Cherriogan!

Previous Article - X-Entertainment - Next Article --- By Matt - 8.29/'02

There really isn't much to say about Nintendo's old Rad Racer game. You drive cars, and occasionally, you smash cars into palm trees. It's not exactly subject matter that'd have Hemingway licking his chops. Still, I feel compelled to write something about it, partly because it's how I learned the word 'rad,' but mostly because the only thing on television right now is a Lifetime Intimate Portrait with Lea Thompson. There's only so many times I can hear about her brilliant subtle humor in Howard The Duck before I feed my eyes and ears to our cats.

Now Rad Racer wasn't a bad game. It just wasn't very exciting. I dare call the 'rad' moniker false advertising. That's how far I'm willing to take this thing. Oh yeah folks, we're throwing caution to the wind tonight. RAD RACER SUCKED. Oh OH that felt good. I'm now vindicated for the fifteen years of hate I've thrown towards my poor Uncle Charlie for buying me the game. There's nothing actively wrong with it, it's just the sort of thing where you can spend barely three seconds playing before noticing that taking a piss is less repetitious and a lot more interesting. While pissing, you could always go nuts and just start spraying words on the walls. If you tried exploring that kind of freedom with Rad Racer, the best you could do is smash the car into one of the road signs. And that loses it's effect real quick.

I wouldn't want to spend the next 1,800 words or so complaining, because they'll be plenty of time for that when I'm reviewing the new He-Man cartoon and we stumble onto the subject of the Sorceress dressing like an Egyptian cult leader. Instead, we'll supplement the small review with some tidbits about how one was fooled into buying the game, and afterwards, fooled again into spending money on figuring out how to beat it. A whole lot of fool fooly foolish stuff tonight. You'd be a fool not to enjoy it. This article is foolproof. I love fool humor.


When you look back at the old advertisements now, they're funny because the technology seems so outdated that we can't understand how anyone could've ever been excited over it in the first place. How's that for profound? Thing is, nobody back then knew what was coming, and all these new Nintendo titles seemed magical. When I first got mine and played Super Mario Brothers with my entire family looking on, it was an event. We stood in awe of the graphics and the games with itchy thumbs and open jaws. I doubt they'll ever be such a huge sudden jump in the home gaming experience like that again. Even though the stuff we see today just blows this crap out of the water in every possible way, it's a relatively slow progression. All the companies are quick to put out every last often-insignificant upgrade before their competitors do, and the results are a seamless transition from the graphics we saw on the first Playstation to the junk we're seeing now on the new systems.

But for me at least, the only thing I could compare my Nintendo games to were the games of our previous system, the Atari. And that's a pretty huge difference. I went from making a faceless jungle man with three beige squares for legs jump over pink holes in Pitfall to having Mario shoot flying turtles with glowing fireballs in the span of a month. This was a big deal. Besides, Atari never let me use a toy gun to kill video game ducks. Screw 'em.


Oh no, they're having the kid use that Nintendo 'Advantage' controller. I hated that thing. I dunno, maybe if you were already an older gamer during the NES' heyday, using the Advantage wasn't so bad. But if you're a kid with small hands, it's like trying to operate Galactus' can opener. To this day I haven't seen the point in marketing a controller 400x larger than normal, unless demographics tests proved that eighty-year-old grandmothers with cataracts were really interested in playing video games. On the plus side, it was way more durable than the standard controllers. This came in handy when you threw it in frustration while playing level 7 in Castlevania. I'm just holding a grudge because the damn thing used to leave inch-deep indentations on the skin of my thighs if I played Nintendo for more than ten minutes. And those thighs were my meal ticket.


Hard sell time, as the kid quickly morphs into a race car driver. Speaking of bad peripherals, have you ever tried one of those steering wheel controllers? Those are some truly guaranteed annoyances. I had a third-party version for my N64, and the thing that really irked me wasn't the fact that it never seemed to work - rather that I looked like a complete idiot guiding Diddy Kong through his pool tube races holding a giant toy steering wheel. I later gave the controller to my five-year-old nephew because he's young and it's okay for him to look retarded. I had my image to consider, so I ran with the animal rights fad and stuck 'Club Sandwiches, not Seals!' stickers on the backs of my chic normal-sized controllers.

No matter how you look at it, there's just no way to look cool playing video games. Many have tried, all have failed. Hell, even Fred Savage looked dumb and if he can't turn something suave, there's no point in people like us trying.


Rad Racer was allegedly rendered in 3-D, so the experience was heightened if you used the conveniently-included 3-D glasses. I dunno, the only difference I noted was that all the cars had a more prominent yellow tint. I could lie and say that I felt like I myself was cruising through Malibu in a hot convertible, but that's just an outright waste of a chance to lie and I think I'll save that for later when I tell you about the time I killed three hammerheads using a tiny spear I made out of crayons.

It didn't make a difference if the glasses worked or not, kids still wanted to wear them. It sucked if you were playing Rad Racer with a friend and only had one pair. The one who got to wear 'em had an undeniable psychological advantage. Not because the glasses enhanced his abilities, but because the person who wasn't wearing them was preoccupied with jealousy over how smooth their friend looked playing Nintendo. These were silent and pretty much forgotten wars of yesteryear, but the bitter feelings still remain in many of us. Fred Savage included.


Oh yeah, the game. The most fun part for me was choosing the car. They gave you two whole choices! I don't care what anyone or any manual says, there was no decipherable difference in the abilities of these two cars. Your decision found it's roots purely in whether you were in the mood for yellow or red on that particular day. I always picked the red one because the hubcaps appeared to be adorned with satanic devil stars. If I was going to play a shitty racing game, I wanted to at least pretend Lucifer was driving the car.


So you'd go about the race, trying to beat the clock while avoiding the other, slower, uglier cars that got in your way. Amazingly, nobody seemed to be driving any of these things. I have no theories to offer on that, maybe everyone in the Rad Racer universe stole invisibility potion from the Old Kasuto town in Zelda II. You had to maintain speeds of over 200 miles per hour to get anywhere in the game, but you never felt like you were going to extremes since the only difference between 10 MPH and 250 MPH is the tempo of the buzzing sound meant to represent your car's engine. Your car might need an oil check. :(


The biggest obstacles were the palm trees and road signs that lit your way through the course like enchanted fake lamp posts. This is where speed did come into play - if you hit one of these things at a slower speed, you could kinda just shrug it off and go back to driving. If you hit them while going really fast though, your car would fly ten feet into the air, do a bunch of acrobatics that'd have olympic gymnasts clapping, and you'd lose a few seconds of time as the computer pushed your car back into the middle of the road. Rad Racer seemed almost identical to Pole Position for the most part, which made me a little pissed since Pole Position was an Atari game and was supposed to suck. I expected more from the Nintendo gods. These were the same people who crafted games where you had to punch boxers in their naval whenever their underwear showed. It's not like they didn't know how to be creative.

Okay, so say you're really interested in becoming a better Rad Racer player. Say you've tried everything you could - practice, asking friends for help, memorizing the manual, black magic - you've done everything you could, and still you keep driving into the trees. You don't know what to do, you don't know where to turn. Nintendo Power can't help you. Your friends can't help you. What chance do you have? Don't worry, salvation is just a phone call away!


The Nintendo Game Hotline - your #1 resource for tips and tricks. Don't blame Nintendo for this one, this was all done by some faceless company who are assuredly out of business by now. The idea that a kid could call into an automated message system and get charged to listen to 100 prerecorded 'tips' on games he didn't even own is preposterous enough, but also consider this: was the automated message system a mind reader? Even if you spend the 30 dollars it'd take for the thing to get up to the game you're inquiring about, what are they gonna do then? Walk you through every stage of the game from Point 1 to Point 3,644 until they've run out of Points and just read off the game's production credits to kill time? Even I wouldn't have fallen for this one, and I'm one of the people who bought Don Lapre's Making Money package. Twice.

I do give them credit for the commercial itself though - my favorite part was a little kid playing Game Boy, stopping at various intervals to perform cheering hand-gestures for himself. Click here to see what I'm talking about. There's also a scene where a kid plays Punch-Out with the Power Glove in one hand, a telephone in the other. As if the place had a 24-hour live support team ready to dish out strategy tactics to defeat Don Flamenco.


Realizing that their business model was flawed and would only work on the most naive little toads, the company tried to boost interest by offering free patches. Well just color me SOLD. Really, by the time they got to the patch business, you were surely ten minutes in and 15 dollars in the hole. A patch that expensive had to be something special. I sense gold trim.

I should say that I don't really hate Rad Racer. I just preferred the games that let me be plumbers or sword-wielding elves. I'm sure Rad Racer has many fans, maybe even fan clubs. I wonder if they're divided into 'red car' and 'yellow car' enthusiast camps, each group quietly biding their time till the right moment to strike at the other presents itself. I wonder that because Rad Racer does little in the way of imagination and you've really gotta reach if you want to entertain yourself. So if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go play it again, and this time, I'm gonna pretend that the clouds are really enemy albino hawks that I have to navigate against. This should be fun!!

- Matt
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