Posted on April 29, 2013
NASCAR ’98 (PlayStation)
I actually started this post some time early last year, and the draft for it has been staring me in the face ever since I started the countdown. Now that I’m done, I might as well go ahead and finish it up!
There were two consoles back in the mid-to-late 90’s that I desperately wanted to add to my collection.
There was the Nintendo 64, which I had read about non-stop in Nintendo Power since the days it was known as the Ultra 64. I regarded that console as I did the Super NES – the reliable standby, with Zelda and Mario titles for me to enjoy, and maybe (who knows) a Mega Man game or two. Good, wholesome family fun that maybe my parents would enjoy watching me play.
On the other hand, the Sony PlayStation was a console I wanted so I could experience racing games, as well as more mature titles. One console would serve one purpose, and the other console would serve another purpose altogether.
Buying Electronic Gaming Monthly or GamePro magazines didn’t happen as often as I would have liked, so getting to see the latest news in the gaming world outside of Nintendo was always a nice treat. I had friends who preferred Sega to Nintendo, and we’d have childish disagreements as to what the better company was. That might be why I kept an eye out for new Saturn games, or the (supposedly) upcoming Sega Neptune mega-console.
I didn’t have much of an interest in the Saturn, other than the fact they were competitors with a different-looking product. I didn’t think I’d ever want one, since Atari had failed miserably with the Jaguar, Panasonic wasn’t doing too well with the 3DO, and Phillips’ CD-i was already out the door at that point – and for good reason. Why shouldn’t I believe the same would happen to Sega, or even Sony’s new PlayStation console?
Well, a kid two doors down from my house eventually rented those two consoles – the first was the Saturn, which seemed pretty cool. The controller was similar (if not identical) to that of the Genesis, which I wasn’t really a fan of. He rented Sega Rally along with it, and we spent most of a snow day playing that. The graphics did look pretty fantastic, even though I was torn about whether or not I enjoyed the gameplay.
That day we played the Saturn, we also got that kid to call random phone numbers – mostly 1-800 hotlines from the back of food labels – and ask completely nonsensical questions. We also got him to call 1-800-ABCDEFG, which was the number for the Hooked on Phonics children’s literacy program. He was from Nigeria, so his accent, coupled with the ridiculousness of the questions we had written down for him to ask, had us rolling on the floor with laughter.
Not exactly the proudest moment of our childhood, but props to him for not cracking up during those prank calls. He did a fantastic job, better than any one of us would have!
Anyway, a week or so later, he rented a Sony Playstation. I’m not sure if it was the simple fact that the controllers were different, and more similar to those for the Super NES, or what… but the PlayStation just felt cooler than the Saturn did.
Looking back on Ridge Racer, it really wasn’t that great a game. The drifting controls were a bit awkward for me, but it was so vivid and colourful, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Those first few games you play on a console will leave an impression on you anyway, no matter what they are.
Because it was a racing game, and because I was just beginning to follow racing as a sport, the PlayStation became a “must own” for me. Andretti Racing was another early PlayStation game that he rented, and being able to race with IndyCars and stock cars was quite fun. EA was also on the verge of releasing NASCAR ’98, so I started wanting a PS1 pretty badly once I found that out.
I definitely still wanted an Ultra 64 when it came out, but I wanted a PlayStation just as badly so I could experience more racing games. I’d get to play other genres as well, but the PS1 became a “racing game console” to me.
So, a recent NASCAR ’98 playthrough got me thinking of those days all over again.
There was the time I was watching Mike (from across the street) playing the game for the first time, and since I was a self-proclaimed NASCAR guru, I was giving him tips as quickly as I could spit them out.
“Arc it down into the corner!”
“Stay in the groove!”
“Feather the throttle, stay as close to the white line as you can!”
“Don’t go down on the apron!”
At this point, Mike had had enough of my badgering his driving style, and yelled out “STOP TELLING ME ABOUT ‘GOING OFF OF THE APRON’ AND ONTO THE… (short pause) SPATULA!!”
Instead of being insulted that he didn’t want my tips (I knew I was being annoying, anyway), I just burst out laughing! So did Mike, after a moment.
The apron of a race track is the flat portion at the bottom of the banking. Cars don’t handle very well there, so putting the left-side wheels on the apron while the right-side wheels are still on the banked portion really screws with the car’s handling…
The apron I was referring to had nothing to do with a piece of clothing worn in the kitchen, but I thought Mike’s retort was quite hilarious.
Good times, man. Good times…