As we hit the fall of 1987 we come to this two-mega cartridge which sees Sega trying to squeeze another of their super scaler arcade titles onto the Master System. This time around it’s their classic driving game OutRun, which was created by Yu Suzuki and added their own spin on the tired-and-true Pole Position formula that many driving games used at the time. Instead of focusing on lap times and qualifying for races, though, Out Run instead concentrated on the driving experience itself as you had a fun time zooming down the highway and having a wild time doing it, with your girl by your side as well. The game was another arcade success for Sega, and some gameroom dwellers were even lucky to experience the deluxe cabinet which looked like the front of a car, complete with a steering wheel and car seats. After its run in the arcades Sega ported it to the SMS, most likely to compete with Nintendo’s driving offering Rad Racer which was also released around the same time. Like the previous super scaler titles Space Harrier and Enduro Racer, this conversion was significantly cut down to fit for the 8-bit console and it loses a bit in the transition. That doesn’t mean it’s not playable, though, in fact it fares a little better than you think.
This cart lets you take the wheel of your hot Ferrari racing car for a drive down a stretch of highway, trying to reach the end within a given time limit. When you first begin the game you get to choose from one of three background songs on the radio (Magical Sound Shower, Passing Breeze, or Splash Wave) then you and your gal pal are at the starting line waiting for the flag to drop to send you on your way. This game uses the traditional 3D behind-the-vehicle view as you dodge and weave your way around the other cars on the road who are naturally out to get in your way, while also handling the curves, hills and dips of the road itself. The race has five parts, with the first scene taking place at the beach, but at certain spots the road forks into two directions and you have to choose which path to take, with each path leading to new types of scenery such as deserts, canyons, forests and so on. The different paths give you up to 15 possible courses, all of which lead to one of five finish lines. The gamepad is no substitute for a steering wheel but it does an okay job controlling your car and shifting between the low and high gears is no problem.
If worrying about the enemy cars and the track itself wasn’t enough, you also have to watch out for your main opponent, the game clock which constantly ticks down. As you might expect, hitting another car or an object on the sideline will either spin out your car or even flip it into the air (the car doesn’t explode in this port, nor do you and your friend go flying), costing you precious seconds as you get back on the road. There are a number of checkpoints that’ll extend your run but the clock can be unforgiving at times which can be a little frustrating as you can only take a few crashes if you want any real chance to reach the next checkpoint. Obviously running out of time will instantly end your game, after which the game map is displayed showing how far you went during your session.
As expected this SMS port can’t come close to matching the crazy visuals and gameplay of the coin-op, but it doesn’t fare as bad as Space Harrier and the other super scaler ports. The cars look okay and the scaling is actually pretty decent, though some choppiness does rear its ugly head. The rest of the visuals don’t fare as well; the scenery is pretty sparse with most of the details from the coin-op missing, and as a result the landscape often looks barren and dull. The funky color schemes for some of the scenes also don’t help much. Much like the graphics the three background tunes aren’t as great as the arcade sounds but are still pleasant to listen to. Just be aware you’re stuck with the song you pick throughout your session; an option to change the music mid-game would have been nice.
So OutRun on the SMS is certainly fun and does an impressive job of bringing the arcade title onto the 8-bit console. The game plays solid enough and the different branches add a nice bit of replayability since you have different combinations of scenery to experience. But at the same time it’s hard to ignore the better versions of OutRun that are out there, especially on the Genesis and Saturn. Regardless, this cart is a solid choice if you just want a nice driving title to add to your Master System library.