If you stop and consider it, advancements in tech are simplifying and expanding a lot of artistic endeavours. What was once considered a Herculean technical and creative undertaking can now be done in minutes with decimated manpower. A gigantic monolith’s throughput can now be achieved on a device the size of a palm. In the year 2000, just two months after coming to the Nintendo 64, a known developer, Crawfish Interactive, ported the arcade-like insanity to the consoles on the go, at least a decade before handhelds could match in Cruis’n Exotica.
If you played any of the previous Cruis’n arcade conversions on the Nintendo 64, then Exotica on the Game Boy should feel very familiar. Especially with the three game modes available. You have your classic Freestyle, or Circuit, when you get from point A to B in before the time limit. Along with the eponymous Exotica where the majority of the content is unlocked by playing. Fans will be pleased to know that all the locations Exotica had are also here, so you can now take the arcade action anywhere with you. Despite the heavy reworking for the portable tech, it is impressive how much of the gameplay remains, and players should be up to speed in no time.
Developers, Crawfish Interactive, who you maybe recognise from playing other notable Game Boy games of the era, worked on porting the title to the Game Boy. They do a good job of keeping the core Cruis’n experience on the handheld while contending with the limitations that come with it. To match the handheld’s simplified control scheme, the game controls are simple enough, so you can quickly dive into the well-known arcade action. 3.D. graphics are also out of the question, so you will have to settle for a pseudo 2.D. look, yet the similar overlays do help sell the distinctiveness between levels Alaska and Atlantis (for example) and the cars do look simplified, although they retain their recognisability. Visually, Exotica might appear a lot similar to games like Outrun and other Mode-7-esque racers. They play similarly enough as well, so if you’re looking for something similar to pick up and play.
Audio also has some relinquishment, but the Game Boy Color is capable of playing some catchy grooves, especially if you are a fan of Chiptune, and the other soundtracks produced for the system. Unlike future attempts at a portable Cruis’n, there is no inclusion of an announcer, although the race progression of the checkpoints is communicated through the use of text.
Cruis’n Exotica remains as exotic as ever, even on a cartridge that is less than 10% of the capacity of the original. The audio and visuals do a lot to try to recreate the charms of the originals while overcoming the sizeable limitations of a console powered by batteries. If you are away from the couch, this could be a viable alternative. Once again showing that in exciting locales and situations, the Cruis’n franchise can still find its magic on the move.
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