I tell ya what, folks: Cruis’n is THAT arcade racer. The one everybody knows, ya know? Anyway, I’m gonna review it, and then you can read about other arcade games that were present at Eclipse Con at the end of the article.
Developer: Midway Games
Release Date: 1996
If you’ve played the first Cruis’n USA, you’ll find that very little has changed gameplay-wise. Seriously, all the developers added was double-tapping the accelerator for stunts. But you know what? The lack of gameplay alterations sure as heck ain’t a bad thing. Cruis’n USA is already a fun and wacky arcade racer, and bringing that back for the sequel is a welcome, yet familiar, treat. The game, while not extreme, is pretty darn fast, and it’s all good fun.
However, a common complaint of the Cruis’n gameplay is in reference to the somewhat…wonky physics. Minor crashes can result in major spin-outs that take a little bit of time to recover from. In fact, if you crash into a line of cars, you’re liable to be stuck there for a few moments until everyone gets turned around. Can it be frustrating? Yes. Is it bad? No, not necessarily, and I can explain. For one, these erratic physics give you real penalties for driving imperfectly. Seriously, if you crash into a crud-ton of cars, you aren’t recovering anytime soon. And while this could be considered a cheap grab for quarters, I think it helps emphasize skill. Also, when you’re not the one involved in crashes, the physics can be gawdern hilarious. No joke, just check out some of the crashes that ensue between AI vehicles the next time you play—you will not be disappointed. Over-the-top much, Cruis’n?
Another common complaint of the Cruis’n series is the dynamic difficulty (A.K.A. rubberband AI), and it’s in full force here in Cruis’n USA. I gotta say, though, that I really do not have a problem with rubberband AI. Now of course, it has to be reasonable, but there’s nothing wrong with a racing game cranking up the difficulty when you’re playing well and toning it down when you’re screwing up. Personally, it keeps me on my toes, and it requires to put a bit more thought into things. Rather than, say, crashing into oncoming traffic and allowing three cars to pass me, I might try my absolute darnedest to screw up as little as possible.
Can dynamic difficulty be a little excessive at times? Yes, but I didn’t find it to be overly brutal in Cruis’n World. I was playing pretty badly, yet I still managed to win three free races out of the 14 tracks. Is it great? No, but I was playing kinda trash. And honestly, even if you lost every single race, you aren’t being cheated out of your quarters. The game is pretty much universally set to $0.50 per credit, and that’s only $7.00 to beat the game if you literally cannot win a single race in first place. Heck, I goofed up and still would have only had to pay $5.50 if the game hadn’t been set to freeplay. That is by no means horrendous difficulty—that’s just the price of what was (at the time) insanely crazy awesome hardware. Besides, the game is fun enough that I’m not off-put by a little rubberband AI and $7.00 for a full game (which, once again, is a worst case scenario). And don’t worry; the dynamic difficulty does chill out on the final track. Seriously, the final race before Bill Clinton on the moon is so mind-numbingly easy that you’d have to be playing like absolute garbage to not get first place.
(I didn’t get first place.)
I understand not being a big fan of paying per credit on a game that’s kinda meant to make you lose. You gotta admit, though, that it’s SO much better to put in another credit and slap the “Start” button than it is to play each race over and over again until you get third place or higher like you do in the Nintendo 64 version. Seriously, it was so much better. Oh, and cheaper.
However, even if you are a bit off-put by the physics and rubberband AI I think Cruis’n is still worth a playthrough for all of its quirks. Like I said, it’s fun and over-the-top. A prime example? Killing animals that walk across the track. There is nothing more satisfying than taking a spin on the Africa track and smashing exotic animals to gory chunks of meat. (I hope that doesn’t mean that I’m a terrible person, heh heh.) Believe it or not, the ability to kill animals on two of the tracks actually serves to break up the eventual monotony of doing nothing but racing. Consider it a minigame within the levels!
But like I said, this is a fun game. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Eugene Jarvis knows how to make a darn fun game. He’s such a cool guy. I bet he was just ridiculous in high school.
In terms of length, this is actually a rather brief game. To me, though, it’s pretty understandable. After all, this is an arcade racing game. However, Cruis’n World offers you two options for the “Cruise the World” mode, in which you play each track in succession: play with a friend, or go it alone. That, in and of itself, extends the game’s life a little bit. And though the “campaign” of sorts is incredibly brief, I think that’s a good thing. You get to try out all of the tracks and a few hidden ones, and then you’re finished. Well, maybe not QUITE finished. There is, of course, this final cutscene and credits sequence to really extend your total playtime and ensure that Cruis’n World is a game that you’ll never forget. (Skip to 1:50, because unfortunately everyone just uploads the last course and ending sequence together on YouTube. Also, I can't figure out how to upload my own videos from my computer to Wix.)
Is the total sequence just a little bit short? Yeah, but so is the game. If you really wanted to see that beautiful Bill Clinton ending sequence again, I suppose you could just play through the game again. Is it a shame that we didn’t get to spend more time with Bill in hot tub? Yes, it most certainly is. However, it IS good that the length of Cruis’n World’s campaign is fairly brief. While it is by no means there-and-gone, it is shorter than most arcade games. Considering the main appeal of this game is multiplayer, though, it’s good that the game is at least as long as it is—and that they bothered to include a ridiculously hilarious final cutscene. Thank you, Eugene Jarvis.
Beyond the length of the game, though, I think Cruis’n World does a darn good job of packing in content. 14 tracks is not a number to scoff at—heck, even a lot of modern arcade racers only clock in at 5 or so tracks! (Sad but true, people.) And of course, there are also the fun extras in this game. Might I remind you that holding down the “Music” button will allow you to choose from a different set of wacky vehicles? Doing that on an actual arcade cabinet was so much fun…in a weird kinda Dustin Wilcox-y kinda way. Yeah, I uh…I like arcade games a bit too much. So anyway, 14 tracks, 12 cars, and a somewhat brief yet satisfying campaign (and great ending sequence) make for solid content. Shall we move on?
Honestly, there’s not too terribly much to say about the controls. It’s an arcade racing game with lots of arcade racing controls. There are some Music buttons, and a clutch, and…yeah. It’s simple, but it works really well.
Perhaps the only truly notable aspect of the controls is found in how the game handles—the steering wheel. (I played in automatic transmission, so don’t expect me to go over that.) While the steering wheel may be just the slightest bit touchy, I actually found it’s sensitivity to be incredibly useful. On the Nintendo 64 version, I would often find myself crashing into boundaries because, quite frankly, the analogue stick wasn’t nearly as sensitive as I would have desired. When playing with a steering wheel on the actual arcade cabinet, however, I was so much more graceful with tight turns. It was pretty darn fun!
If I must apply criticism to the controls, though, it’s that I had trouble pulling off stunts with the gas pedal. For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to double-pump the gas quickly enough, I guess. I’m not really sure why it didn’t work. Maybe it’s easier to just tap the A button twice. Then again, this criticism is very much linked to my inability to execute a simple technique, so you might as well ignore it.
The graphics in Cruis’n World are absolutely phenomenal. While they may not have been a gigantic step up from Cruis’n USA, the game does run at a smoother framerate, and it still looks wonderful. Vehicles and environments are rendered at a top-notch polygon count; colors are bright and vivid; and textures are pretty nice for the time. In fact, the game looks so good that the only criticism that I have is of the draw distance. In all honesty, the draw distance is just a bit lackluster, but that may just be because the game is from 1996. Just a few times during my playthrough, I saw cars driving down a hill…that wasn’t there. Was it a bit jarring to see oncoming AI vehicles on invisible terrain? Yes. Is it forgivable? Considering this is a 1996 game with otherwise perfect graphics, it most certainly is.
There are also a lot of amazing graphical extras throughout the game. By the end of your playthrough, you'll be no stranger to airplanes or UFOs flying over the tracks.
Before I let you move on, I’d like to address something that no one every talks about in these early 3D games: the 2D sprites. The starting and trophy girls are rendered at a fairly high resolution, and their animations are far more fluid than in the home versions. (I’m comparing this game’s animation to the original Cruis’n USA N64 port, since Cruis’n World N64 doesn’t have a trophy girl.) Also, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s sprites are absolutely top-notch material, I might add.
Cruis’n World has two different cabinets, albeit very standard ones: a sit-down version and a stand-up version. Unfortunately, Cruis’n World was not blessed with the glory of a deluxe motion simulator version like Cruis’n USA was, but I suppose it’s okay. After all, motion simulators were and are kind of expensive, and I’ve read that the motion simulator can be upgraded to a Cruis’n World. It’s a win-win, yeah?
I played Cruis’n World on the standard sit-down cabinet, and it was pretty nice. The screen is good size, the DCS sound system is wonderful, and it’s a generally nice cabinet. It’s nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it’s nice. One thing that always stands out with Cruis’n games, though, is the cabinet art, and Cruis’n World’s sideart and marquee do not disappoint. The colors are bright and beautiful, and it truly gives you the feeling of setting out on the open road. Wouldn’t you agree?
Before we move on, I’d like to make a small note: I did not get to experience the force feedback in the steering wheel. Unfortunately, it had gone out, so the steering wheel just made a screeching sound as it attempted to provide me with some sort of vibration. However, I have played the arcade version of Cruis’n USA, and I know that the force feedback isn’t crazy extreme to begin with. So yeah, it’s a good cabinet. Let’s go ahead and talk about sound or some crud.
Ah, the Cruis’n series, home to some of gaming’s most…interesting music. Some people find Vince Pontarelli’s creative compositions just a bit odd, but me? Why, I absolutely love the music in Cruis’n World. In my opinion, Vince Pontarelli perfectly captured the essence of a wacky, Eugene Jarvis-directed arcade racer. And while I wish there were just few more tracks so that each level had its own unique theme (there are 9 or so songs but 14 tracks), I’m still wonderfully satisfied with the music that we did get. To better demonstrate what I mean, here are some songs from the game.
"Results Screen" - My personal favorite song, especially during the credits
And of course, the sound in Cruis’n World is not great only because of Vince Pontarelli’s music; it’s also great because of the SFX. Beyond vehicles sound pretty good, the game’s sound really shines when it comes to straight-up wackiness. Jumps will often be accompanied by a cartoony “boing,” and animal collisions are punctuated by booming explosions of sound. It’s just good ol’ wacky stuff, ya know? The sound effects can even be a little too cheesy, like the female announcer saying crud like, "Japan is so cool!" Oh, and of course, the DCS sound system makes the sound (cheesy or otherwise) that much better.
I sometimes imagine that Eugene Jarvis answers every question that arises in game development with, “Why not?” Why would any racing game allow players to smash animals to bloody bits and bid them farewell with Bill Clinton in a hot tub? Why not? Why would any light gun rail shooter made in the 21st century feature incredibly campy digitized actors dressed up as “terrorists” and feature copious level of gore? Why not? Eugene Jarvis is a genius disguised as some guy who never dropped his high school sense of humor. (Hey, that’s sorta like this guy at work who told me everyone thinks he's a complete deadbeat, but he actually has a 32 on his ACT and takes a crud-ton of college classes. Huh. Who woulda thought?)
Of course, in terms of the actual game itself, I highly recommend it, even if just for a one-time playthrough for a few chuckles. I often ask my teachers if they prefer Cruis’n USA or Daytona USA, and they always say Cruis’n. Why? Well, it’s just dang fun. Also, Cruis’n has WAY more content and gives you free races for first place. (The biggest sin in the history of arcade racing games is making players pay for the next race, even if they got first place.) Daytona’s still good, though. I kinda just wanted to make a point about how great Cruis’n World is.
Playing Cruis’n World made me realize just how lackluster Cruis’n Blast really is. I still haven’t played it, but I doubt the gameplay is any different from the FnF games. Sure, Cruis’n Blast has amazing graphics and an amazing cabinet, but where are the tracks? How have we dropped from 14 tracks to five tracks in 2017? And beyond that, where’s the “Cruise the Whatever the Heck the Subtitle is” mode? And BILL GOSH DARN CLINTON?!
Sigh. I digress.
Since I’ve already said as much as I can about Cruis’n World, I’d like to leave you with these thoughts: If you want a true spiritual successor to the original Cruis’n games, there is no better way to get your fix than by playing The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT. It has 19 tracks, a bunch of cars (can’t remember the number), and vehicle upgrades. The only downsides are the sort of “okay” soundtrack and the lack of the Cruis’n license. Other than that, I’d say that FnF: DRIFT is the game that truly deserves the title of Cruis’n 4.
Thanks for reading, folks. Keep it real.
The Arcade Games of Eclipse Con 2017
Psych! The article ain’t over yet, people! As you may know from my pretty lame Thursday article, there were totally arcade games at Eclipse Con in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. It was rad. But before we go over the games that were present, I’d like to bullet point some random crud that I just thought about.
It is becoming increasingly likely that I will simply drop this whole “Wilcox Arcade and Comics” nonsense and go back to my old name (aptly titled “Wilcox Arcade”). However, don’t fret: I will write TWO arcade-related post a week if time permits. What’s in the pipeline, you ask? Well, I’ve got an article about how mobile games aren’t the reason the arcade market declined (by the way, arcades never truly died), and article about how the AAMA Parental Advisory System was completely useless, and a very special House of the Dead article. Let’s hope all three of those lofty ideas actually come to fruition. I’m about to die from typing thousands of words a week.
Also, this “Eclipseville” junk is the most over-hyped nonsense in the history of the universe. Traffic is normal so far. Heck, traffic is probably even THINNER than it usually is, because all of the Hopkinsville residents are too scared to leave their houses. After all, we were told that traffic would be ASTRONOMICAL. We got school called off on Tuesday because the higher-ups thought traffic would be THAT BAD. Spoiler alert: It’s not that bad.
Now without further ado, let’s talk about some arcade games.
At Eclipse Con, there were 9 games: Cruis’n World, Double Dragon, Ranger Mission, Special Criminal Investigation, Hydro Thunder, Centipede, Gyruss, Track and Field, Terminator 3 pinball, and a pinball machine that I seem to have forgotten. Unfortunately, I didn’t play Special Criminal Investigation, Hydro Thunder, Track and Field, or that one pinball machine. Now that I think about it, that was a totally wasted experience. I can explain, though: My brother made me wear a matching gosh-awful Spider-Man shirt to the con and I could not wait to get out of there and change. I will never forgive myself for being swayed to wear that shirt.
However, with the games that I DID actually play, I learned a lot about them. Not enough for a review, of course, but enough to know if I would consider purchasing them for a future arcade. Terminator 3 pinball was really cool (SO MANY AWESOME GIMMICKS) but it felt a little…cheap, honestly. I think it’s that I’m just bad at pinball, though, so don’t get mad at me for saying that. I also played Ranger Mission, and it was okay. It seemed like a game that really wanted to be Time Crisis but just couldn’t be the same level of fun. I don’t know if any great Atomiswave light gun games actually exist, because I haven’t found one yet.
Then, there was Double Dragon. I had actually been wanting to play the arcade version of Double Dragon for quite a while, so it was nice to see it at Eclipse Con. The spectacular soundtrack was barely audible, so that was super disappointing. Also, the game itself seemed kinda…sluggish, like it was too good for its own hardware. It’s not that Double Dragon was bad, because I really liked it; it’s just that I’ve been spoiled by newer beat ‘em ups. Double Dragon was just too early on in the genre for me to appreciate properly, I suppose.
So yeah, that was the crud at Eclipse Con. I’m absolutely SICK of typing. THOUSANDS OF WORDS A WEEK, PEOPLE. WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF.