By ferrarimanf355 8 Comments
Hey guys, what's up? I know I promised this, so here's the Annotated History Of The Cruis'n Series, part one. Let's start from the beginning...
Developed by a team at Midway headed by Eugene Jarvis and borne from an experiment Jarvis had with VR tech in the early '90s, Cruis'n USA was based on a Cannonball Run-style race from San Francisco to Washington DC, with a cameo from President Clinton at the end in what would become a running gag. Gameplay was basic- pick a car and transmission, mash the accelerator, shift if you need to, dodge traffic, don't hit the brakes. It was casual before casual games became cool.
Here's some footage of the arcade version.
The game itself was a pretty big success, despite (or because of) its simplicity, and like Daytona USA, it wasn't really an arcade or family fun center without a Cruis'n USA cabinet or two. And it's easy to see why- the gameplay is fun, especially with a friend, the graphics are clean with a fast framerate, and the music was pretty good, too. There was something about the arcade racers from 1994 having great music.
As an aside, the cabinet came in three versions- sit-down, stand-up, and a sweet motion cabinet that moved and tilted with every turn of the wheel Unfortunately, it was expensive as hell, so there aren't too many of 'em in the wild. More people bought the other two versions.
Since Daytona USA was ported to the Saturn and Ridge Racer to the PlayStation, a home port of Cruis'n USA was inevetable, and Midway knew it during development. So, a deal was struck with Nintendo where both companies co-owned the rights to the game and any future sequels, and the game was then destined to be ported to the then-Ultra 64 console, with a reminder in the attract screen that the home port would come in 1995. A similar deal was struck with Midway to get Rare's Killer Instinct into arcades, too.
There was one problem, though- two, actually. First off, the Ultra... I mean Nintendo 64 was delayed into 1996, along with the promised Cruis'n USA port. Secondly, the arcade version's hardware, the Midway V Unit, had nothing in common with the N64 hardware. (Killer Instinct used totally different hardware, as well.) The developers tasked with porting the game over missed the N64 launch by a couple of months because it was a struggle to get it done right, and it shows. Despite adding in split-screen multiplayer and car upgrades (different color, higher top speed), the N64 port had muddied graphics and occasionally stuttering framerates, especially in multiplayer. But the music took the biggest hit. It picked a fight with a crappy MIDI composer and lost. Here's some (lo quality) footage of the N64 version. Compare the music with the arcade footage above. Yeah, it's not pretty.
Yeah, needless to say, the N64 port of Cruis'n USA got trashed upon release. It played okay, but the window of opportunity was shut by the time it finally came out, inferior to Sega's Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition, Namco's Ridge Racer Revolution, and even Nintendo's own Wave Race 64. Luckily enough, by the time Cruis'n USA finally came out on N64, people were willing to wash the bad tastes out of their mouth with the new Cruis'n game out in arcades.
Next time, I'll talk a little about the sequel, Cruis'n World, and explain why the N64 port of that game wasn't terrible.