Outrunners: How does an arcade gem get ported so badly?
I loved this game in the arcade. I am sure that many people that were around at the time recall dropping loads of quarters into this sit down machine that was one of the first games I ever recall that cost more than one quarter in order to play. This was fine because unless you were really terrible at it one game could last many minutes. Even though it was 2-D you wouldn't know it by playing it (well, not in 1992 anyway).
Most arcades would have the above unit, but bigger places like Chucky Cheese would sometimes have 8 units side by side and this meant that everyone could compete in a race style that would eliminate a certain number of players in each race until an eventual champion was crowned. It was one of the most successful racing arcade games in the time period and at that point was the most successful arcade game that Sega had ever produced.
You would also race in outrageous locations such as Easter Island, where there are no roads like this, or the Grand Canyon on impossible terrain. It was kind of funny how the race would begin in the Grand Canyon and the 2nd stage would be Niagara Falls, which is more than a thousand miles away in real life.
This seemed like an obvious port to a home console that would sell like hotcakes and had the potential to sell steering wheel accessories as well. It was all but guaranteed to sell wonderfully if they just managed to not completely screw the pooch on production.
They screwed the pooch on production.
Nobody in the 90's expected the graphics on home consoles to the as good as they were in arcades, we just hoped that it wasn't too far off. The lack of need to plug quarters into a machine was a good enough tradeoff for far less awesome graphics. It was understood, but when they do something like this it was simply infuriating. What did they do?
They had a forced split-screen at all times even if you were not playing against another human opponent. You were forced into a half screen view where you would be watching both yourself and the AI controlled car. This might have been ok to have as a demo mode at Babbages but it had not place being on a home console. How the hell are you supposed to be able to pay attention to both of these while playing? You can't and most players don't have a group of people that care enough to come watch so what I ask you SEGA, was the point of all this?
All other aspects of the game were kept intact such as having multiple possible paths and the funny animation of the drivers running to get back into the car after a crash because people are normally completely unphazed when thrown from a convertible that was just doing over 100 miles an hour.
This could have been a really great home console game but the forced spltscreen absolutely ruined it. It went from being something that could have been one of the greats to being, as a writer from Mega magazine said, Outrunners was "the most embarrassing driving game to appear on the Mega Drive/Genesis."
I, like most people, rented this game from Blockbuster with a certain level of enthusiasm only to play it a few times and get completely frustrated with the split screen and then go and do something outside. Maybe that was Sega's objective all along when they kept making mistakes in their overall business direction in the 90's? They wanted us all to get outside and get some exercise perhaps?