Out Run 2019: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

Outrun 2019: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis
Outrun 2019: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

Insert Disk collects Out Run 2019 for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.

Today’s retro game review is Out Run 2019 for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic was the third Out Run game to be released on the Sega 16-bit consoles of the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Genesis. Very much considered as the black sheep of the family Out Run 2019 was not well received by fans and many deny it a place in the Out Run series and their video game collections. Not great news but was there anything Sega could do to end the 16-bit Out Run series on a high?

Join me in part 3 of 3 of this Out Run Mini Series.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today it’s the third and final part of our mini series exploring the Outrun series for the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive and Genesis.
In the first two episodes we established that the original Outrun was an excellent base for the series whilst its sequel Turbo Outrun extended the fun for those looking for a greater challenge, more options and greater speed.

Today I’m taking a look at the third entry in the Outrun series, Outrun 2019. It’s worth clarifying that Outrun was never pitched as a trilogy. Yu Suzuki certainly guided the original Outrun and Turbo Outrun became a natural extension. These games originated in the arcade and became much loved 16-bit conversions. Outrun 2019 on the other hand has bit more of a troubled past. This is perhaps that game that most Outrun fans will be keen to forget if they even got to hear about this one at all. So by the end of 1992 the arcade was still housing Outrun games and Mega Drive and Genesis owners were quite content with their home versions of the game. There were no more versions of Outrun so it was assumed that for the time being that was it and for all intents and purposes many still argue that it is the end of the 16-bit Outrun story at least.

A third home Outrun game might seem a little excessive. With little appetite from fans who were already content, no more Outrun games were on the Sega development plan. 1993 would see a transitional period in gaming where consoles such as the Sega CD or Mega CD if you live in Europe and the Amiga CD32 were on the horizon. Either 16-bit or even 32-bit CD based technology hardware. During the run up to 1993 SIMS had begun to develop a game called Cyber Road for Sega’s CD console. A fast racer designed to show the power and speed of the system. From what I’ve been able to find out development switched from the Sega CD platform to the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis. Perhaps Cyber Road wasn’t to be the first of a new generation of racer after all. On the Sega 16-bit systems the project ran under a new title “Junker’s High” and there are even prototype editions of the Japanese editions of the game available if you know where to look. After being shelved as a CD launch and then after becoming the Junker’s High prototype for the Japanese Sega Mega Drive it was clear that the game was going to struggle if it was released in the West. Another 2D racer, who needed that? The two previous Out Runs were already a best in class and a whole host of imitators had soaked up the spoils.

So, SIMS leaned on Sega for the rights to use the Outrun trademark on the game. Sega currently had no plans to use the Outrun title at the time so someone must have thought that this might be worth a gamble for some easy money and so Outrun 2019 was born. Now even if you didn’t know the story behind Outrun 2019 its clear that the game development shifted.
Gone are the bright optimistic tones of its predecessors… Now just a wasteland of muddy browns and greys.
Gone are the cheerful tunes as you fly by the crystal blue waters and green fields… Now just a cesspit of 2019 and the impending apocalypse.
Gone is the use of full screen in favour of plastering a huge ugly display bar along the dashboard.
Gone is the Sega artwork we held so dear… In place a neon race scene as generic and devoid of care as the artist could muster.
Most of this I could forgive but for one thing. You took away my Ferrari!

The weeks the following Outrun 2019’s release the world fell in to chaos. Major cities were rocked by mass rioting and disorder as gaming fans tore the world apart piece by piece feeling betrayed by their beloved Sega. Communities and society as we knew it ripped themselves apart at this treachery. The dream of the perfect trilogy was over as the world burned. Ok, so that wasn’t actually quite true but that’s how it felt. Up until this point the Outrun series had been a beacon of joy for arcade racing thrills. In hindsight Sega’s decision to allow the Outrun asset to be used on this game just saddens fans. A legacy such as Outrun needs to be protected at all costs. Fortunately Outrun 2019 was immediately forgotten by the gaming world and I dare say that a number of Sega fans deny that this game is an official entry in the series.

In truth Outrun 2019 isn’t an awful game, its just not Outrun. The screen layout bares very few similarities to its predecessors and overall the game just doesn’t sit right alongside the others in game or on shelf. The game play offers some fairly decent fare for the home racing genre. Once you hit top speed the car automatically enters turbo mode. If you’re looking to take a corner, forget it, you’ll be off the road before you know it. The courses are not as varied as the other games, certainly don’t look as nice and most contain near impossible corners on suspended bridges. Like many Sega fans I tend to disown this one and write it off as simply a game that borrowed the name.

If you must own the physical edition of 2019 than they are easy to pick up. Here in the UK they fetch around the £15-£20 mark or around $10 for a North American Genesis version. Please, save your money though as this game is very unlikely to bring you any joy. Well, this is all a bit of an anti-climax to the series. I do have some happier news to end with.
Thankfully Sega redeemed themselves a year later in 1994 by releasing their arcade to home conversion of Outrunners on the Genesis. This was a game specifically designed for 2 player split screen action. Now this was the game that Sega should have put out.

Developed by Sega’s AM1 division the series was back in safe hands to the relief of all Sega fans the world over. Spontaneous parties broke out across the globe and a four day weekend was declared. Ok, ok, so that also didn’t happen (probably). I’m sure that I speak for all fellow Sega fans when I say thank goodness Sega took control of the situation and restored our faith in them. For Sega fans Outrun 2019 had been our Wand of Gamelon moment. A much un-needed scare. Of the four original 16-bit titles I’d be hard pushed to state a favourite. My heart tells me that I must pick the original because, well it the original and surely Outrun can’t get any more pure than that. My head tells me though that Turbo Outrun is the superior game, it offers more in many ways and shakes things up so that you pay attention.

Of course Outrun didn’t die on the 16-bit consoles. The Sega Saturn allowed a near perfect conversion of the arcade edition of Outrun either as a stand-alone game or part of the Sega Ages pack. Later consoles received Outrun 2 variants of the game and brought a new generation of gamers in to the fold. As a fan of 1980’s arcades, the 16-bit generation and the Sega back catalogue in general Outrun is a game that regularly comes to mind as a best in class game of its time. No matter where or when you first saw Outrun I’m certain that is was a game that left an impression. For many Outrun represents a happy time for Sega and its fans.

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