Matters of Import: Sega 3D Classics Races Ahead With 3D OutRun

Is it a Magical Sound Shower or just a Passing Breeze?

Sega’s 3D Classics range just keeps on going — in Japan, at least — with this latest offering being OutRun, one of the biggest hits of them all. Like Super Hang-On and Space Harrier before it, OutRun used Sega’s impressive Super Scaler arcade tech to wow arcade gamers and deliver some truly unforgettable experiences.

The game was of course incredibly popular, spawning ports of wildly differing quality on everything from the ZX Spectrum to the dubious 3D remake on Playstation 2, which brings us to M2’s problem – what could they possibly add to an iconic game like OutRun that would make it worth buying for people who've already been playing it for nearly three decades?

The answer to that question is 3D OutRun’s “Special” mode — this version’s default experience — that features a carefully selected set of extras to lightly enhance the original rather than add any drastic changes like new routes or gameplay modes.

The most subtle of these — but arguably the most welcome — is the improved frame rate that allows everything to scroll by twice as smoothly as it does in the arcade original. Of course being the arcade powerhouse that it was, the original wasn't exactly jerky in the first place, but it’s a thoughtful addition that improves upon the original experience.

In contrast the most obvious change has got to be the two new music tracks available exclusively in Special mode that sit alongside the traditional three arcade pieces. Remarkably both Manabu Namiki’s “Cruising Line” as well as Jane Evelyn Nisperos’ (AKA: Chibi-Tech) “Camino a Mi Amor” fit Yu Suzuki’s driving experience like a leather racing glove, as if they'd always been there and we’d simply never noticed before.

It wouldn't be a 3D Classic without some interesting unlockables, and although OutRun’s aren't as drastic as 3D Fantasy Zone’s Upa-Upa mode, they are in keeping with the game’s vision of being a thrilling ride through European-ish countryside. There are five in total; the first four all affect how the car handles and the final reward is the chance to play the original arcade mode, free of Special’s extra bells and whistles and even recreating a timer bug found in the original game. The optional handling “cheats” improve cornering, reduce the effect of hitting traffic or scenery and increase the car’s top speed, while the final one stops the car slowing down when driving off road.

These can all be turned on in any combination the player chooses before the game starts and as every variant has its own car colour and leaderboard, players can try them out without ruining their high scores in the standard car.

The other options and features have become typical for the 3D Classics range, although it’s always worth pointing out that M2’s “standard features” are still far superior to anything offered by anyone else. Both the domestic (Japan) and international versions of the game are included, as well as difficulty and timer options, the ability to turn on authentic cabinet sounds and four different simulated moving arcade cabinets – complete with posters and other Sega arcade games in the background. The suite of tweaks available even extend to altering how loud the engine sound is in game, and whether the speed is displayed in mph or kph.

Controls are given the same attention too, with the otherwise unused lower screen acting as optional steering and acceleration (slide the stylus up/down for speed, left/right for steering) – it does work, but it doesn't feel very practical or satisfying. This is only a minor fly in the ointment though as both the slide pad and the D-pad are supported, and as always M2 allows players to map any button on the 3DS however they like.

It’s worth pointing out that this port is not entirely accurate – Sega don’t have the Ferrari license any more and as such the car is yet another redesign to avoid threat of lawsuits, but it’s not really anything new for this game and the new car fits in so perfectly you’d have to go hunting for arcade screenshots to really appreciate the difference. There’s at least one altered billboard too, but again it’s done in the same style as the originals and it honestly doesn't feel out of place.

But the most important question of all is this – is OutRun still fun to play? Thankfully, the answer is an emphatic yes. The pleasure of drifting around corners at 170+ mph is as enthralling as it ever was, and thanks to the vast array of options and tweaks available this can be OutRun served exactly how you like it; want to just see some nice places and not worry about anything else? You can. Want to learn every corner and set some incredible lap times on the tightest time limits? You can do that too. And thanks to individual high score tables for all these possible variants you can flit between OutRun "tough-as-nails-race" and OutRun "leisurely-drive-through-some-inspired-landscapes" as you see fit.

3D OutRun is yet another excellent 3D Classic and proof that these ports are being handled with real love and care. It would have been easy for M2 to throw in every possible extra it can think of, but instead it has shown the restraint and awareness to use a light touch that adds to the original without damaging what made it so alluring in the first place.