The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT Arcade Retrospective
WARNING: Obvious satire.
The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT is a 2007 arcade racing game developed by Raw Thrills as a sequel to 2004’s The Fast and the Furious. As the title implies, the main difference between DRIFT and its predecessor is the ability to do backflips.
At the time of its release, DRIFT was widely praised for not only being fun, but also for being extremely cost-effective for arcade operators. Raw Thrills stated in a December 2006 press release that their intention was to keep the price as low as possible by developing a game that looked like it was made in 1998. Fans and operators alike rejoiced when this lofty promise was fulfilled and the in-game graphics were nearly a decade behind other 2007 arcade releases.
Raw Thrills also kept DRIFT’s price low by releasing the game as an upgrade kit, a practice that was starting to be phased out of the arcade industry at that time. The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT was developed as an upgrade kit for an astonishing number of preexisting arcade games, including the original 2004 FnF game, Cruis’n USA, Cruis’n World, Cruis’n Exotica, Cruis’n Velocity, Cruis’n Blast, California Speed, toasters, Off-Road Challenge, ATMs, San Francisco Rush, Rush the Rock, Rush 2049, CART Fury, and Sega NET Mahjong. The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT was lauded for the sheer number of arcade games that were supported by its upgrade kit, especially since the popular racing game could now be played on both toasters and ATMs, fulfilling two previously neglected sectors of the arcade market.
Of particular note was DRIFT’s faithfulness to the Fast and the Furious intellectual property. The game contains cars and girls, just like in the movies. Furthermore, many of the tracks take place at night and are so dark that you can’t see anything. This adds an exploration element to DRIFT that really set the game apart from its linear contemporaries.
The game was distributed in Japan by Taito and ended up becoming a surprise hit in that region. Many analysts at the time speculated that the popularity of FnF: DRIFT in Japan was due to the inclusion of Japanese trophy girls, and skinny Japanese gamer boys had not been previously exposed to many girls.
However, not everything went perfectly for The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT. Many players criticized the game for the extreme rubberbanding and seemingly unfair difficulty. When asked to comment on the difficulty, Marvel president Eugene Jarvis stated:
“We recognize the complaints about the difficulty, but we stand our ground on our game design decisions. The target audience for The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT was and always has been children and drunk people, because neither group knows when to stop pumping money into the machine.”
I for one have never agreed that the game is too difficult. For instance, you can use nitrous in the game but it never makes you go any faster, just like in real life. I believe this adds a degree of realism that keeps the game from feeling too arcade-y.
Upon its release, players were quick to point out that there were many gameplay similarities between The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT and the Cruis’n series of games, because The Fast and the Furious and Cruis’n USA are both racing games. This is no mere coincidence. In 1994, Eugene Jarvis played the original Cruis’n USA arcade game at an ice cream parlor and was inspired to work in the video game industry. After quitting his job as a marine biologist, Jarvis founded Play Mechanix and developed the first FnF arcade game as an homage to the Cruis’n game he played a decade prior. When asked to comment on the similarities between the two series, Raw Thrills president Adam Sandler stated:
“Cruis’n is fun, but is it fast? No. Is it furious? No. Cruis’n has Bill Clinton, but we have Howard Dean. Cruis’n lets you hit animals, but we let you drive through solid objects.”
Regardless of how you feel about The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT, it’s hard to deny the game’s overwhelming popularity. DRIFT sold between one and one million units, but the Raw Thrills sales manager lost count somewhere along the way. Though exact numbers aren’t available, he said the number of DRIFT machines sold were “a lot.”
And I’m sure many of you have fond memories of playing The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT at your local pizza place or FEC. I always wanted to play multiplayer but I didn’t have any friends. It was very good game, though.