Out back of the Hardcore Gamer office you’ll find our Graveyard, where countless long-dead classics lie. We come here to pay our respects, to reminisce, and to wonder aloud what a passing mad doctor might be able do with all these corpses and some high-definition lightning.
Before he was creating artistically charged rhythm video games like Child of Eden, Tetsuya Mizuguchi rise to fame during the Nineties was because of his masterfully crafted and groundbreaking racer, SEGA Rally Championship. Mechanically speaking, the game is only a mere molecule short of objective perfection even to this every day. The driving model is so ingeniously designed that no one has ever replicated it since. SEGA Rally Championship is like Mona Lisa; you can’t take anything away nor can you add anything to it. Its Saturn port was among the most acclaimed releases at the time, and is still worth checking out. Of course, such a pivotal release would no doubt have been a tough act to follow, so within that same gaming generation Mizuguchi ambitiously devised another arcade racer: SEGA Touring Car Championship.
SEGA Touring Car Championship, despite not living up to the lofty reputation of Tetsuya’s prior timeless classic, is still a remarkable showcase of his prowess and expertise as a racing game designer. With SEGA Touring Car Championship, he created an immensely complex and intricate racer, so much so that it’s not hard to see why it was so misjudged and misunderstood back then and even now. Where SEGA Rally Championship was a case of easy to get into but difficult to master, SEGA Touring Car Championship threw in a steep learning curve right from the get go.
That said, even from the very first time you play it you can’t help but enjoy the thrill of speed and the fluidity of the mechanics, although a little too jarringly loose and sensitive in the first instance. Still, give it the right amount of time and it pays dividends aplenty for your investment. In your first few races you’d be lucky to not finish in last place, but the more you play and learn its well woven technicalities, the more you sense yourself getting better at it.
The home version came out on the Saturn, it came short due to the grainy visuals and the weak framerate. Still, the sense of speed, the responsiveness of the controls, and the sheer enjoyment of the racing experience, all shine through. Not to mention, the Saturn release is a pretty content-heavy disc (for its time at least). It contains the tough as nails arcade version, but the real highlight is the exclusive Saturn version. Essentially, you’re offered two distinct flavors of the game right from the main menu.
The Saturn version really feels like an entirely different game when compared with the arcade version. It offers a far more forgivable and manageable learning curve and challenge, and for the car enthusiasts, you can go into the menus and play around with the car mechanics and driving model… just be careful not to break anything! SEGA Touring Car Championship is intimidating at first, where it feels like you can’t even get a basic hold over your vehicle. But once you put the time and effort in, it’s inner beauty becomes apparent, from the precise drifting mechanic to the warp-speed like sensation, there’s plenty to enjoy about this game and it ultimately feels highly rewarding.
With the Saturn version, there is a control scheme that assigns “half-accelerate” and “half-break” to a button each, something that really comes in handy if you’re a beginner using the standard Saturn controller. However, if you really want to get the most out of the game without hunting for a steering wheel peripheral on ebay, then the Saturn 3D Analog pad is the way to go. The controller was dubbed as the “Nights Pad” as it initially came bundled with the amazing Nights into Dreams, but the controller is almost just as much as a perfect match with SEGA Touring Car Championship. With the 3D pad, “accelerate” and “break” get assigned to the triggers with the analog stick used for steering. This is something that has become a granted staple of modern racing games. With that, SEGA Touring Car Championship becomes almost as playable as any modern racing game today.
Which makes you think; like nearly everything SEGA and its talented first party studios were doing back then, perhaps SEGA Touring Car Championship was far too ahead of its time. It came out at a time when the gaming world wasn’t ready to embrace its complex racing simulator like subtleties, not to mention the 3D pad wasn’t something that was widely owned as most were likely using the standard Saturn controller. Had it come out at a later time on a more powerful hardware, it probably would have been better received.
SEGA Touring Car Championship is a cheap game to acquire, and so if you still have a working Saturn then it’s worth checking out (or even revisiting) this game today. Chances are, you’ll enjoy it. Besides, it has a super charged EuroVision style soundtrack which gives the game so much personality. The whole experience, with the upbeat and energetic soundtrack, really puts a smile on your face.
Just check out some of the song lyrics!
I’m feeling high, so high
Like the sun up in the sky
I’ve never felt like this before
So high, so high!
When I look into your eyes
I’ve never felt like this before so high!
Guide me to the light
And hold me tight
Let’s travel through the galaxy
A different time a different space
We fly on liquid energy
The Nineties were a truly great time my friends. Tetsuya Mizuguchi needs to make another racing game.