Forget the home console conversions, this was definitely one game to save your money for and head down to the arcades to play. In 1986, Outrun was heralded as a new age for arcade racers and creator Yu Suzuki was acclaimed for creating a revolutionary racing experience, accessible to all. As you placed your money in the machine, you were first offered a choice of three different soundtracks to listen to as you raced. Your Ferrari Testarossa was filled with fantastic music as you pulled up to the starting line and the engine began to roar in anticipation. As you sat in the cabinet, clutching your steering wheel tightly, your heart could help but beat faster with excitement, and with your onscreen driver having a cute blonde beside him, you knew, just as the countdown finished, that you were in for the ride of your life.
The graphics wowed arcade goers in the 80’s with judicious usage of Sega’s, now popular, sprite scaling techniques that had been previously used in Space Harrier and the sense of speed, as your car hurtled on the winding roads filled with traffic, was breathtakingly overwhelming. The handling of the Testarossa was superb and if you had been playing in a hydraulic arcade cabinet, you felt every gut wrenching sharp turn as you desperately attempted to beat the clock.
I loved Outrun’s gloriously vibrant visuals and would pump money into the machine just to try and explore more of the games levels and use the unique branching system to choose different routes. Each stretch of tarmac that you drove down eventually split into two separate paths, this continued for five stages until eventually, at the final checkpoint, you arrived at one of five different locations. This meant that the total locations which the game contained was a whopping 15, featuring exotic names like Lakeside, Death Valley and Desolation Hill, the variety of the locations in Outrun became legendary.
You began your journey in the now famous and iconic Coconut beach – gloriously sunny , you could almost feel the wind caressing your hair was you sped past the beach front – complete with a group of windsurfers. As you slammed your foot down and continued to accelerate, you passed road signs, dangerous curves – populated with tall palm trees and holiday shacks. As you chose different paths, you soon found the environment change drastically, Devils Canyon, for instance, featured massive granite rocks which towered above the player on both sides of the road. Cloud Mountain enabled you to speed down a road which was blanketed by a thick layer of cloud. Whichever stage you chose they were all fantastically detailed with a large number of sprites on-screen and no slow down.
Eventually, however, you would crash, your expensive Testarossa would go flying through the air, causing it’s occupants to fly across the road and causing you to lose valuable seconds. Your passenger wasn’t just there to look good, but also gave your driver a telling off should he ever clip a passing car. You would spin to a stop – eventually – and she would yell at you and wag her finger.
The soundtrack are remembered fondly for their upbeat tunes – Splash Wave, Passing Breeze and Magical Sound Shower were lengthy and perfectly captured the 80’s. Delivering toe-tapping beats and a funky calypso background, they elicit a smile and the feeling of freedom, setting off in your car and doing as you pleased.
It’s an amazing game and one which although fondly remembered, is rarely truly appreciated today. It’s worth checking out if you have any arcades near you that specialise in classic titles