1983 was a ripe time for racers. The genre had always been pushing for more realism and in 1982 Namco’s Pole Position set the de facto standard for racing titles. Even after Pole Position II was released in 1983, the original continued to enjoy success and continued to be the influential title for others. The bad news is that Pole Position was more influential than it was good, and there was a lot of room for improvement. The good news is that this improvement came from a developer named Tatsumi, with TX-1.
Although TX-1 isn’t quite great enough to make it onto my list, I definitely believe that it’s worthy of an honorable mention. It improves on Pole Position in every way imaginable and is just downright fun to play. The basic idea is that you’re racing against a clock in a Formula One racer. There are other drivers, but the point isn’t to get first; it’s to stay ahead of the countdown timer. Each racer you pass will add to your score. You are aided in this endeavor with force feedback technology, a triple-monitor setup, a stickshift, and two pedals.
TX-1 was the first game to include force feedback with its vibrating steering wheel. Actually feeling the car respond to your driving adds a new level of immersion. You drive with both a gas pedal and a brake, the latter of which is necessary for sharp turns. TX-1 emphasized realism moreso than any other previous racing game, but was still arcade-y enough to strike a right balance between realism and fun. Aside from these pedals you also have a two speed transmission (which can also be helpful for sharp turns or sudden obstacles) and three monitors to take advantage of your peripheral vision. One monitor faces you straight-on, and the other two are at 30° angles so the display wraps around your head. This, to be perfectly unbiased, is AWESOME! You really feel as if the countryside is whizzing past you!
The countryside itself has ton to offer. Not only do you get a variety of vistas such as coastline, farmland, and cities, but you also have terrain that changes–the roads curve and twist, the ground slants and angles. There are tunnels strewn about and there’s an echo while you’re driving through them. The change in sound is subtle but welcome. I really appreciate attention to detail, and little touches like this really make me happy! Perhaps the coolest thing about TX-1‘s landscape, though, is its branching path. At each checkpoint you get the option of going left or right. There are in total four different endings to the course, but good luck getting there.
My chief complaint with TX-1 lies in its difficulty. I’ll admit that I’m not the best player out there, but I just can’t finish a course no matter how hard I try. In the video above I had to flip a dip switch to give myself more time and I still couldn’t make it. The roads are just a little too twisty if you ask me. In a game like this, I don’t want to slow down every ten seconds to inch through a curve. It spoils the fun. :(
Nevertheless, TX-1 is a great game and a great example of how it’s possible to squeeze a lot out of limited resources. It’s a shame that the game is almost unknown today. In fact, I had to add the entry to MobyGames last year because no one else had heard of it. Well, I guess it’s good that I’m around then. John the video game guy. That’s what they’ll call me. After my trademark comes through….