It's also a prime example of why Square has stopped... OK, should've stopped tackling other genres.
Wow, the graphics here are amazing. Square even attempted to put some 3D effects in this!
Car models are very well detailed for a NES game and backgrounds pile up as many colors as you can possibly pile on an 8-bit chip. There is a rudimentary dashboard (or, semi-dashboard) view that shows a nice speedometer able to break 300kmph. Overall, pretty good for a NES game.
The sound is made up of the usual beeps and bops of the era with a fast yet utterly annoying techno track accompanying it. I really wish there would be more to say about this but this game probably took up no more than 30kb from that whole cart, and it shows.
This is where the hurt begins. Simply put, this is not Square's fault, as much as it is the hardware's fault. At this time consoles were not able to render anything above this... a decent racer could only be found on a closet sized PC or an arcade machine and it should comes as to no surprise that this is a basic as it gets.
Rad Racers is composed of 8 tracks, which are probably the games best feature. Composed of undulating curves and turns, traffic and trees, are non-clippable they give a pretty good feel of speed even today. Although not quite up to Outrun standards, yet bearing an odd similarity, the tracks represent the best that this tired of old game has to offer and can actually be challenging even to modern racers... granted your not paying enough attention at the road.
The cars of Rad Racers are... well... barely plural, as in, there are only 2 of them, a Ferrari and a drag racer. Oh boy! Well, at least, it must be said that Rad Racers tried to put some realism into the whole racing, thing. Although the point here was to hold down the gas pedal until the end, being stupid enough to go 300 kmph into a 90 degree turn would actually land you outside the racing are and effectively either end the game immediately or delay you enough to do so later on.
Actual racing was, at this time and up until the mid 90's, check point based... with traffic, very annoying traffic. Every car on the road was poised to throw you into a ditch and make an already difficult checkered-race, horrendously difficult. Of course, the fact that each checkpoint never gave you enough seconds to reach the next didn't help either, but, hell, it prolonged the life of the game. Oh, the life of the game was 2 hours... at most. The first time I played this I finished 3 out of 8 stages in one sitting. After 3 more sittings I was trying out the other, completely identical, car.
While racing, you could also do so cool things in Rad Racers. For example, hitting down on the D-pad resulted in a change of the background tune to an equally techno-happy-background-tune. Vary exiting! You could also change from night to day whenever you pleased. It didn't matter much though as visibility was not an issue for neither you, nor the drivers on the road which would be just a vehement about ramming you in a wall.
Control, or well, left-right-accelerate-break was barely OK! Too bad about the oil spills and turns though. No, really, when you were about to take a turn in this game your car reacted like an out of control airplane on a twisty runway. It was bad and it sent your car out in the décor pretty fast.
It's easy to see why with games like these Square started on its Final Fantasy series, acronym for "Save us, we're going bankrupt!”. Perhaps I'm being overly critical of Square but at this time, racers were sure death unless you were Sega... and Square took 2 games to realize this.