This was an incredibly slow week for news, enough that I’m not really finding anything to throw together for your typical weekend Newsbytes. So instead of that, let’s do an article instead.
We know that the Cruis’n name is set to return to the arcade scene by the end of this year. To prepare for that, let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and remember the Cruis’n series as it has appeared in arcades. We will skip the console ports since it is the arcade side that we worry about here.
Cruis’n USA (1994)
The one that started it all. Directed by Eugene Jarvis at Midway and programmed by Eric L. Pribyl (click here to find out about the full team).
While many racing games up to this time were more focused on simulating professional racing on closed circuit courses, Cruis’n went more towards the amateur side. The player would select one of 10 courses across the United States, driving cross-country against nine rival vehicles. This “street racing” feel was boosted by the types of cars the player could select (including secret cars like the school bus, ATV and police car) and the scantily clad digitized girls who would greet you at the beginning and end of the race.
Cruis’n USA wasn’t looking to recreate exact tracks & locations or realistic physics. It was all about offering a fast and thrilling arcade experience. That formula cominbed with the open circuit race would be reused in other Cruis’n games as well as in similar titles like California Speed or the Fast and Furious games.
It also marked some firsts for Williams/Midway. The Midway V Unit hardware was designed for 3D texture mapped graphics as opposed to 2D sprites. That was shown off by the buttons on the control panel which allow you to change the view on the fly. The game was also released in a motion seat configuration as pictured here:
The first Cruis’n came at an interesting time in the arcade industry. Fighting games had established themselves as a strong earning genre. Hardware caught up to produce 3D graphics at more reasonable costs. Networking was also becoming more commonplace after being introduced with Final Lap (Namco/Atari, 1987).
It was also released the same year as a mega-hit for Sega – Daytona USA. Arcades everywhere were scooping up the game and the earnings that would come with it. It showed that a racing game could generate hype like a fighter but as time would show, racing games would also have longer legs.
Now there was a little bit of controversy with this game. This and Killer Instinct were originally promoted by Nintendo as being the first games to use their Ultra 64 hardware (aka the Nintendo 64). The attract screens in Cruis’n USA even a spinning “Nintendo – Ultra 64” logo in them. The reality is that both games used very different hardware which was more powerful than the N64 was. This delayed the ports to that system along with disappointing people who thought that they were really playing Nintendo’s next console hardware.
Still, it worked as a decent marketing gimmick back when having arcade quality graphics was a selling point.
Cruis’n World (1996)
With a popular game comes a sequel. Cruis’n World would expand the idea beyond the borders of the USA to involve different countries such as Japan, Russia, England, Germany, Egypt and more. The open circuit course design and digitized crowds were kept intact. Also introduced in this game was the use of “stunts” such as pop-a-wheelies and backflips and the occasional secret short cut. They also expanded the network ability to cover up to four games instead of just two.
As this ran on the same hardware as USA, the graphics didn’t change very much apart from improved resolution. There was a ‘big screen’ cabinet released that used a 33″ monitor instead of the standard 25″. A kit upgrade was also offered to ops that wanted to refresh their games.
Cruis’n Exotica (1999)
The final Cruis’n arcade entry from Midway would be Exotica. Personally I have not come across this one as often, which took the Cruis’n formula even further into ‘over the top’ territory. Going beyond just “world” locations, some of the exotic sites included Atlantis and Mars.
To give the game a little more character, you can pick your driver in addition to your car. The selection has some fun ones like a cowboy, an alien, the clown that nobody likes, etc.
The cabinet received a redesign for Exotica, sporting a new purple seat and larger dashboard to accommodate the new keypad feature. This could be used to create an account, track how many miles you drive and access new secret cars.
It also ran on Midway’s Zeus II hardware. This allowed for more effects such as light sources, animated textures, and less pop-up giving it an improved graphics package.
Spiritual Successors: The Fast and the Furious Series (2004-2010)
After Midway went the way of console gaming and then bankruptcy, Cruis’n director Eugene Jarvis stayed with the industry by forming a new company with some partners. We all know it as Raw Thrills. Their games have often kept a similar feel to Midway titles of the 90s, keeping that spirit alive.
Around 2005, the company was working on a game that was very similar to the Cruis’n games but without the name. Initially the game was going to titled something like Hot Cars but the idea was floated that they get their hands on a popular movie license to give it a boost. After things worked out with Universal, The Fast And The Furious came to arcades and the Cruis’n spirit was kept alive.
Apart from that license as well as licensed vehicles, you can sit down at any FnF game and feel right at home. The open circuit courses, short-cuts, car tricks and tracks all over the world feel fits in with the Cruis’n formula. What they added to it were larger track selections and for the most part the series stayed arcade exclusive. The exception was a port to the Nintendo Wii that did carry the Cruis’n name but was generally panne
The first FnF game was launched in 2004 and much like the first Cruis’n, had multiple cabinet designs including a full-blown motion base. This was among Raw Thrills’ first releases, right after Target Terror. One aspect which would become a big part of the series were the microtransactions, where you can ‘trick out’ your car with decals, nitrous boost, a bigger engine, new tires, etc. by throwing in a few extra coins.
Raw Thrills also created a motorcycle racing game called FnF Super Bikes in 2006 which was essentially the same game but with motorcycles; that same formula was reused in Super Bikes 2 (which dropped the FnF license) and Winter X Games Snocross.
The second in the series was Tokyo Drift. This improved on the original FnF graphics, added more courses, changed the “powerslide” trick to Drifting while also tracking how much drifting you do. With TD, Raw Thrills introduced a new kit design for converting a number of older American racing games so operators could easily refresh their games. This is how I started my own arcade, by converting a pair of Cruis’n USAs over to TD.
The 3rd one was called Super Cars. By adding even more tracks, bumping up the resolution, adding achievements, adding a more technical feature of warning you of upcoming turns, this title ended up as the best of the series. A new idea in kits, the “cut down”, was also introduced by having the operator cut off the top of the game and install their own LCD monitor.
Cruis’n Blast (2016)
What started out as Cruis’n Adventure then became Cruis’n Redline is now Cruis’n Blast. This could still change again before the production release but it is the name I’ve heard mentioned the most.
As the game has been on location test in the Chicago area, a number of people have already been able to snap pictures and videos of that edition. Initially seen with a card vending system, this has been removed for the time being.
We will have more information on this one to share soon, so stay tuned!
What is your favorite Cruis’n (or Cruis’n like) game?