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North American Nintendo 64 cover art
|Developer(s)||Midway Games (arcade)|
Williams (Nintendo 64)
|Arcade system||Midway V Unit|
512 x 400 resolution
Cruis'n USA is an arcade racing game originally released in 1994. It was developed by Midway Games and published and distributed by Nintendo. It is the first game in the Cruis'n series and features locations around the United States.
Although Cruis'n USA was advertised as running on Ultra 64 hardware (based on the Nintendo 64's hardware), it was actually implemented on the Midway V-unit hardware. The hardware consisted of a TMS32031 CPU clocked at 50 MHz, an ADSP-2115 DSP clocked at 10 MHz for sound and a custom 3D chip that could render perspective-correct but unfiltered quads at a high resolution (512 x 400 pixels).
Along with Killer Instinct, it was planned as a launch title for the Nintendo 64. Neither game made it out for Nintendo 64's launch, however.
It was released on Wii's Virtual Console in Europe on March 28, 2008, making it the first third party developed Nintendo 64 game to be released on the service. It became available on the Virtual Console in North America on March 31, 2008.
Like in most racing games, players race down one-way courses consisting of streets vaguely based on real-life locations. While racing, they do their best to avoid various road hazards such as oncoming traffic and construction. Players chose between seven different cars to race with. The car can simulate either an automatic or manual transmission. Automatic increases the speed of gear shifts, while players using the manual transmission must switch during races. The environments of the tracks range from Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco, to Washington DC. Players must reach first place to move on to the next track; however, advancement is also possible by using a continue should the player fail to win the race. For every race, there is a time limit to reach the goal; if the player does not finish before the timer reaches zero, the game ends prematurely. This time limit can be extended by driving through checkpoints along the road. Unlike most racing games, there is the option to change the music by pressing the music button. Whenever a race is completed, the player unlocks either a new vehicle or a new color, depending on the difficulty completed. Each new color represents a performance upgrade, as indicated in the specifications when selecting a vehicle. Players have the option to select the color of the car that they choose to play, with each color being a higher or lower spec.
Along with Killer Instinct, the arcade original was showcased at the June 1994 Consumer Electronics Show as running on Ultra 64 hardware, upon which a 64-bit Nintendo console of the same name would be released. However, a few months later Nintendo of America admitted that Cruisin' USA was actually programmed before Ultra 64 development tools were available, and that even at this point Rare (the developer of Killer Instinct) was the only development company to have access to Ultra 64 development tools. (The Cruis'n USA cabinet shown at the Consumer Electronics Show was actually running on a modified JAMMA board.) Cruis'n USA was programmed to run on arcade hardware that was very different from that of Nintendo's home console, later renamed the Nintendo 64. As a result, Williams, the developers of the Nintendo 64 version, had to downgrade most of the graphics in the home version. Originally announced as a launch title for the Nintendo 64, less than a month before launch day it was pulled from the lineup and returned to Williams for retooling because it did not meet Nintendo's quality standards. Several elements of the game, such as the ability to run over animals, were censored from the Nintendo 64 version. During the last couple of months of development, people sent letters or emails about the censorship. Lead developer Eugene Jarvis also publicly objected to it: "It seems like they don't have a sense of humor. I don't know what's wrong with these people."
The arcade version of Cruis'n USA was a commercial success, outperforming Daytona USA in U.S. arcades. Next Generation reviewed the arcade version of the game, and stated that "While less graphically impressive than its rivals, Cruis'n USA is the OutRun sequel Sega should have done, and is our pick for the driving crown."
The Nintendo 64 version met with mostly negative reviews, and earned a GameRankings score of 50.63% based on 16 reviews. Reviews widely criticized the jerky frame rate, poor collision detection, and music, which they said to be both stylistically inappropriate and poorly composed. A reviewer for Next Generation concluded that "this half-hearted, rough-shod conversion is exactly what Nintendo 64 doesn't need". GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann and GamePro's Air Hendrix had more mixed reactions than most. Gerstmann praised the controls when using the Nintendo 64 controller's analog stick, but concluded the game to be a major disappointment. Air Hendrix, while heavily criticizing elements like the pop-up in the two-player mode and lack of variety in general, said it is essentially a faithful conversion of the arcade game and worth trying out as a rental, though not an outright purchase. Peer Schneider of IGN and Kraig Kujawa of Electronic Gaming Monthly both said the two-player split-screen mode is the highlight of the game, while noting that the frame rate problems are even worse in this mode. Kujawa's co-reviewer Dean Hager said the game "certainly fails to show off the processing power of the N64", and Shneider said it lacked excitement and was "probably doomed to be the nadir of N64 racing games for many years to come."
Despite the negative reviews, the Nintendo 64 version of Cruis'n USA saw strong sales, thanks largely to a combination of the console's popularity and the small library of games available for it at the time. It was the sixth best-selling video game of the 1996 Christmas shopping season according to TRST data, with three of the five games which outsold it also being Nintendo 64 games.
Reviewing the Virtual Console release in Nintendo Life, Damien McFerran echoed many of the same criticisms leveled at the Nintendo 64 version upon its original release (jerky frame rate, poor collision detection, lack of speed and excitement), and said that even the arcade original was a fairly poor game.
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