California Speed

Released in the arcades in 1998 and the ported to the Nintendo 64, here you are racing across various locations across the sunny state which range from cities to the beach. Many of the tracks are quite wacky, with you racing up the rails of the golden gate bridge, in a spaceship, a volcano or inside a trippy computer, in a way it feels like a roller coaster ride, of which there is a track where you can drive on a roller coaster.
The game has various similarities with other Midway or Atari racing games like Rush or the Crusin games, which were also on the Nintendo 64 and plays like an arcade racing game, back in a time when this sort of racing game was popular before they all degenerated into racing sims.

There’s a good selection of cars which feature different stats like the handling, acceleration and speed. The N64 version allows you so alter the cards slightly by changing the colour hue, and the engine whilst they are fixed on the Arcade version. There’s a good verity of vehicles from muscle cars, pickup trucks to golf carts and sports cars.
Music is pretty good using its own soundtrack inspired by various genres that were popular towards the end of the 90s, with grunge and progressive style rock tracks to techno and house, with a folk inspired track on the farm course.
Like Crusin USA there are opponent cars and AI oncoming traffic which you have to avoid.

Arcade

The arcade version is using the 3DFX graphics processor paired with the MIPS R5000 CPU which Atari were proud of as it is present on the billboards plastered throughout the track. You can even see the 3DFX chip towards the final stage of the Silicon Valley track, since 3DFX were based in California.

The arcade mode features a single race or a Do The State mode which takes you though all the tracks

This is one of the few arcade games that runs off a hard disk, thus required a separate CHD file in order for it to run in MAME. Hard disks gave advantages compared to the CD_ROM drive as they were still able to offer a lager storage capacity and faster loading times, important for arcade games since the user does not want to wait for the game to load. Typically most arcade game uses surface mount ROM chips that stored the game data. Multiple versions of the game exist, this is version 2.1a of the game.

The arcade version of the game runs on a MIPS based CPU paired with the 3DFX graphics accelerator. You can race in a similar fashion to Cruis’n USA with ‘Do the state’ – in this mode you complete a series of races

The arcade version is also uncensored, as you are able to hit people in the mall (this can be an optional settings within the games setup mode) hitting them just causes them to scream and bound away down the track in a comedic fashion.

Nintendo 64

This was a conversion of the arcade version, and there are some differences in the presentation of the game.
Graphics have had a noticeable reduction with lower resolution textures being used in place of the detailed ones used in the arcade, the environment has also been changed slightly with the N64 having less items in the background. However the N64 does have its trademark fog effects to cover the draw distance which leaves the impression your racing on a foggy autumn day, whilst the arcade is set in the summer and has nice backdrops and sky textures
This version is also censored, as in the mall track its possible to run over the shoppers in the arcade version, but they don’t exist on the N64 version, this isn’t violent as you don’t see any blood or guts, in fact it looks like there bouncing around the mall when your call collides with them. Another change was the bikini girls that appears at the start and end of the race.
The most noticeable change is the music, with everything being converted to MIDI instead of using the Midway Sound System on the arcade
Sadly the game was only released in NTSC regions, A PAL version of the game exists and the Rom is fully playable in both emulators and an actual PAL N64 but was cancelled close to release. It even has support for five common languages in Europe (German, Spanish, Italian & French)
The gameplay itself its slightly different with different cups being offers which offer a series of racers (around 6) to complete. Like the arcade, ‘Do The State’ mode exits which takes you through all the tracks in the game.

As mentioned in the arcade version, some elements of the game have been removed, most notably are the track/trophy girls that appear when you win a race and the removal of people in the mall track.

The game was officially released for NTSC (America) regions, a PAL version was planned and a ROM of it exists but was never released to market, until now.

Comparison

Arcade

Nintendo 64

Start screen, the arcade version had an attract sequence, whilst the N64 version shows a static screen that cuts to a demo sequence

Winning a race on the arcade version causes a group of bikini clad girls to appear to celebrate your win, which don’t appear on the N64 version. On the arcade version, the effect looks creepy because they sometime appear when you can is still moving and since they follow the car, it looks like they are moving at 30mph whilst standing still…

The track selection screen, the arcade version looks similar to the crusinUSA screen. The N64 version is split into different series of racing, known as Light, Sport. Each series has 5 tracks to race accross different weeks, which unlocks cars.

The LSD tunnel in San Francisco track

The start lady appears when the race begins for the arcade version, she does not appear in the N64 version

Entrance to the LSD tunnel, building resembles a workstation PC of the era. Although the front looks more like a PC speaker

Tree are much more detailed in the arcade version

The pier section, just before the rollercoaster part

Inside the LSD building which also simulates parts of a computer, you can see the 3DFX chip in the arcade version, and the Nintendo/SGI chip for the N64

Drving on the rollercoaster, the arcade version has a better draw distance with the sky being visible, the N64 is fogged out

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