Review by TheSpelunker
"One of the few racing games I've played, it comes with '3D' glasses; for serious racing there may be better."
It is likely that Squaresoft's early racing game, Rad Racer, is lesser known than their role-playing series, Final Fantasy, which has more sequels than NES games had racing. Rad Racer, the first of a series of two, is a very basic racing game. It only has two cars and several tracks, and picking it up and playing it out of the box is simple. The main gimmick behind it was a pair of 3-D Glasses included with the game, which it was said let you to play the game in three-dimensions by clicking a button..You may suppose since glasses are what let you see this phenomenon, it is simply an illusion. Looking at a cloud for example shows you two images(one for each different colored lens -- red and blue), creating the illusion that the object is three-dimensional. Ooooh! 3-D! It had merit then, yet the glasses now are a novelty.
Your choice of cars in the game is between a Ferrari and an F1 race car. They both look different, which between them is seemingly the one distinction; perhaps there are minor differences in performance that I overlooked. Once you've chosen your car, you are shown a map of the upcoming track. Looking at the map you see a start and finish of course, but also several checkpoints dividing the course. So as to not make the game one huge haul(which otherwise it could be), you generally have only enough time in order to reach the next checkpoint.
If you don't reach the checkpoint before time is up, you get a final chance to coast through the markers, then you lose. However, if you do reach the checkpoint in time, you are awarded more seconds with which to reach the next checkpoint or, depending on where you are, the finish line. The running joke is that you always come within a few feet of the checkpoint before running out of time--which is actually how it's set up. Rad Racer is very challenging, due to the later levels' demanding you not make a single mistake throughout the course.
Mistakes, for instance, meaning anything from bumping into the back of another car(they're always nearby) and losing speed, running into a tree or other obstacle, or simply not going fast enough; it all depends how tough the course is, but, believe me, they do get very tough. The problem is the game's being repetitive enough at certain challenging points that wiillpower is required in order to set aside time to finish without getting frustrated. Courses don't vary much; repeating them dozens of times is essential later(and that's assuming you know the continue trick -- otherwise you have to start from the beginning every time you lose).
Because of this, Rad Racer tends to be slightly irritating. Incentive to solve it was occasionally lacking, because the only reward for beating a stage is a change in scenery on the next. You probably can't play Rad Racer in really large blocks; but you can play it in small ones. And as an early NES game and an interesting time-waster, it has enough merit. You race-in a first-person perspective. It'll at least entertain you for a while.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/21/06, Updated 06/11/08
Game Release: Rad Racer (US, 10/31/87)
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