1994 / Sega Saturn / Japan-only
Gale Racer is a slightly modified port of the 1991 Sega AM-2 arcade racer Rad Mobile. Rad Mobile is probably most famous for being the first in-game appearance of Sonic the Hedgehog, in the form of a keychain (or air freshener?) that hangs from the roof of the car.
Beyond that interesting historical tidbit, there is a pretty solid racer here. The game is broken up into chunks (1-1, 1-2, etc.) that each take 20 to 60 seconds to complete. This is a nice system because it makes continuing after a failed race less frustrating, but also leads to variety in both the environments and how the races play out. As with OutRun, you are constantly racing in new exotic locales, but in Rad Mobile the environments affect how the races play to a greater degree.
You get your first taste of this in the Las Vegas stage, where you start the course literally in the dark, and you have to press the L button to turn on your lights. After this stage you find yourself on a course with heavy rainfall, so much that you cannot see out of your windshield without pressing the R button to turn on your wipers.
It’s a cool effect for a game from 1991 and a trick that modern racers are still touting as a feature today. The stage where the environment starts to significantly affect your racing however is 2-3. Here you are driving on a cramped, 2-lane mountain pass with a steep drop to your left. What makes the matter worse is that you are expected to pass large semi-trucks, which force you to use the oncoming traffic lane which runs alongside the drop.
It’s a remarkably tense scenario, and one that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in a racer before.
The Saturn port of Rad Mobile is a pretty no-frills experience, with the most significant change being the car models moving from sprites to polygons. Otherwise, you have the same great stage-based racing, time trials, and a 2-player mode.
The Saturn has one of the greatest racing libraries ever on a console and while Gale Racer isn’t quite in the same league as Sega Rally or Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition, it’s still a solid addition and a cool artifact of Sega history.