Ah yes, Continental Circus, the game which UK magazine Sinclair User declared “Cock-Up of the Year” in 1988 for the assumption that its peculiar title had rather prominently misspelled “Circuit”, only for it to become apparent sometime later that this was, in fact, deliberate.
The term “Circus” has been used over the years in both French and Japanese motorsports, and indeed there was even a 1972 French documentary called Continental Circus, which Taito’s 1987 arcade racer rather cheekily lifted a voice sample from to mark the beginning of each race. Although you can see how Sinclair User might have got confused; many of the original arcade machines for Continental Circus were actually branded with the title “Continental Circuit”.
The game itself is a “vanishing point” racer that attempts to build on what Namco had been doing with its Pole Position and Final Lap series since 1982. And, despite appearing superficially similar to those classic titles, it remains, to this day, a unique take on the racing genre with some very interesting ideas.
Continue reading Taito Essentials: Continental Circus
It’s weird how some memories stick with you for the longest time, for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
Prior to picking up a copy again recently, I hadn’t played Top Gear on the Super NES since the early ’90s when it was first released. And yet upon firing it up I confirmed something I had suspected for a while: its music had indeed been stuck in my head for nearly thirty years.
I was also pleased to discover that Top Gear is indeed still a whole lot of fun — and a great example of a type of racing game that has been rendered largely obsolete by the advances in technology over the years.
Continue reading SNES Essentials: Top Gear
Some of my fondest memories from my formative years have the Nintendo 64 as their focal point.
Whether it was indulging in loud-mouthed, profanity-laden four-player GoldenEye, Perfect Dark and Duke Nukem 64 deathmatches or just me and my similarly non-sporty school friends desperately trying to understand the appeal of the World Cup through the use of EA’s imaginatively titled World Cup 98, this console holds a special place in my heart.
And yet somehow up until now I’d never played one of its most well-respected games: Wave Race 64. And now I am kicking myself for not checking it out sooner.
Continue reading N64 Essentials: Wave Race 64
I wasn’t originally planning to cover the PSP titles in the Ridge Racer series, but after being well and truly glued to them for the last week there’s no way I can’t say something about them.
Known as Ridge Racers in Japan, the two PSP games are almost identical to one another, so we’ll be taking them as a single “unit” today. The main difference between the two releases is that the confusingly named Ridge Racer 2 has more tracks than its PSP-launching predecessor — most notably incorporating all of Ridge Racer Type 4’s circuits instead of just two — plus a few additional single-player modes, including the return of a “checkpoints and countdown”-style arcade mode of the type that hasn’t been seen since Ridge Racer Revolution.
Other than that, they’re pretty much the same game. It’s fortunate, then, that they’re pretty much the same brilliant game.
Continue reading Ridge Racers: The Greatest Hits
1998’s Ridge Racer Type 4 is the quintessential PS1 game.
Perfectly embodying the spirit of late ’90s “cool” that Sony was so keen to pursue with its platform, particularly in the West, the game is also a showcase for exactly what the humble PlayStation was capable of in its later years as well as a perfect balance between widespread accessibility and hardcore long-term challenge.
In short, it’s a comprehensive realisation of what Namco had wanted to achieve with the home versions of the Ridge Racer series ever since Revolution, and one of the most consistently enjoyable arcade racers ever created.
Continue reading Ridge Racer Type 4: Real Racing Roots ’99
While the arcade installment Ridge Racer 2 and its home conversion of sorts Ridge Racer Revolution went in slightly different directions, it was the third “generation” of Ridge Racer games where the two approaches finally diverged completely.
1995’s third arcade installment Rave Racer again acted as more of an evolution from the previous games, featuring more detailed graphics and a couple of new tracks as well as the circuits from the original Ridge Racer. Notably, it was also the first Ridge Racer game to put a strong emphasis on a female “mascot” character in its epilepsy-inducing attract mode; some conjecture this is actually the first appearance of longtime series “image girl” Reiko Nagase, though the hotpants-clad polygonal model doesn’t look a lot like how we came to know and love her in later installments.
1996’s Rage Racer, meanwhile, was a complete reinvention for home systems, featuring an actual single-player “campaign” of sorts to work through, with gradual progression and car upgrades as well as the abandoning of arcade game conventions such as tight time limits and checkpoints with which to extend it. The immediacy was still there, but now the game wanted to keep you in your seat for more than five minutes at a time.
Continue reading Rage Racer: Point of Divergence