Rad Racer


Review by Nathan Dunsmore



Graphics: 10

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9


Over the years Square has become one of the most highly acclaimed and well respected developers In the game industry, constantly churning out more hits than misses. Today, Square is recognized for its beloved Final Fantasy franchise. While there's no denying the series' greatness, it's time to take a step back to 1987 with Square's first game console entry, a phenomenal little NES cart based on the arcade hit Rad Racer, Square's first step towards becoming a major developer in the USA. Nearly two decades later it still manages to emphasize the word "rad" like no other.

radracer1nes.png (3951 bytes)The main objective of Rad Racer takes a more opposite route than the racers of today. As opposed to the traditional "place first to advance" approach, Rad Racer is a scenic drive through eight snazzy detailed courses, from Athens to the Grand Canyon, that requires players to race past a set of checkpoints within a short time limit. During the cruise, players must avoid oncoming traffic giants that take no prisoners (similar to that of the Cruis 'n series) and whiping off the course entirely, wasting valuable time. This is not as pressuring as it sounds. It's truly a matter breaking and speeding at the proper time. Just don't expect to blaze through it within the first few attempts..

There is absolutely no doubt that Square has polished up Rad Racer to look astonishing and choppy frame rate free on the NES's limited hardware. With an impressive 3rd person perspective, Rad ultimately stands out and sets a visual standard many racers were unable to achieve later in the console's life. The highlight of this graphic splendor is the San Francisco Highway level, sporting an upright amazing nighttime city backdrop that rotates with each turn made. Expect to see this dazzling rotation effect; along with frequent weather changes, grace all eight varied courses. The road lights and traffic signs put the icing on the cake.

The most amazing aspect of the gameplay is the intense realism. Rad Racer offers a relishing sense of speed. Once burning rubber at a maximum rate of 255 miles per hour while dodging fellow traffic, the reality revs up from behind the screen to behind the wheel. As a unique bonus, the game can be experienced with 3D glasses that came packaged with the game; not a common feature seen on the NES, let alone a racer.

The vehicle selection is a general but well designed red sports car or a white formula one race car. Traffic will also vary depending on which dream ride is chosen.

Rad may have an under whelming three song selection, but what Square has composed is certainly memorable. Each tune carries a great length of arcade catchiness and in addition can be changed at the player's convenience. The roaring engines and squealing tires do not drown out the music a single ounce.

On the same track as many of Square's titles, Rad Racer will take some time investment to complete. Definitely one of those "easy to learn, hard to master" type games. The spot-on controls are only half the race. Maneuvering in tight traffic commands a firm thumb grasp and demands the brake button on almost every turn to avoid whiping out. In the end, it only brings Rad Racer a mile closer to greatness. It's this type of difficulty that will keep players on edge right up to the rewarding (and humorous) ending. 

An immense round of applause for Square's Rad Racer, a solid first entry in every regard and yet another NES title that bears no excuse not to be purchased. As of now, Square has no intention of updating Rad on a current generation console anytime soon. Perhaps that's all for the best. Some classics are better left untouched.


Go to Digital Press HQ
Return to Digital Press Home

Last updated: Monday, July 17, 2006 02:13 PM