, take in the sights, and relish the speed. You’re meant to enjoy the tasteful colors and the backgrounds which were inspired by Suzuki’s own trips to the continent. You’re invited to revel in beautiful music which took a much more dominant role than in other contemporary driving games. Tracks like “Splash Wave” or “Magical Sound Shower” are held in such high esteem, and for good reason.
Out Run’s other strength is its relatively open game world. Instead of simply driving around in closed circuits, Out Run really was supposed to take you far away on a long road trip towards an actual goal at the end that you could reach after five stages. The best aspect: After each stage, you can take one of two routes with the left leading to an easier path and the right leading to a more complex stage, each with entirely different graphics. Needless to say, this gives Out Run great replayability even today. And while there have been a couple of pseudo-sequels of varying quality, it’s good to see that Sega and AM2 kept the Out Run spirit alive in the proper sequels Out Run 2 and Out Run 2 SP, which are still some of the best arcade experiences to be had on modern platforms.
And of course, no article on Out Run could ever be complete without mentioning the one thing, that gave Out Run its very special flair: Sega’s famous blue, blue skies… and those were never more blue, than in Out Run.
Article by Thomas Nickel
GameSpite Journal 12: Out Run