Racing Game History: F355 Challenge (1999)

If you’ve ever experienced the carefree thrill of blasting past palm trees Sega’s classic arcade racer Out Run (1986) or marveled at the realism achieved in the ‘90s with the Formula One simulator Virtua Racing, Game Developer Yu Suzuki thanks you for your quarters (or Yen depending). 

Suzuki started his career developing games for Sega’s debut home console, the SG-1000, but it was his work advancing the use of 3D graphics for added immersion in several of Sega’s notable race games that had us flooring it to the arcade.  This push toward 3D started in the ‘80s  with Sega’s “Super Scaler” technology used in games like OutRun and Space Harrier (1985), which featured sprites that appeared to grow and shrink depending how distant they were from the camera. In the early ‘90s, Suzuki’s work on the “Virtua” series including Virtua Racing (1992), demonstrated the possibilities for increased realism in simulation games thanks to polygonal graphics. All of this was revving up to Suzuki’s arcade racing magnum opus, 1999’s F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa.

A loving tribute to a legendary Ferrari machine, F355 Challenge was considered one of the most realistic driving games of its time thanks in no small part to the excellent 3D graphics that have held their charms despite the passage of time. In the arcade, additional immersion was achieved with the three-screen version of the arcade cabinet that allowed players to look to the left and right as if they were peering through the side windows in a real F355. 

Console ports of the game on the Sega Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 couldn’t compete with the cabinet in terms of sheer number of screens or added details like an H-shaped shifter and force feedback, but they did best the original arcade game (later versions received an update) in one way: more tracks. That’s right! When the quarters ran out you could console yourself with five additional tracks on your Dreamcast including one based on the Ferrari-owned track where they test drive their own cars. 

Video features footage captured from the Sega Dreamcast version

After F355 Challenge, Suzuki continued a prolific stint of game development including the open-world adventure series Shenmue, additional entries in the Virtua Fighter series, and more. And for race fans? Suzuki gave us a shot of nostalgia with an old favorite remade with polygonal graphics in OutRun 2 in 2003.