The Origins of the Classic Arcade Series Before Cruis'n Blast.
In the late 80s and early 90s, racing games shared a simple goal, to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible while racing against the clock. Classic arcade titles like Chase HQ and OutRun were mainstays but as the shift from 2D to 3D titles came about, another era was beginning for the racing genre. Now, over 20 years later, Cruis'n Blast for the Nintendo Switch aims to bring back the 90s arcade glory with a new coat of paint.
In direct competition with other arcade classics including Sega’s Daytona USA and Namco’s Ridge Racer was Nintendo’s Cruis’n USA through collaboration with development efforts from Midway Games. Many compared Cruis’n USA to games like OutRun, citing the point-to-point cross country races as accessible to play. While the game was simplistic, it was its simplicity that garnered an audience both in the arcade and on the Nintendo 64 as two sequels, Cruis’n World and Exotica were released shortly after.
The Future of the Classic Arcade Racing scene and the Fate of Cruis'n.
During the turn of the millennium, the arcade culture was changing to a different gear as it became less about the technicality, but the immersion and aesthetics that classic arcade racing provided. While genres like fighting games took a back seat, others including racing games and gun shooters were thriving. Arcades slowly became entertainment centers and the main developers of the Cruis’n games would form their own company, Raw Thrills, mere years before Midway Games folded.
One of the main contributions to Raw Thrills’s success is their continued support with licensed media, specifically movie tie-ins in the form of modern classic arcade games. Franchises like Terminator and The Fast and the Furious are no stranger to this treatment. Under the Raw Thrills license, they continued to maintain a steady relationship with Nintendo by releasing Cruis’n for the Wii in 2007.
Cruis'n for the Wii was nothing more than a console port of The Fast and the Furious racing game released exclusively for the arcade in 2004. Raw Thrills removed all references to the movie, replacing them with Nintendo’s Cruis’n branding, yet the two games were the same. Even though the game used the Midway publisher brand, players knew that Raw Thrills were on board to port the game to the Wii console as a third-party developer and assumed Midway wanted to bank on player’s nostalgia.
The Success of Raw Thrills and the Modern Arcade Classic: Cruis'n Blast.
As Midway folded as a company, Raw Thrills thrived with its arcade-based games until Nintendo and Raw Thrills once again bonded together to revive the Cruis’n brand. This time, it would be a proper reboot with 2017’s arcade release of Cruis’n Blast, the first arcade Cruis’n game since Exotica 18 years ago.
Raw Thrills used what they learned in the many “Cruis’n” influenced games they released to develop Cruis'n Blast, becoming a success in arcades and entertainment centers. Earlier in 2021 during a Nintendo Direct, Nintendo confirmed a return to the classic arcade racing genre with Cruis'n Blast for the Nintendo Switch later that year. In September 2021, Raw Thrills released Cruis’n Blast on the Nintendo Switch, the first Cruis’n title on a Nintendo console in 15 years.
The First Impressions of Classic Arcade Racing on the Nintendo Switch.
As someone who grew up playing Cruis'n titles a lot in the arcades and on the N64, Cruis'n Blast on the Nintendo Switch was a surprising experience, porting the arcade game to the Switch itself. There was little if any, framerate stuttering at all, and the gameplay felt familiar to the older Cruis'n titles. It was an entirely new experience separate from the original Cruis’n titles, but with a modern twist that included drifting to boost, updated graphics, and the return of “exotic” rides including police cars, fire trucks, and motorbikes.
There are several game modes, with the main mode being Cruis’n Tour including six tours and four races each. Initially, the player only has access to four races, but the better the player places in each tour, the more tours they will unlock. In total, there are 24 courses, including the original Arcade tracks, equal to almost 30 in total. This means that there should be loads of Cruis'n Blast content for Nintendo Switch owners to enjoy on paper.
Cruis'n Blast is Amazing in it's Classic Arcade Roots; Comes Up Short in Other Ways.
Unfortunately, there needs to be an asterisk next to the total number of tracks as it’s greatly exaggerated due to the assets of existing tracks being reused. To make sense, each tour in Cruis'n Blast has a specific theme, with the Night Tour being self-explanatory and the Escape Tour having players evade cops as traffic. In some courses, entire Arcade tracks are played but with a visual “twist” while some courses have players play a section of a specific track. This becomes obvious the more players unlock tours and courses, but the bonus Nintendo Switch content amps up the replayability.
The game does a good job in hiding the repeat courses by mixing them with unique console exclusive tracks and the gameplay makes up for it, but one thing that Blast disappointed me in was the lack of an online mode. There is a LAN mode and there is four-player split-screen multiplayer, sure, but an online mode would have made this game a Mario Kart killer. Lack of an online multiplayer aside, Cruis'n Blast is a fun way to spend time while also grinding out its countless rewards and car upgrades.
Cruis'n Blast is now available on the Nintendo Switch.