Out Run was simply a revelation for me when I first saw it in arcades in the late 80s. The 3D effect provided by Sega’s “Super-Scaler” technology was gorgeous and combined with the varying and equally beautiful landscapes & laid back driving music made for a quarter devouring ride. You were the coolest dude around sitting behind the wheel of a red Ferrari Testarossa Spider with a beautiful blonde girl as your passenger. What 13 year old boy wouldn’t want to be that guy? As I wasn’t all that good at driving games at the time, Out Run was one of those rare arcade racing games, along with Pole Position, that I bothered to spend my money on.
As a Nintendo kid growing up, I simply resigned to the fact I wouldn’t own my own home port of Out Run and would have to be satisfied with Nintendo’s Rad Racer as a consolation. Many years passed and I’d forgotten all about Out Run until I bought a Master System 15 years after it’s 1986 release. I recalled that Sega’s other arcade Super-Scaler titles such as Hang-On and Space Harrier could be found on the Master System so Out Run had to be on there as well, right? Absolutely! I picked up a copy knowing that I’d have to temper my enthusiasm for this particular home port. There was no way that the Master System would be able to do Out Run justice, right?
Well, the answer is yes and no. On the surface, Out Run initially impresses. The music, albeit a tinnier version, is still a major part of the experience. You can choose between three different modes of music before you even step foot on the gas pedal, which is still cool. The sense of speed provided to you in the arcade game while the stationary trees and buildings would whiz by you as they scaled in from the background to the foreground was so cool, but on the Master System, the items placed along the sides are much further apart so the end result is more of a choppy animation than a smooth one.
Thankfully the driving controls are still top notch with the directional pad used to shift from low to high gear and the two buttons used for acceleration and braking. I tend to just hold down the accelerator button while hovering over the brake button for those sharp turns. Another notable deficiency from the Master System version of Out Run versus the arcade masterpiece are the crashes. I always appreciated Out Run for it’s forgiving use of the crash animation. You didn’t crash & burn every time you bumped into another car, which was great for a novice player. However, when you do crash in the arcade version, your car would flip and your driver and his blonde-haired female passenger would fly out of the vehicle (it was the 80s….seatbelts were merely a suggestion). Even if you dreaded seeing it happen to you, it was still a neat animation. On the Master System, the crash is pretty pathetic. It sounds extremely unrealistic and more like two pots banging against each other in a dishwasher. Not impressive at all.
Fortunately, that’s a minor gripe overall as my favorite part of Out Run, the diverging pathways and relaxed driving mechanics, are intact. As you approach each checkpoint, you’ll be offered a split path option. Go left or go right, but the choice is yours and the end result is an entirely different landscape. After you start off the drive on a beach, you’ll eventually move on to other terrains such as desserts, mountains, prairies, etc, all dependent on which path you take. The goal is to reach the end of the course in the time allotted you and any leftover time you have when you reach each checkpoint will be added to your running total. A key strategy is to master the first few sections of course to build up as much extra time as you can before reaching the last few sections, which inevitably will be more difficult. Once you finish a course, you’re treated to an animation of receiving a trophy with a crowd of spectators cheering you on. Minimal but satisfying. Out Run is a spectacular arcade game and while this version is not at that level, it’s still a must own.
Currently in my collection: game, manual, case