Blue Skies and False Nostalgia
When I think of classic SEGA, Out Run is the first game that comes to mind. It was one of the biggest arcade hits of the 80s and it was ported to every home console under the sun. Sega had other arcade smashes in that decade, most notably Space Harrier, Hang On and After Burner, but Out Run is the one that I'm most fond of.
I didn't spend my childhood hanging out in arcades. I was a toddler when Out Run cabinets first appeared, and the initial wave of home console ports were also before my time. I received my first console, a Master System, in 1991 and I don't think I played Out Run before picking it up on the Saturn in the mid-2000s. Yet I revere and own multiple copies of it, on retro and current hardware. So why am I drawn to Sega's iconic racer?
I'll start by stating the obvious: Out Run is excellent. It has stood the test of time, and the 3DS update is wonderful. It was created by an industry icon, Yu Suzuki, the man behind some of Sega's most iconic games, such as Space Harrier, After Burner, Virtua Fighter, Shenmue and Virtua Cop. In the 1980's, Yu Suzuki could do no wrong, and it's a shame that he all but disappeared after the failure of the Dreamcast.
Out Run is an icon of a generation that I don't remember, one that I like to romanticise. It comes from a time when the industry was still relatively new, where creativity knew no bounds and everyone wore shoulder pads. I'm attracted to what it represents, an era when Sega ruled the arcades and were on the brink of becoming a household name. Back then, games were simpler but often more challenging, shorter but able to hold your attention for much longer; gameplay was king and every sky was Sega blue.
I am bloody useless at Out Run, but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying it. I finally made it to the finish line on the 3DS version over the weekend, as I made the effort to master some of the basics instead of just staring at the pretty visuals and crashing into trees. The 3D Classic updates for Out Run and other Sega gems are outstanding and offer some worthwhile extras and optional gameplay tweaks. I love being able to dip into Out Run on modern hardware, playing for just ten minutes at a time but still having a full and satisfying experience, something that I appreciate now more than ever. I adore modern games, but I do wish they didn’t demand so much of my time.
Sega may be a shadow of its former self, but at least it takes care to preserve and promote its history. 3D Out Run is the definitive version of Yu Suzuki’s racer and a welcome reminder of a generation long since passed.