Developer: In-house (AM3)
Sega Rally is to Saturn what Namco’s Ridge Racer is to PlayStation. With both games representing the apex of arcade-to-home racing conversions in their time, they demonstrate excellence in the trade both companies know best: the arcade fix. Perhaps an even more telling link between the titles is the fact that Kenji Sasaki, director of Sega Rally, was one of the key members of the original Ridge Racer team – and Namco itself.
Sasaki, CEO of Sega Rosso, looks back on Sega Rally with fondness, “We were determined to develop an arcade racing game with a difference. But with Ridge Racer and Daytona USA on the market we had to find another take on the genre. We were after something in vogue in terms of motorsport racing and as we were keen on great engine sounds, cool cars and great sensations – the obvious choice was rally.”
In the arcade-racer family tree, Sega Rally sits right at the top of the 3D rally lineage. Until Sega Rally debuted, aside from 2D arcade titles such as Midway’s 1980 Rally-X, the rallying genre was largely left untouched. However, the release of Sega Rally was significant due to the intuitive stylised handling, beautiful visuals and the multiplayer capabilities of the machine.
“At the time there were two taboos in Japan with regard to rally games,” continues Sasaki. “The first one was the box-shaped car. Nobody wanted to make games based on the everyday car. All racing games were based around stylish F1 or GT vehicles. The second was rally itself. Again, people were uneasy to the idea of a game based on this sport.”
Featuring a slim selection of three licensed rally cars, the Toyota Celica, Lancia Delta Integrale and the hidden Lancia Stratos, the console game went on to introduce some basic tuning options (you could change your tyres, set your front and rear suspension, your handling response and your blow-off valve), additions still relatively rare before Gran Turismo. The game’s designer, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, continues the story. “We had no experience in driving those cars. We asked Toyota and [Lancia owner] Fiat for help with testing but they turned us away several times. We kept trying and after they saw what we had they came onboard.”
They say that the closer you get to innovation the harder it is to ascertain the quality of your creation. This was certainly the case for Sasaki and his team as they drove the virgin snow, “To be completely honest I was very worried that the game was going to be a failure at the arcades. It was only as the game started to take shape from the team’s personal touches that I started to feel any confidence in its potential. At one key point while we were developing I had been working so hard, always with cars on my mind, that I got to the point where I just couldn’t see the attraction anymore. I’d think, ‘What the hell is so exciting about cars? What is so fun about driving?’ So I drove up into the mountains with my own car. It was such an enjoyable and exhilarating experience that I decided to incorporate this into the game. This was how the third mountain track in the game was conceived and decided on.”
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