Being cool is overrated.
Let’s get something out in the open right now. Cruis’n Blast is a racing game that uses real cars. This is not Mario Kart, this is not a “racer” that includes shooting magical bolts at your opponents, and this is absolutely not a title wherein you can be a hedgehog at any time. Some of these real cars race through some fantastic situations, but those situations happen at legitimate locations. There is nothing imaginary about driving a 1959 Corvette through San Fransico, as that is absolutely something you can do (with some tens of thousands of dollars). And to drive that point home, here is the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that I use to score trophies in Cruis’n Blast…
And here is… my wife’s car.
Now, to be clear, this is my wife’s… how do I put this… toy. It is a car. She can drive it to work, to play Pokémon, or whatever you normally do with a vehicle. But it was also a gift. It is a car that will never be “traded in” for any reason. If it catches fire tomorrow, I am moderately certain my wife would be more upset than if I was lit ablaze. It is her baby, and something I will literally never understand about the person I love. I do not own a “toy” car, I just have whatever currently gets me to work. I drive a car that will get me to the videogame store and back, and if it is brand new or an old clunker, it does not make a difference to me. My wife gets excited when she has an opportunity to “take out” her Camaro. I get excited when I have an excuse to not touch my car for a week. That whole quarantine period a couple years back? Man, did I enjoy a complete lack of driving…
But this is not to say that I have dodged coolness splashback. Those in the first five aisles of the dolphin show may get wet, and, if you have a sweet green Camaro in your driveway, you may temporarily be regarded as cool. Do you know how many contractors, electricians, and plumbers have, unprompted, begged me to discuss engines, chassis, or whatever the hell “torque” is? It is a surprisingly high number. And, while I have been consistently confined to the passenger seat, I can tell you that the average drive through jockey is a lot more likely to compliment your coffee order when your vehicle has some “sweet lines”. And the cops that are pulling you over with regularity! Nobody ever immediately assumed I was involved in drug dealing when I drove my old Honda!
And this is all curious to me, because if I had my choice, this would be my ideal vehicle:
That dinosaur is, by all objective measurements, not cool. But damn do I love that scaley little monster.
Let’s take a step back a few decades. When Cruis’n USA came out, I was eleven. If you have managed to forget those halcyon years of your youth, let me remind you that when you are eleven, there is nothing more important than being cool. And Cruis’n USA was a chance to be cool! A driver’s license was still six years away, but you could pretend to drive with Cruis’n USA and its unique cabinet that simulated a driver’s seat. You could drive a Corvette! Or Ferrari Testarossa! And you could race each other to prove which of you would become the greatest driver ever (in half a decade). Back in the mid 90’s, my social circle was fond of hitting the arcades, and Cruis’n USA (and later, Cruis’n World) was always a lock. It was the coolest thing a pack of pre-teen boys had ever seen.
… Except I still wanted to play arcade Bomberman. Guys, can we play something else? Please? Okay, back to the car game…
Now, I want to be clear that I am not trying to claim I am some kind of unique, anti-establishment snowflake. I did enjoy playing Cruis’n USA, and I am also well aware that Mario Kart 64 sold something like a quadrillion more copies than the “real” car racing game. I prefer silly little cartoon people, and I am 100% certain I am not alone in this preference, if only because no one is begging for “A Chevy” to be the latest fighter in Smash Bros. Cars are cool, but it was Walt Disney that created his own Florida magical kingdom, not Henry Ford.
And when you look at the direction of Cruis’n Blast, you can certainly see that the nerds won. Cruis’n Blast features a wide variety of cool cars, but it also features available “vehicles” like helicopters, UFOs, unicorns, and the aforementioned triceratops. And none of these options actually fit the gameplay of C’B. Helicopters are known for the fact that they can fly, but rotors rev and move forward just like a landbound car. Unidentified flying objects don’t do that “F” thing, and do not even get me started on attempting to “chrome out” a unicorn. The “extra” vehicles stretch the definition of “vehicle”, and they all are meant to function like basic, mundane cars. In practically every case, these absurdities do not slot into the universal customization options, and, 90% of the time, they look downright goofy while racing around the track.
But goofy or not, it is pretty damn fun.
Cruis’n Blast probably should not be objectively ranked as a good racing game. It is a remarkably straightforward “drive in a line, remember to drift” racer that seems to lack even basic AI competition. Winning those nightmare cups is not difficult because you were outsmarted by an expert opponent, but because you did not get a boost at literally every opportunity. If it was not for the ability to “wreck” opposing cars, there would be no reason for anything other than time trials. But wrecking other cars? That’s fun! Speeding your car/helicopter/dinosaur over a ramp above a collapsing highway and twirling all the while? Absolutely fun. And, yes, my favorite dinosaur looks about as properly animated as moving an action figure around a Hot Wheels track, but you know what? That was fun when I was five, and it is fun when I’m -current age deleted due to buffer overrun-.
And being cool? That sure seems overvalued. I guess it is cool to cruise around in a hot car that is turning all the lady’s heads (even if the car is owned by your favorite lady). But it looks like I will take goofy and nerdy any day of the week. Cruis’n Blast should not be considered better than Gran Turismo or its ilk, but I know which game I would rather have on my Switch when quarantining on another continent (not that I am speaking from experience here). Racing silly cars around silly areas in a silly game is fun! And there isn’t a soul I have to impress! You hear that, 12-year-old friends who I thought were so much cooler than me in junior high! I’m over it! And doing fine! And you had big ears, you jerks!
My wife has a cool car. I drive a virtual dinosaur, and I just unlocked a shark.
I am feeling so cool it isn’t even funny.
FGC #615 Cruis’n Blast
- System: Released initially, what, five years ago in the arcades? If, however, you have never seen an arcade in your life, it was released in 2021 for the Nintendo Switch.
- Number of players: Four! I called dinosaur already, so you can’t have that.
- Favorite Tour: The original arcade game only has five tracks. The Switch version expands that a bit, but, by and large, it simply reuses the old tracks in new ways. But they are reused in fun new ways! The Storm Tour, for instance, adds a tornado, rain, and yetis (not a weather phenomenon) to the proceedings. Couple this all with Neon Tsunami across Tokyo, and I like how this tour works.
- Favorite vehicle that actually has wheels: There is something weirdly nostalgic about racing across the world in a big yellow school bus. Maybe you can pretend you are playing a juvenile version of Crazy Taxi? Whatever gets that bus to do some sweet jumps is okay with me.
- Unlockable: Many of the vehicles are obtained by collecting keys scattered across the various tracks. Normally I am not down for this collectahon nonsense in a racing game, but when I consider that the alternative in this day and age would likely be paid DLC… well… let me just check if there is a FAQ to find all these doodads…
- Did you know? Apparently the arcade version had multiple Lamborghinis available, but they did not make it to the console due to licensing issues. Dang! That could have been the cool car I always wanted!
- Would I play again: This is absolutely an ideal game to play when I have a few moments to kill in portable mode, but no desire to play a game “forever”. It is bite sized! Like an arcade title! Funny how you don’t see that much anymore!
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Axiom Verge! And maybe Axiom Verge 2! Let’s deal with a few rogue dimensions! Please look forward to it!
If this is a reference to that gender joke, I am returning the game