Though Galaxy Force may have had a more expansive setting, the more humdrum Rad Mobile (the arcade version of Gale Racer) was actually more impressive in terms of technology. Literally Putting the player behind the dash board of a fancy super-charged sports car, the game covers an action-packed North American road race that takes the player from LA all the way to New York.
Yes, on paper it may sound vaguely like an inverted Turbo Outrun, but Rad Mobile is actually a really interesting little title in its’ own right. Not only does the game feature a novel first person perspective and control scheme (the player has to manually trigger the windscreen wipers and head lights,) but each of the game’s stages feature unique characteristics that help to keep the gameplay fresh. From mountain top duels to dashes through dark underground caverns, there’s always something new to see and a new challenge to face.
In fact, Rad Mobile is probably worth checking out just for its historic significance alone: Released a year before the original Sonic the Hedgehog, it just so happens that the mascot swinging from your car’s rear view mirror is a certain blue hedgehog.
As ports go, its worth noting there’s a couple of crucial differences between Galaxy Force and Gale Racer. Firstly, unlike Galaxy Force, the Saturn version remains the only home port of Rad Mobile. Secondly, Gale Racer is less of a port and more a complete make-over. Not only does the title feature fancy CGI cut scenes and a new red book audio soundtrack, but the developers even replaced all of the sprite-based opponents with polygonal models. In fact, the only thing they don’t seem to have changed – quite bizarrely – are the in-game banners that still read ‘Rad Mobile.’ Hmm.
It’s also worth noting that, on top of the modifications, the game was also already completely localised into English – including all of the text in the cut scenes – so why didn’t Sega simply press some copies in order to bolster the Saturn’s relatively meagre Western launch lineups?
The answer, sadly, can be found the second the opening stage loads. Though the polygon-based opponents are an interesting addition, the gameplay has unfortunately been butchered in the transition to console. Though anyone who has used a Playstation or a Saturn for any length of time will know the pain of limited draw distances, Gale Racer takes these to the extreme as vehicles generally pop up at a distance that’s too close to allow for any sort of evasive action. It’s a bit like driving through fog, except there isn’t any fog.
If the draw distances weren’t bad enough, the game is further hindered by the CD medium. The original arcade game was made up of quick-fire stages that flowed into each other without removing the player from the game. The port, however, inevitably features loading passages between these short stages which both substantially damages the sense of immersion and (unfortunately for a launch title) helps to show-cases one of the console’s major flaws. If that wasn’t bad enough, the scenery was also significantly cut back from the arcade, meaning some of the locations even fail to make full visual sense, which is a pity.
That’s not to say that all of the additions aren’t entirely welcome, mind. The polygon-based cars are ok, and the soundtrack is definitely a step-up from the rather forgettable arcade original. It’s also pretty clear that a lot of effort went into the cut-scenes. Also, the ability to swap your Sonic mirror toy for other characters is a pretty nice addition, so it would be wrong to say that the port is unforgivably lazy.
Regardless of the effort however, an unplayable port is a bad port. Though the core game still has its charms (a mountain-top race against an aggressive Duel style truck remains my favourite,) the whole thing is filtered through an unpleasant layer of poor implementation. It’s quite easy to see why the regional Segas weren’t interested in releasing the title and it really is a shame that, MAME aside, Gale Racer remains the only way to play Rad mobile without tracking down an original arcade machine. Hopefully, one day, Sega will see fit to release a port this game deserves.
Until then, both titles can be found freely on amazon for a price of less than £20 (at the time of writing, at least)