Posted on April 15, 2013
…and one I just thought about.
I thought I was completely out of memories pertaining to Super Mario Bros., but I was wrong. This one actually deals more with another game, one I probably won’t dedicate an entire post to otherwise…
My obsession with ocean liners was a strange one for a kid my age, especially considering the ocean liners that fascinated me were the ones that sank with great loss of life. I had books and books with pictures from the turn of the century, and I couldn’t help but be enthralled by them. Even though I was barely out of kindergarten when I first learned about them, they still interest me greatly, to this day.
Same goes with racing – once I experienced my first NASCAR race in person, I wanted to know everything about everyone who was ever in the sport. Obviously, auto racing of all forms is still an obsession of mine.
It’s no surprise that video games fall into this very same category.
Playing Super Mario Bros. was like a bucket of water to the face; it took my imagination and made it run absolutely crazy. I thought about everything the game had to offer, even when I wasn’t playing it. The box art from games I’d see on store shelves was mesmerizing, and I thought for sure that if I stared at the images on them (all two or three of them), they’d come alive.
I knew I couldn’t own them all, so that had to suffice.
Whenever I was playing something other than SMB, which was still pretty often, I would always compare it to Mario. To me, every game’s structure was supposed to be like Mario’s. Day level, night level, castle level. It could be no other way!
The first time we rented Rad Racer, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked it or not. I played it, though, because it was colourful, and quite different from anything else I had played on the NES so far. That night, I went downstairs to our unfinished basement where my sister was watching TV. She asked if I liked the game she had rented for me, and I said “yes, I beat it, and the last level is a castle just like in Mario.”
I was full of it, of course. I’m not sure if the intent was to cover the fact that I didn’t really like the game all that much, or what, but the final level of Rad Racer was actually this…
Not that I’ve ever, ever made it that far.
As much as I loved the sport, racing games in the 8-and-16-bit eras always felt somewhat awkward to me. Games like Namco’s Pole Position and Sega’s Outrun were quite popular, and they kept coming even in the Super NES days with games like Top Gear and Lamborghini Challenge. I played those a fair amount with friends, but the way the cars handled and went through corners… it wasn’t for me. It just never felt right.
On the other hand, Mode 7 graphics really helped make some racing games stand out ahead of the pack. The obvious game to bring up in this instance is Super Mario Kart, but F-1 Pole Position, Al Unser Jr’s Road to the Top and F-Zero all separated themselves from the rest. In those games, there was such a thing as an apex, and finesse of the brake and gas actually accomplished something.
Going around a turn in Rad Racer-type games was always infuriating to me, because by the time I thought I had the car under control, the corner was over, and I was on the next straightaway.
Still, Rad Racer holds a special place not in my heart, but in my mind.
That night in our basement, I envisioned what that “completely made up in my head” level looked like, and whenever I see the game at a flea market, I can’t help but think of what it looked like in my mind’s eye… and thanks to the joys of MS Paint…