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Remembering classic games: Power Drift (1988)

From the man behind Out Run, Power Drift was a classic arcade racer

Published: 29 Mar 2024

While legendary Sega developer Yu Suzuki is best known for Out Run and Daytona USA, in between those he created the lesser known Power Drift. Utilising what was known as ‘super scaler’ technology, Power Drift constructed its elevated, rollercoaster tracks entirely out of two dimensional sprites but then blasted them at your eyeballs so rapidly that they resembled a solid, three-dimensional structure.

On the initial menu screen, you select not just your preferred circuit, but also one of 12 different drivers who is then craned directly into their car, which is a service that would be extremely welcome after a substantial pub lunch, now that we think about it. Once you hit the track, the handling was just as slidy as the title of the game suggests, with the game screen tilting dramatically to accentuate every drift. Which is all well and good until you slip off the top of one of the game’s towering overpasses and the camera plunges nauseatingly after you.

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Manage to keep your buggy on the track to finish first on five circuits and you’d unlock a bonus extra stage where you either got to ride the motorbike from Super Hang-On or, get this, fly the fighter jet from Afterburner. It makes all the quibbling over budget cap cheating in Formula One seem petty as you overtake a bunch of go-karts in an F-14 Tomcat.

If you were lucky enough to visit an arcade that had the ‘deluxe’ version of the cabinet, you’d clamber into a full cockpit and be treated to the seat lurching from side to side in time with those swooping, undulating tracks. There might be no official ‘hard mode’ in this game, but the unofficial one was playing this after consuming a bowling alley hotdog and an entire jumbo Fanta. 

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