One of the first games to be announced for Nintendo’s 64-bit console, Cruis’n USA was given a fair amount of attention when it was first released; for the 32-bit generation, driving games that had established the credentials of rival machines (Ridge Racer for the Playstation and Daytona USA for the Saturn) and Nintendo fans hoped that Arcade Racer would do the same for the shiny new N64.
Sadly, the fans were to be very disappointed.
Cruis’n USA is actually an arcade conversion, and you know you’ve got problems when the original coin-op was pretty dire to begin with. The N64 port is even worse, with muddy, ill-defined visuals and an unforgivable jerky frame-rate. Ok, so this is an early N64 release and you might be inclined to cut it a bit of slack, but put next to the likes of Wave Race or Pilotwings – two other games released at roughly the same time – and the deficiencies of Cruis’n USA become all too apparent.
Matters aren’t helped by the fact that the game is monumentally dull, possessing none of the excitement so prevalent in other, more notable, racers. It also showcases some shocking examples of poor programming, with collision detection being reduced to a seemingly random affair; your car is often bounced off objects that appear to be a safe distance away, but other times you pass through certain-death impacts without any negative effect. The handling is also laughably unrealistic and thanks to the aforementioned frame rate issues it never feels like you’re travelling at great speeds.
A two-player mode has been included but even it can’t save the game from mediocrity; the frame rate issues get even worse with the split-screen view and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get anyone to play this terrible game with you anyway.
We can understand why Cruis’n USA has made its way to the Virtual Console; despite the generally poor quality of the game it still manages to retain a sense of respect and is a widely recognized brand (hence the recent, and equally lamentable, Wii update). Nevertheless, we strongly recommend against downloading it.