Blast from the Past! Cruis’n Blast (Switch) Review

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Nintendo is oftentimes criticized for rehashing their games to suit their newest hardware. While this may be true to an extent, this type of logic simply misses the boat, I think.

Iconic racing titles like Daytona, Ridge Racer, and Mario Kart aren’t primarily just games, but presences in the most endearing ways. They have myth, longevity, and a personal legend they’ve built up in our minds during many gaming sessions, and when developers try to play against that image it usually looks phony and wrong.

Generation X

For a generation of kids who grew up in the 1990s, the Cruis’n series isn’t new. The pre-prequel to Cruis’n Blast was the arcade version of Cruis’n USA released by Midway Games. Subsequent titles were released, Cruis’n World and Cruis’n Exotica, to favorable reviews and ultimately made their way to the Nintendo 64.

Cruis’n USA was my introduction to the crazy world of animated racing. At the time, racing games were flat, static, and superimposed on moving backgrounds. Cruis’n USA blasted all my perception of what racing games should be. Instead of driving on all four wheels, Crusi’n introduced me to wheelies, 360 flips, and jumps that would make Isaac Newton rethink the laws of gravity.

Blast forward to 2021 and Cruis’n Blast for the Switch ups the gameplay ante a thousand times with improved visuals, cars, and track selection while retaining the overly ridiculous sense of speed. Blast offers several modes of gameplay including, Cruis’n Tour, Classic Arcade, Time Trials, and Single Race.

Iconic racing titles like Daytona, Ridge Racer, and Mario Kart aren’t primarily just games, but presences in the most endearing ways. They have myth, longevity, and a personal legend they’ve built up in our minds during many gaming sessions, and when developers try to play against that image it usually looks phony and wrong.

Go, Speed racer, Go!

Racing is as simple as picking up the controller and with a few button presses and a few flicks of the analog stick, you’ll be blasting past landmarks from London to Madagascar. The racing, as you can tell from the screenshots and videos is over the top balls-to-the-walls action. You’re just not racing against the AI opponents, but literally flying past them.

There’s also a host of unlockables and enhancements for your ride, but let’s face it; it’s the frantic racing that many of us are here for and everything else is simply icing on the proverbial cake.

The one issue I have with Blast, and in its defense, is one that has plagued the series for a long time: the rubberbanding AI. You can literally start from the back of the pack, wait a few seconds, and still be able to finish in the Top 3 spots. This makes the single-player experience feel more like a tutorial. The multiplayer feature addresses most the AI issues since you can play with friends locally, but without a dedicated online component, the options are more limited.

Of all decades, games of the 90s seem to have the most staying power; like Mario and Sonic, the decade remains forever young, perhaps because that’s how we remember it to be, or perhaps it’s because we tell ourselves it is.

As Good As I Remember?

But the big question is whether new players will enjoy Cruis’n Blast. The answer is a definite “yes” but it will probably not hold their interest for long. I wonder if the game’s primary audience, which leans towards the young, will care much about the history of the Cruis’n series as I did. Maybe they will or they won’t. Maybe, that’s because there’s less at stake here, and no nostalgia factor for many to identify with.

Of all decades, games of the 90s seem to have the most staying power; like Mario and Sonic, the decade remains forever young, perhaps because that’s how we remember it or perhaps it’s because we tell ourselves it is. Cruis’n Blast falls somewhere between those two extremes. Not because it’s a decent game, but because it’s as good as we remember the original to be.

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