If I'm not mistaken, I think Rad Racer was the first auto racing game made for the NES. This game looks and plays very similar to the Sega arcade game, Outrun. It was also the first game made for the NES by Squaresoft, but it's not an RPG by any stretch of the definition. Rad Racer's gameplay is very simple - you race cross-country and try to get to the goal line of each course before time runs out. This is not a racing game in which you do laps around a course and try to come in 1st place. You don't have to beat your opponents in this game, you just have to avoid them. Rad Racer may be simple, but it still can be quite amusing!
Although the first level of Rad Racer does not look like much, the later levels are full of eye candy. In fact, I think the whole motivation to clear the courses and move on is to see what kind of scenery pops up next. You'll race against exotic backgrounds, such as a lit-up city at night, the ruins of Athens, beaches, and the Grand Canyon. The cars look okay, too, but your car looks a lot better than the opposing cars. There's a lot more detail in your car, and the opposing cars are almost one solid color. You have a behind-the-car perspective, which was considered "3-D" in its day. Looking at it now, it may not appear so great, but the speeds at which objects zoom in and out as your car goes faster is quite impressive! I'm surprised such an early NES game could handle speeds like that. I also like how some areas will change from day to night as you're driving. Anyway, the graphics do have some flaws. The first thing is the lack of detail, which is quite noticeable. The stuff on the side of the road tends to be small and not drawn too well. Those palm trees in the first level are in serious need of being watered! And sometimes objects in the background keep moving along at a slow pace, even if you're at a complete stop, like the mountains in the Grand Canyon level. You could also press select to choose a "3-D" view that would work if you wore the 3-D glasses that came with the game. I've never tried that, because I bought my Rad Racer copy preowned, and it didn't have the glasses. I've heard it didn't work too well, though. Anyway, enough nitpicking! The graphics are very decent for a 1987 game.
There's not much to say about this game's sound. The rev of your car's engine is about the only noteworthy sound effect. When you zoom past opposing cars, the noise they make sounds like something a UFO would make. There's also the sound of your car crashing, and that effect is okay. The music, however, is so horrible that I never turn it on. By pressing Down on the control pad, you can select one of three different tunes, or choose to turn the sound off. All of these tunes are pretty bad, and I'd just as soon leave them turned off. (Yes, I know, it's hard to imagine a Squaresoft game with bad music, but it's true.)
Rad Racer's controls are very simple. You can speed up, slow down, move left, and move right. All of these are quite easy to do. Sometimes the car gets out of control during turns or when you bump up against another car. Sometimes a turn will come up so fast that you have no time to react, and your car will careen right off the road. I think this just adds to the challenge, though. The only other thing I'd complain about is that your control over the car is a bit limited. You basically just move left and right. However, I really can't complain too much about this game's control, as it fits perfectly with the gameplay style.
There is no real story here, you just race. However, I should mention that Rad Racer does have a cute little "surprise" twist ending. And the atmosphere is quite good with the colorful depictions of the many areas you'll race though. I especially enjoy the city skyline levels.
Rad Racer is a simple yet challenging game. It reminds me of early 80's-style arcade games in which you performed one or two basic actions throughout the entire game. In Rad Racer you move left and right to dodge cars, and speed up or slow down. That is really about all you can do. But there is so much that adds to the challenge and keeps you playing. First of all, the cars become more aggressive the farther you get into the game. At first, there are only green cars, but later you'll notice blue cars on the roads, too. The blue cars are tougher and will change lanes at the last moment to run you off the road. As you progress, there are increasingly more cars on the roads, too. The turns also become more difficult. There are always signs on the sides of the road that warn you about upcoming turns. But on later levels, you get a much shorter warning, causing turns to come up really fast with little time to react. This means that you have to memorize the courses and try to know ahead of time when the turns will come up. You also have a limited amount of time to make it to the end of the course. The last few courses you won't be able to complete unless you make absolutely no mistakes. Overall, it's a decent challenge, but the game can get repetitive after awhile.
Rad Racer is a decent and fun racing game. It's a game I can easily pick up and play if I have a few spare minutes. One thing to keep in mind is that this is not a normal racing game in which you do laps and try to come in first place. In Rad Racer, you try to make it to the end of the course in the allotted time - a task easier said than done. There are also two cars to choose from. One is a stock car, the other is a formula-one racer. (I prefer the stock car.) This adds a little bit of replay value. If you beat the game with one car, you can try to beat it again with the other, since each car handles a little differently. Most of the fun and challenge comes from trying to avoid the other cars on the road. If you bump into one, you could get run off the road. Once you've passed a car it will never come back to haunt you, though. You'll see what I mean if you pass a car so that it goes off-screen, then slow down. The roads all have three lanes and it can be tough to get through when there's a car in each lane, especially if you're heading into a turn! There are also checkpoints on the courses that you must reach before your time runs out. The more time you have remaining when you reach a checkpoint, the more time you'll have to get to the next one.
Overall, Rad Racer is a decent arcade-style racer for the NES. It's probably one of the better racing games on the system. If you're a fan of racing games, so long as you're not expecting anything too realistic, you'll probably love this. It's not, by any means, the most challenging game. There's no 2-player option and it can get boring after awhile. But it's mildly amusing while the appeal still lasts.
OVERALL SCORE: 3/5
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