Reviewed by Scott McCall
Cruis'n USA, designed by Eugene Jarvis of Defender and Robotron
fame, was the "other" so-called Nintendo Ultra 64 game released
to the arcades in 1994. Unlike Killer Instinct, which at least
had a 64-bit CPU, Cruis'n USA was developed on a 32-bit
Williams arcade board. Two years later, hot on the heels of
the spectacular Killer Instinct Gold, comes that "other" game.
Although Nintendo made no mention that Cruis'n USA would be
a sequel or even upgraded on the Nintendo 64, we at least assumed
that we would have a fast and smooth port of the arcade without
any pop-up. Wrong. But, hey, at least they gave us a pretty cool
From the very first moment you turn on Cruis'n USA, you know
that you're not going to get a Killer Instinct Gold-caliber port.
The cheesy music (yes, it's even chessier than the arcade) doesn't
bode well for the aural aspects of the game.
The first immediate strike against Cruis'n USA is the extremely
confusing setup. Most gamers will probably press "B" for options
before they choose a location to save the game. Wrong move. If
you want your configuration to be saved, then you'll have to press
start first and pick a memory location (either on the Game Pak
or on a Controller Pak) for your game. After that, you can press B
for options so it will save your controller configuration. This
reviewer and his friend wasted a good 10 minutes trying to
figure this out. And I thought video games didn't have confusing setup
programs like the PC.
The next problem is that you can only race on US 101 until you
choose "Cruise the USA" and race across the whole country first.
The extremely unbalanced nature of level layout means you have to
go through Redwood Forest as the fourth level in the game and
Beverly Hills as the fifth level. This can be extremely frustrating
for inexperienced drivers who are trying to take the 14-level trek
across the U.S.
Control in Cruis'n USA is odd to say the least. You do have your
choice between the digital Control Pad or analog Control Stick.
Even the most staunch digital Control Pad players may want to
use the analog Control Stick this time around. In the options mode,
each player can set the sensitivity of the control. But if you set
it too low, then you won't be able to make some of the sharp turns
in the game. On top of that, the control is touchier in the two-player
mode than it is in the one-player mode of the game.
The button configuration is also extremely odd. The default
configuration sets Z as the gas and L or R on top of the controller
as the brake. You'd definitely be doing yourself a favor if you changed
the button configuration. As a plus, you can define any button or any
direction on the stick or pad to perform the different functions of
the game. You have to set shifting, braking, gas, displays, view and radio.
Cruis'n USA also presents you with a multitude of gameplay options,
which is most certainly a good thing. You can change the music
and/or sound effect volumes, two-player sound (whether sound
effects come out of both speakers, or if the player's sounds will be
sent to the individual speakers), difficulty (five different levels,
from very easy to very hard), racers (how many computer opponents
you want on the track at once, up to 9), traffic (if you want to race
with the oncoming traffic or not), metric (KPH or MPH) and center
screen (Williams' games seem to have this feature).
The Nintendo 64 version of Cruis'n USA does contain a few
improvements over the arcade version. First of all, there's a
two-player mode. You can even race with a friend against the
computer in the "Cruise the USA" segment. You also get faster
cars, which are of a different color, in the game when you complete
it on the very easy, medium or very hard levels of difficulty. The
other very nice improvement is the save feature. The game saves all
of the records for each level. You can also have independent save
game slots that save the person's initials and their default controller
configuration. It also saves all of the cars you got. Finally, the game
saves your progress in both the one- and two-player modes in the
14-course "Cruise the USA" trek.
The graphics in Cruis'n USA are quite lackluster. They're a straight
port of a 32-bit arcade game that is two years old. The digitized
graphics are neat, but when you factor in the excessive pop-up in
the Nintendo 64 game and the choppy frame rate in the two-player
mode, you have to wonder what happened. Sure, the graphics are
arcade-perfect in that respect, but why is there a ton of pop-up
and a choppy frame rate in the two-player on a 64-bit system?
Well, at least the game moves at a quick (albeit choppy) pace.
As bad as the graphics are in the N64 version of Cruis'n USA, the
sound is even worse -- as hard as that may be to believe. The
"Cruis'n, yeah, Cruis'n USA...yeah" music during the track selection
screen may give you some hope for the music in this game, but it
quickly goes downhill from there. Some of the music sounds identical
to the arcade, which wasn't good to begin with, but most of the musical
tracks are terribly composed. I can name at least 50 Super NES games
that have better music. And worse yet, I can name some 8-bit NES
games that have better music.
As always, the sound rating is composed of both music AND sound
effects. The only thing that brings Cruis'n USA's sound rating up
to a respectable level is the arcade-perfect voice and engine
noises. There's actually quite a bit of voice in the game, which helps
improve the experience somewhat. There's even some new voice not
in the arcade game such as "Two-Player Challenge!"
There's no sense making a list of improvements to this game because
everything needs to be improved: graphics, sound, control,
interface...everything. The only redeeming part of Cruis'n USA is the
fun gameplay, especially with two-players. Fortunately, the sequel,
Cruis'n World, looks to be pretty good with multiple paths, better
graphics, less pop-up and a smoother frame rate. Hopefully that game
will appear on the N64 with a respectable showing.
Unless you're a die-hard fan of the arcade version -- and I do mean
a die-hard fan -- then you'd be much better off staying far away
from this game. Even then you might want to rent the game before
you blow $60 or $70. If you can get past the horrible aesthetics and
tricky control, then you might actually have quite a bit of fun
with this game -- that is, only if you can find a friend that likes
the arcade game as much as you.
Graphics: 3.0 out of 5
Sound: 2.7 out of 5
Control: 3.4 out of 5
Gameplay: 3.3 out of 5
Lastability: 3.5 out of 5
Overall: 3.3 out of 5