Let’s NOT Talk About Street Racer

street racer cover

Cashing in on a combination of Street Fighter hysteria (which was a thing… sort of) and Mario Kart’s popularity, some bright spark decided that it’d be a good idea to literally shove the two together. It emerged, rather appropriately, on the SNES originally it was was basically a Mario Kart clone with punching. Imagine Mario and Green Mario and Purple Mario in go karts with baseball bats and you will have NOTHING like this game because the three Marios wouldn’t beat each other up now, would they?

INSTEAD, let’s put together a bunch of generic/slightly stereotypical character types and bung them into go-karts of different types and send them hurtling round tracks instead? What’s that? Can they punch each other? Hey, if they want to, why the fuck not? In fact, let them kit out their cars with all sorts of unknown shenanigans/weapons/paraphernalia! Only two though, otherwise it’ll just get silly. Mix well and create a Playstation and Saturn version after a REALLY awful Mega Drive version… and lo and behold, you have Street Racer!

It is as silly as it sounds.

It is also as MEH as it sounds. How on earth can you put together two fantastic franchises and make it so meh?

MEH number one: CHARACTERS.

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This cast of misfits pretty much sums up stereotyping in more ways than one. You have old man, Frankenstein, zulu warrior, thick built-like-a-brick-shithouse Yank, cool guy in Ferrari, beach lady, German pilot and sumo man. None of them are particularly interesting, none of them stand out and none of them will be your favourite. They’re not ACTUALLY different enough. Yes, they have different stats but for the most part, they don’t actually affect the way the game plays that much at all. Hodja, the old man who rides on a magic carpet on wheels, is average across the board whereas Raph, the one in sunglasses in his super hot-rod Ferrari, is slightly faster but his handling is crap. Supposedly. Basically, it turns out that all it does is make him slide about a bit quicker than everyone else. There aren’t big enough corners for the sliding about to be that significant. Whoever you pick, you win or lose based on whether you’re actually good at playing the game, rather than the actual stats of the car.

MEH number two: GRAPHICS.

street racer

One word: FLAT. Seriously, the whole game is flat and fairly lifeless. The sprites are flat, low-res 2D ones and they feel really floaty on the faux-3D tracks. The only 3D involved is in the edge of the tracks. You can’t run over them, they block you in. The sense of claustrophobia is ENORMOUS because you can’t jump over humps in the road but you CAN fall into holes in the track. What’s worse is that you don’t actually feel as though you’re driving around the track at all. You’re sort of being guided around it. You’re actually controlling the track. It’s very unnerving. The animation of the characters hasn’t made a massive leap since the Mega Drive and SNES days. It might be a bit better to look at and it probably SUITED 2D more than 3D seeing as 3D at the time of this game’s release would have probably completely ruined it. I can just imagine the blocky polygons now. However, when you have 2D graphics on a next gen console, to make them look as ugly as they did is inexcusable. So they were going for gritty or stylish…? No. They just weren’t very good.

Each character had three tracks of their own with specific themes. Surf’s at the beach (HOLY SHIT, WHAAAAAT? A BEACH? FOR A CHARACTER NAMED SURF????), Suzulu, the Zulu warrior, was set in Africa (HOLY SHIT, WHAAAAAT? AFRICA FOR THE AFRICAN CHARACTER? Didn’t even look like Africa…) and Frank… Frankenstein’s cousin…brother… significant other, I dunno… Anyway, Frank’s tracks are in a horror setting.

Whoop de fucking doo. Seriously. The whole game has no imagination. There’s no spirit behind the characters or their race tracks. They have no flair, no drive (PUN TOTALLY INTENDED and I am so pleased I got that one in there…) and they feel as flat as they look. Imagine going for a drive through the flatlands of Lincolnshire. At least Lincolnshire has sausages. This game doesn’t even have sausages. I REPEAT: THIS GAME DOESN’T EVEN HAVE SAUSAGES.

MEH number three: ARCADE MODE.

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OK, quickly, have a look at the map icon in the top corner and you can see several of the dots are coloured but four of them are white/grey. Yeah. The coloured ones are the opponents you have to actually watch out for. The other four have no bearing on things at all. They’re nearly always going to come in the bottom four places if you don’t. The other ones, apart from YOU are CONSTANTLY on your tail and there is no getting away from that. They’re always brilliant. It is always between those three drivers to take up the podium positions behind you. There’s no variation. It’s as if the other drivers are just there for a jolly and not to race. You will find this ups the difficulty to frustrating levels because certain characters are a bit too good if they’re one of your main rivals. But it takes away the interest somewhat. A bit like Formula 1 sometimes. AHAHAHAHAHAHA Formula One is boring reference, how original, Wellsy. Ho ho ho.

Three cups are available, one with 6 tracks, one with 8 tracks and the final cup has 10 tracks in total. You can make custom cups with however many tracks you want but the same thing applies. The top three rivals will always be the top three unless they get caught on something ridiculous on the track like… I dunno, a ROCK? There are no rocks. They don’t get trapped. You could literally hug the curves of the track and be fine. You’ll come last but it won’t make much difference.

There is a health bar for the car and it DOES slow you done a bit but there are so many random power-ups all over the place that your health probably will go up and down randomly anyway. There’s so much on the ground from dynamite and bombs to health packs and turbos and there are also stars littering the course as if they’re for a purpose.

They are for a purpose. You collect the most during the race and you get an extra point in the standings. Throughout most of the race, you spend time veering across the track collecting those when you could have been actually jockeying for position for more lucrative points.

The trouble is that the tracks are so dull you could fall asleep after the first five races, win them all but then come last in the final race and probably end up 4th in the standings. There’s no room for error at all. It’s easy to win races but it’s JUST as easy to lose them on a silly error or by being shafted up the backside by someone passing their dynamite to you at the final moment before it explodes.

At least you can twat them back with your baseball bat, towel, voodoo stick or whatever you have. That is SOMETHING I suppose.

MEH number four (and this one is actually pretty key): MULTIPLAYER.

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A game like this lives or dies based on its multiplayer campaign and to be honest, it’s… just… really… MEH. The major problem is that it’s hard to see anything. Four player split-screen loses serious resolution and everything turns out looking grainy and squashed. That was a major problem with racing games in split screen but it didn’t help that this was essentially a 2D game so it looked as bad as it used to on the SNES and Mega Drive.

If you can get your mates round for a 4-player race and don’t mind not knowing where the fuck you’re going and you’re probably pissed out of your head and your friends are pissed off their heads too and you’re basically laughing your tits off, then it’s probably hilarious.

If you’re none of the above, I would imagine one of you will end up in hospital tomorrow.

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MEH number five: …look… if you haven’t been able to tell by now, this game has not stood the test of time at all. It used to be a staple for me. I even sold it and REBOUGHT this game because I remembered it was fun back in the day.

And then somehow… it stopped being fun. It became a dated and blocky mess that showed just how distinctly lacking it really was. That disconcerting movement of the track underneath your car was the biggest no-no.

AND YET… I want a sequel. Think how good a next-gen sequel of this kind of game COULD BE. Think how these characters… well… actually… maybe not these characters, unless they do some serious character designing to improve them from the blah-blah designs they are… but this was a Mario Kart clone with bells on back in the day, particularly in the SNES-era and if they wanted to bring this series back, I would be totally for it. In fact, I’d be first in line for it… providing it’s not 2D. They could easily turn this into a stunning 3D cartoon racer… if they could be bothered.

Just don’t bring that irritating fucking rabbit back again.

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