Rad Racer

Review Date: March 11, 2021

Release Date: October 1, 1987

Platform: NES

Publisher: Square (or maybe Nintendo, but Square developed it, so I’m going with them)

Genre: Racing

Anecdotes: By the end of 1987, the NES had become more popular than anyone ever imagined. I was ten and completely enamored with it. I was just starting to go down into the family room when everyone was asleep to play Section Z. Naturally, I got up at 6:30 to sneak in another session of Section Z on Christmas Day, but everyone else was already up and Santa had already come through. There was a wrapped box that obviously contained a game. My mom said it was from Santa, but even at 10, I could easily see that was my mom’s writing on the tag. It was Rad Racer inside. After the morning traditions ended, I went downstairs, pulled Section Z out, and put Rad Racer in. I started playing around 8. By 9, I have found the ridiculous 3D feature and saw the sky on course 1 transition from day to night. I played for an hour or two and it was fun. It wasn’t until about 25 years later when it hit me that Square made this game. Yes, that Square.

Description: Players choose one of two cars. When that’s done, the game shows the layout of course 1. The object is to complete all 8 courses. Each course is divided into quarters. At the end of each quarter is a checkpoint that will add time to the clock. (I’m not sure if it’s always 45 seconds, but that number showed up a few times.) If the fourth checked flag is reached, the course is successfully completed.

This is the preview of course 4. The first segment looks brutal, but once that is passed, it shouldn’t be as tough.

Positives: Rad Racer improves a lot of things from a similar game, Mach Rider. First, all of the obstacles on the course are gone, but so is the ability to shoot. Second, the courses are not flat. There are uphill, flat, and downhill segments. Third, the graphics are much better. Backgrounds and colors vary nicely, and colors even change while racing. The backgrounds also raise and lower based on up and down hill segments. Finally, I like how the car slows down when the timer runs out. It doesn’t brake rapidly and allows players a fair chance to reach the checkpoint before it stops. Players can continue racing.

This was one such case; I finished the Grand Canyon with no time left! Honestly, though, I found course 3/Grand Canyon to be the easiest course in the game.

Negatives: I won’t mention how useless the 3D feature is and how it doesn’t work properly…whoops, I guess I already did. Oh well. What other problems are there? Well, I’ll go to an old standby: complaining about traffic. It’s bad enough cars will just jump in my way. It’s even worse that one of them can bump me into a road sign and flip me up in the air, costing me tons of time. But did they have to constantly have the cars running three wide? There’s no way around that until one of the cars changes speed. There are only three lanes on the course. Speaking of which, maybe it’s just me, but it’s a problem with a lot of racing games. Why are there lanes on a race course?

More Screenshots:

Ride into the night.
Night scenes! It’s supposed to be San Francisco, but it needs an earthquake to really sell it.
Naturally, every game now has to have some kind of wintry component to it.
The game over screen marks progress. I just missed the checkpoint. By the way, my score is that low because I used the stage select code.

Grade: C


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