Why you should emulate Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, this year's definitive summerjam

Driving into summer with a breezy retrospective on one of the all-time arcade racers.

Why you should emulate Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, this year's definitive summerjam

What's up, dudes and dudettes? I blinked and suddenly it's been two weeks since our last issue. Where'd that time go? Right into a void of feverish work and jetlag, apparently, as we gear up for the start of the busy summer game season. But I couldn't let June pass me by without putting at least a bit of time into a game that's been on my mind for, hell, probably the last three months at this point. (It's the one in giant font right above this paragraph!)

After some light Steam Deck tinkering I got Ferrari-stuffed classic Outrun 2006 running very very nicely and took a much-needed evening off writing to soak in some blue skies and long drifts. This issue of ROM is going to be a bit different than usual, as instead of the primary story being a news item or interview, it's a bit of a gush fest about a great game and why now is a particularly choice time to emulate it, assuming you're lucky enough to have a copy in your library somewhere. If you don't, well, I hear the PC version isn't too hard to come by...

Hopefully you enjoy this slight change of format. If you're on the fence, perhaps putting on this track while you read through the rest of the newsletter will set you right:

Palpito Β· Outrun 2 OST - Magical Sound Shower

After I get a little talkin' about Outrun out of my system, there's still plenty of news in this issue, including a roundup of small tidbits from Taki Udon's budget MiSTer FPGA line and a few new arcade cores to enjoy on the MiSTer, too. Also, how about some fan translations for a pair of Mega Man games that were once thought lost to time, and have now been rescued from the purgatory of early '00s Japanese cell phone memory banks and made playable in English for the first time?

That's about what I've got in store for this week. Assuming you hit the play button above the clock's already tickin', so let's get to it.

The Big Two

1. Outrun 2 is the game of the summer

It's the beginning of June. The days are longer, and the days are hotter. Summer is here no matter what the calendar says. The arrival of summer necessitates summerjams, in both song and game form, and so I'm declaring the official videogame of the summer of two thousand and twenty four:

Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast.

I'm not sure if it's just a frequency illusion mocking me, but I've been seeing & hearing talk about Outrun 2006 (also known as Outrun 2 and Outrun 2 SP, in differing releases) all over the place for months. Just last year it graced the cover of Retro Gamer magazine. This thread on ResetEra has been ticking along since January 2024, to the tune of 290 posts and counting. It was recently (spoilers) the #1 game on Back Page Pod guest Ashley Day's top 10 list of his all-time favorite Sega games. Marc Normandin of Retro XP bought a copy just this last month.

Does that actually constitute "all over the place?" No, not really β€” but I have managed to convince myself that there is currently a groundswell of love building and building and building for Outrun 2006, to such an extent that it must be anointed as the gotta-emulate game of these sunshine/sunglasses/bubblegum pop months. (Sorry southern hemisphere readers, I hope Outrun 2006 can lift you up out of the winter doldrums and transport you to an eternal digital summer).

So what's so special about this arcade racer? Well, I liked Ash's breakdown on the Back Page pod, so I'm just going to drop that right here (the embed is timecoded), with an abridged transcription below!

"I think this is the definitive Sega game. You can learn everything you need to know about Sega playing this game. It's about 20 years old now and has just lived and lived and lived. There are so many variations of it that keep improving on the core gameplay. If you go to any surviving arcade these days you're probably going to see an Outrun 2 cab, and there's a reason for that: it's just an instant pleasure to play.

It took what was great about Outrun 1, which was taking the racing game off the circuit and making it more of an A to B journey with multiple routes so that at the end of every leg of the race you get to decide whether to go left or right, and that takes you to an entirely new environment. Move through five of those in the time limit and you win the game. Brilliant. What made Outrun 2 so fantastic, took this to the next level, was the philosophy of design behind it, which was Yu Suzuki saying 'we're going to take this game that's about a journey and make it into a beautiful journey.' That was the slogan for the development of Outrun 2: a beautiful journey. They used the modern 3D hardware of the time to make every location you drive through this picturesque place that is deserving of an open top convertible Ferrari.

I know Yu Suzuki is a big carhead and spent loads of time driving around mountains and lakes in Europe to research this game, and it really shows β€” every element of it is just a pleasure to drive through. And the way you drive through, something you couldn't do in Outrun 1, is these powerslides that had become really popular in Japanese racing games at the time. Endlessly drifting around big corners, sliding your car on the road, weaving between traffic. It just makes you feel really cool when you play it in the right way, and it's not difficult to do. I don't think Outrun 2 is a difficult game at all, and that's to its credit. It means anyone can sit down at this game and they're taken away from reality for a few minutes."

Outrun 2 is, indeed, all about that drift, defying physics and friction to a degree few other racing games have dared. Before reaching its final form, Outrun 2 was released as an arcade game in 2003, then updated with a number of new tracks as Outrun 2 SP in 2004. These versions of the game ran on the Sega/Microsoft Chihiro arcade platform, which was essentially an Xbox with more RAM. So it was only natural that an Xbox port would also arrive in 2004. Over the next three years, Sega released a comical number of ports and variants as detailed here, combining slightly different subsets of cars, tracks, extra modes, small graphical tweaks, yada yada.

My understanding is that most players consider the Xbox version of Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast the most desirable, as it includes all the extra tracks from Outrun 2 SP (notably missing from that first Xbox version) and is also the closest to the original arcade hardware, tech-wise. But! 2007's console release of Outrun 2 SP, exclusive to the PS2 and only published in Japan, includes everything added in Coast 2 Coast and a few more songs to boot, while also running slightly better than the original PS2 release. Yes, even though it has the name of the 2004 version of the game, it includes everything from the superior 2006 version and then some.

Extremely confusing, Sega! To keep this straight, just imagine the PS2's Outrun 2 SP is a scratch 'n' sniff, and when you scrape the "SP" off the cover it reveals "Coast 2 Coast" underneath and emits wafts of motor oil and coconut sunscreen.

Ultimately, though, the Xbox, PS2 and PC versions of Coast 2 Coast are great options. But good luck finding an Xbox disc for under $200 (the Japanese PS2's Outrun 2 SP is even more obscenely expensive!) A used copy of the Coast 2 Coast PS2 release on Ebay, or the PC version on Amazon, are considerably more affordable. Playing the PC version is the most straightforward route and allows for some graphical customization, but we're here to talk emulation, so here's a look at it running on PCSX2:

And Xemu:

I'd go for PCSX2 just for the emulator's maturity and because it's the one I know quite well, but Xemu only lists minor issues at worst and seems perfectly playable. Note that if you're out to emulate the PS2 version of Coast 2 Coast on the Steam Deck like I was, you'll have to make a few tweaks:

  • Run at 2x native resolution (720p); I found 3x couldn't maintain 60 fps
  • Use PowerTools to disable SMT (limiting to 4 cores) and set manual max TDP/GPU clock in power settings

A digital re-release of Outrun 2006 seems unlikely, since Sega would have to reup the license with Ferrari and I'm guessing that would prove prohibitively expensive. But maybe if its initiative to revive Crazy Taxi, Strider, etc. is a success, we'll see the return of Outrun, too. But perhaps pining for a rerelease is missing the point of what makes this game great. Even with 2006-era graphics it is, as Ash put it, still a "beautiful journey," shiny and clean and arcade-pure. It's both timeless and a perfect time capsule, simple as. πŸš—

2. Catching up with Taki Udon's MiSTer clones

It's been a month since I interviewed Taki Udon about his $99 budget MiSTer board in what I can safely say was the most popular issue of ROM so far. People are πŸ₯΅ for this thing, and with good reason β€” it stands to dramatically lower the cost of entry to get into FPGA gaming, while Taki's plans for other FPGA systems β€” like a "flagship" console with a yet-to-disclosed "awesome feature" β€” could help expand the MiSTer beyond a TV or arcade cab setup. These products are still a ways away, and I checked in with Taki to see if he had anything new to share. Alas we don't have any new juicy details this week beyond what he's been posting on Twitter, but those posts do contain a few notable details. Let's summarize!

  • May 30: Taki's company received 2,000 bare budget MiSTer PCBs, which have "further improvements to power efficiency." Taki added that "5 boards will start SMT this weekend," meaning a small test batch of the PCBs will have all their components mounted (CPU, USB and other I/O ports, resistors and capacitors, etc.) and presumably then be tested for issues.
  • May 30: The "flagship" MiSTer console will have both VGA and HDMI In and Out ports, implying it might be perform scaling functions β€” perhaps akin to the RetroTink, though that requires a lot of custom software work so I'm hesitant to expect anything on that level. Maybe capture functionality instead?
    • The cost will be less than a DE10-Nano
    • It's got knobs.
  • May 27: Taki's planned MiSTer handheld (think Analogue Pocket competitor) will use an AMOLED screen, but "the MSRP of the handheld should still be ~$150 or less if there is enough interest." (Presumably that means pre-orders or some other metric will determine how many units they produce up front, with a higher volume order lowering part costs).
    • The AMOLED is "3x the resolution of the screen that was planned" for the MiSTer handheld initially. It's not 16:9 (so I assume it's 4:3 or close to it).
    • The handheld has pins that will be able to connect to a dock, but will be able to do HDMI out without a dock and has a USB-C port.
    • It'll have a D-Pad and, below that, dual Hall Effect analog sticks. It'll also have analog triggers.

May 23: The 2D designs for multiple FPGA systems were finished and ready to move on to 3D rendering (like the flagship render above). They're packed full of ports.

Taki has also tweeted that there are no plans for crowdfunding and hopes to use a queue / ticket system for orders to limit the potential for scalping. And that's it for the updates β€” it seems likely it'll be a couple months yet before we see these things being manufactured, so settle into Waiting Patiently Mode for more news!

Patching In

Cemu expands NFC support, making PokΓ©mon Rumble U playable – Wii U emulator Cemu has long supported Amiibos, if you have a dumped .bin file from the statue handy on your computer. But it turns out there was an additional NFC type used by select games/Amiibo, or maybe just PokΓ©mon Rumble, based on a different chip, and Cemu's inability to read that type of NFC has left PokΓ©mon Rumble hanging on a black screen for the last few years. But no longer! Thanks to a new implementation, the game is now playable. Hooray!

Checks Metacritic rating: Ah. Well. Nevertheless.

RPCS3 levels up mouse support – If you tend to play your emulated games with keyboard/mouse rather than original controllers, this may be of interest β€” PS3 emulator RPCS3 just got a number of additions to its mouse implementation, with a distinction between "basic" and "raw" mouse input and customizable acceleration. As called out on the Github page, the most likely use case here is with Guncon games (like Time Crisis 4). Also, all the mouse code contributions were from user Megamouse, which I find amusing.

Vita 3K fixes Helldivers crash – Yes, the first Helldivers came out on the Vita.

PPauseSSPP – It's now easier to pause PPSSPP when the emulator window isn't in focus.

Dolphin is on its way to RetroAchievements support – While not live yet, you can see the WIP support for RetroAchievements trickling in on Github, with some placeholder icons to look at as both the art and code implementation are refined. I've never messed with RetroAchievements, but it seems like a feature more and more folks are talking about these days, so it's cool to see support coming to Dolphin. Two consoles, one aquatic mammal β€” can't beat that. I expect Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers player numbers to skyrocket.

A fun thing on retroachievements.org is seeing how many people play a game, even if it doesn't have achievements. For example, a couple of people fire up the Europe-only PS2 Inspector Gadget every month. It was made by the same studio that made those Garfield games on PS2, so I see the appeal!!!

[image or embed]

— Jeff Gerstmann (@jeffgerstmann.com) May 29, 2024 at 9:02 AM

Core Report

Sega System 18 beta released – Jotego's got a new MiSTer & Analogue Pocket core in beta, aka downloadable if you join his Patreon. The games currently available for the Sega System 18 are Alien Storm, Shadow Dancer (the sequel to arcade Shinobi) and Bloxeed, which sure looks like "don't sue me bro" Tetris but was apparently licensed? Anyway, play Alien Storm and Shadow Dancer.

  • PS: Did anyone else play the DOS port of Shinobi back in the day? Goddamn was this game hard. I've linked to a video of someone doing a no deaths run so as to feel extra bad about my child self sucking at this hideous version of Shinobi.

MAME presses F3 – Mame 0.266 dropped on Friday, with the headline feature being Taito F3 emulation "reimplemented, fixing numerous long-standing graphical issues." (Some notable games include Darius Gaiden, Elevator Action Returns, and Puzzle Bobble 3/4).

Translation Station

Mega Man and Professor Layton keitai games get equipped with English – There's currently a thriving scene around the preservation of the 2000s era of Japanese mobile games, which ones ruled the nation's kickass flip phones. Many of those games (like Square Enix's Compilation of FF7 entries Before Crisis and Dirge of Cerberus Lost Episode) never left Japan, because the phones in America, Europe etc. couldn't handle them. Now, as some of those games are being dumped from old phones and preserved, they're also being translated! Emulation for this hardware is still nascent, but it's very cool to see these games saved and playable to any extent. Recent English translations include:

There are two more chapters of the Layton game preserved and being actively translated, while the two Mega Man Battle Network spin-offs are complete and serve as a great historical complement to the recent legacy collection from Capcom. If you want to play them on a screen a bit more conducive to their low resolutions, here's a helpful video.

Are these Bloody Warriors really NESessary? – If there's a burning fire within you that compels you to play each and every NES RPG, well, here's one of those, now in English! Or more in English, rather, as this is an addendum to an existing fan translation that fixes issues and adds in some missing, previously untranslated text to make for a complete experience. This addendum patch has been in the works since 2020, but just hit a 1.0 release in May. Now you can play the game that HonestGamers described as "not good enough to inspire players to delve into the genre."

Gulp down this Liquid, Kids – Here's a funny one β€” Liquid Kids, aka Mizubaku Daibouken, was an arcade game released worldwide, but its Saturn port was exclusive to Japan. Despite that, it was playable in English... but only if you input a code to activate English mode. Modder Cabbage, bless 'em, decided to make a patch to enable English by default. That may not count as a fan translation, but you can't knock the efficiency.

Good pixels

Mario Kart 8 turned 10 years old this week, which inevitably got me thinking about my favorite Mario Kart, Double Dash!! I hope Nintendo gives it another shot one day, either through a remaster or just another Mario Kart built around the dual rider system, but this time with modern online play. The co-op was a blast, man!

A lovely member of the Dolphin forum community released an HD texture pack for Double Dash last fall, and it looks pretty pretty pretty nice. Check out these comparisons:

Dash on, pals. πŸ’½