Over the course of several months, I attempted to get OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast working on my shit-tier PS2 emulator, and to no avail. In the process, I became obsessed with learning the nuances of PS2 emulation, and in doing so discovered two things: the PS2 is not that easy to replicate even on mid-tier machines, and PS2 games are some truly poorly optimized shit. I was putting myself through this bullshit because I suddenly became enamored with OutRun for the first time, learning all about the gameplay loop and the various spin-offs from the Sega arcade classic. Naturally, this lead me to the most recent (and last) major release in the franchise: Coast 2 Coast, which had been released on the PS2, the Xbox, and PSP. I assumed it would be easy to just snatch the ISO and play this on my PS2 emulator. Unfortunately, it was one of the buggier games to emulate, and suffered from such fucked-up slowdown and framerate sputtering that no amount of configuration really held it together.
I know what you're asking: why are you putting so much effort into trying to play this extremely niche and largely forgotten arcade racer. Well, I don't have a solid answer, but OutRun kind of clicked for me in a really weird way. OutRun is the perfect combo of retrowave music, chilled out gameplay that still demands a degree of skillful driving, and is short enough to play in bursts without worrying that I'm gonna be stuck without a savepoint for an hour. As of late, I've been entranced by games that are more on the "arcade" spectrum due to fatigue from 100-hour open world excursions. Games like Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, F-Zero, and Donkey Kong Country are more my jam nowadays for the replay value and tightly-designed playthroughs encapsulated within; I love being able to pick up and play them for a while, end the session, and come back whenever without losing out on anything.
I wasn't a Sega kid; I grew up with the SNES, and even then I didn't get into any racing games until Diddy Kong Racing for the N64. F-Zero X and GX are probably my go-to hardcore racers, but beyond that, I never really latched on to any others in the genre. I only started an interest in OutRun after the Sega Ages arcade-perfect edition of the game was dropped on the Switch, and I fell in love with it instantly. There was just something about the simplicity of it--the complexity only really stemming from controlling your speed, making tight corners over rolling hills, and avoiding other cars--that was endearing. Little things like the course choice and "collecting" them all through multiple runs was fun, too. The soundtrack for the original was maybe 3 or 4 tracks you selected prior to racing but they were all bangers. Everything just came together so nicely that I simply had to seek out what else that series offered.
OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast is a relic--literally. The Ferrari license with Sega ran out, so this game can't even be sold on Steam anymore. I'm told it used to be on Steam, and I wish I knew that years ago, as it would have made things easier for me. What's so special about C2C, anyway? It's technically the home console port of the aptly named OutRun 2, which was launched in arcades in 2003. The first "true" revival of the series, it kept the spirit of the original game alive with its great soundtrack, branching courses, sharp turns, and challenging traffic, while also adding more of a "competitive" aspect to the game with drifting. It's kind of crucial that you know how to drift well, along with slipstreaming to gain speed, in OutRun 2; this is the New Thing they added to keep it fresh and in my humble opinion, it's a really great way to add a new dimension to an already great experience.
The new updated Coast 2 Coast version of OutRun 2 introduced mission modes, primarily for racing but also for the series standby of "pleasing your girlfriend" who rides next to you and gives you tasks to do like "destroy other cars" or "pass convoys" or "dribble a giant fuckin beach ball." Yes, your girlfriend in this game is insane. The other mission mode is "Flagman," which sees you doing more "racer" shit against other cars and aiming to perfect your pure skills in dozens of challenges. You also had classic OutRun modes like the trademark ride through numerous locales against the clock or skillful time trials against track ghosts. There's just so much shit to do and it's taking me forever to improve my rankings to unlock dozens of other challenges and stages to clear--this game is the longest, most fully featured entry in the franchise by a mile. What's even better is that you're always earning Miles, which can be exchanged for new cars, music, track formations, and other treats. The replayability is just kind of sick for a self-proclaimed arcade game converted into a console experience.
I got lucky with this game because I found out it is rightfully classified as "abandonware" (due to the lapsed Ferrari license) and the PC version was actually available on the internet in its entirety. It's obviously better-looking and boasts elite performance compared to the shitty PS2/PSP versions I struggled with, so it all worked out in the end.
But the greater question remains: why should I have to go through all this shit to play a game? What happens when something loses a license to be produced on the digital platform AND you can't get a hold of the shitty physical system that houses it? It's a problem that keeps growing all the time and the answers aren't always going to be "just emulate it, dummy." In the case of titles like Metal Gear Solid 4, we might never see those games available on anything besides the goofy-ass cellular spine of the PS3. If I want to play Mischief Makers, there are 2 options: dig out a still-living N64 and the cart, or boot up Project 64 on my PC. There's just no way a Treasure game from the late 90s is going to be included on a compilation or dropped onto the Switch via some kind of "Treasure Ages" project, and I've accepted that. What's still troubling is that this option isn't always viable or even possible.
Some of my favorite obscure games, like Ogre Battle 64 or Symphony of the Night, have been fortunate in recent years to have a few conversions or ports to systems. But when I put the WiiU or the Vita to bed, it's also fortunate that I'll have copies of both on my computer to persuse. For games like Mischief Makers or Coast 2 Coast, it'll be the only viable way to experience them without shelling out obscene cash for equipment that might not even work as well anymore. In 2019, there are a few companies like Capcom and Sega that are still dedicated to not only publishing compilations of their classics, but ensuring that they're released for both the PC and your consoles. SquareEnix, to a degree, has also done this; though their propensity for tinkering and editing older games is something I still dislike. You'd expect Nintendo to do a bit more beyond the Classic hardware revisions or the pitiful Nintendo Online offerings, but only time will tell if they decide to try harder at creating a streamable vault of their software.
A part of me really wanted to own a playable version of Coast 2 Coast mainly due to the circumstances of its gradual erasure from servers and store shelves. For all the stupid shit about this hobby, I still love the history of it and all the development put into things like OutRun over the last decade or two. Being able to fire it up and enjoy it anytime is as good a way as any to preserve the past when there hasn't been a concrete way to do so.
It's fucking free. You owe it to yourself to get in on this one.