Welcome to Road Spirits! A (you guessed it...) Out Run-style driving game released in March, 1991 by Pack-in Video for the PC-Engine CD-ROM game system.

Now, Pack-in Video has had a <ahem!> storied release history on game systems, ranging from Rambo and Predator on the Famicom, to ZIPANG, Deep Blue, and F-1 Pilot: You're King of Kings on the PC-Engine. Oh, Dear. Well, Pack-in Video didn't of course program all the games they published, and indeed a good number of their PCE releases were programmed by ARC Co., Ltd., who tended to have good graphics artists and often sought the work of Katsuhiro Hayashi for music.

So, let's find out if the Hayashi factor is high, or if the Pack-in Video touch of death is still there...

Before setting off, you can choose to change your car type. No names here, but your choices are obviously an Acura NSX, Lamborghini Diablo...

PROTIP: The NSX is recommended as having the best cornering bar none.

... Ferrari F40 and Porsche 911 Carrera.
Unfortunately, once you choose one type of car, you are stuck with it for the rest of the game.

PROTIP: If you wipe out in the Porsche, try to take a look at what(!) your passenger is!

The game seems to have disabled the option, but there still remain graphics in the selection screen for 2 additional cars: a Citroën 2CV and a Renault 5 Turbo. I guess they were in a French mood one day but snapped out of it.

PROTIP: Hackers can set RAM location $2010 to 4 or 5 on the selection screen to drive these forbidden cars.

*** BONUS! Or try the cheat codes below!

You can also choose between a convenient 2-speed manual transmission, a manly 5-speed, and automatic for pussies.
You get a choice of 10 different music tracks, with a wide range of styles, most falling into the jazz fusion category. The music really gets you into the laid-back mood for driving and is excellent, despite lacking the catchy melodies of Out Run. Some oddball tracks like "Oh! Brazil" and the hillbilly "Q CHAN" are in there, but give the whole soundtrack a few plays and it will really grow on you.
A few more observations: Song 6, "Shake Me Down", is essentially a CD remix of the menu music in Final Lap Twin on the PCE. The title music of Road Spirits similarly shares a melody with the title screen of FLT. These and other songs sound similar to Galaxy Force's whole soundtrack, as well as Quartet's too.

The connection? Katsuhiro Hayashi.

Not just any old studio musician, he composed the soundtracks for numerous SEGA arcade games, including: Quartet, Galaxy Force, Super Hang-On, SDI, and Gain Ground. On the Sega Master System, he composed for Hokuto no Ken/Black Belt, Ashura/Rambo II, and others.

His PCE works include Final Lap Twin, Altered Beast, Road Spirits, Hihou Densetsu, Minesweeper, Zero 4 Champ II, and the fabuloso Terraforming. His great music is basically why I'm writing this page.

Hayashi's nicknames include Funky K.H. and Q CHAN. (aha!)

One of ARC's regular game designers has the nickname "2CV". Maybe that explains the Citroens in the game...

But let's move on...

The Courses
West Coast
Key West
Mexican Road
Silver Mountain (Brazil?)
Swiss Alps
East River Night
Death Valley
Easter Island
Ayers Rock
China City
Gobi Desert
I like the fact that the final race takes place in Canada! (about 500km SW of Whitehorse)
Forest Road, Canada

In the end, you get a "CONGRATULATIONS" message. Hold your head high from now on, because "YOU ARE REAL ROAD SPIRITS" as the game says.

You also get a recount of your course times and then it's The End.

What's missing? Oh, a review. Well, I was trying to avoid it, because despite the full-featured pre-game options, despite the pretty graphics, the great music, the smooth scaling, silken undulating road, large obstacles, plethora of locations, digitized scenery, cute girls, and overall great atmosphere, the game is... boring. Tedious. Not right away, of course, but certainly after you complete your 3rd race, you begin to wonder where the challenge, tight turns, pulse-quickening time limit, and fun all are. The game simply does not have a difficulty arc. The game gives you 3-4 minutes to complete each track, and with such gentle bends and lackadaisical rival cars, the courses seem to drag on and on. Only at about Hawaii do the bends seem a bit tight to manoeuvre through. And let me tell you, when you're driving a Citroen and you can accelerate past 3 rival Ferraris effortlessly, the point of the game seems to evaporate before your eyes.

I want to love this game, I really do. The programmers had a good understanding of what makes Out Run tick, and added more of it in abundance and it's good on a technical level too. They just forgot that Out Run was fantastic because of the high challenge, strict time limit, and the variety of courses and scenery thrown at you within that 5-minute time limit. Expand that limit to at least 1 hour and dole out the variety and scenery at 4-minute intervals... who would want to play Out Run that way?


Interstitials w/ girls
Interstitials w/o girls


Roadside Objects
Signs, etc...
turn 1
turn 2
a bush
Rocks, etc...
more rocks
a Moai!
cactus 1
cactus 2
lamp 1
lamp 2
lamp 3
the Goal!
a tree
another tree
a 3rd tree
palm 1
palm 2
palm 3
palm 4
a fir
a Scots pine
...in winter
Virginia Slims?
Taco Casa?
Semiramis Hotel
Evian, of course.
Cobi, mascot of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
Aloha Hawaii
ARC, the developer
Bee Wee's Minimart?
Egg McMuffin, ha.


Instruction Book
Back Cover
Below is the magazine ad for the game. They used a lot of beta screenshots in the ad (and on the game's back cover!), showing a driveable red NSX, white Renault 5, starting countdown "balloon", and a different girl/background arrangement with even worse Engrish than the final game. Every stage also seems to use the same Cairo hotel billboard...
Famicom Tsushin previewed Road Spirits using an early build of the game. Most conspicuously, there are 6 selectable cars, mentioned by their real-life names (lawsuits!) The countdown balloon is here, and the CD track selection screen is a tad different. Something tells me Pack-in Video were in a big rush to get the game out.

Bonus - Cheats!
The game has a few debug codes! At the title screen, after the title music just starts up (you can't enter the code when the wind is howling or when START/CONTINUE is on screen), press the following buttons the specified number of times, then press RUN to choose start or continue.
Ux5, Dx9, Lx6, Rx0-5.
Watch the Ending using the car specified by R button presses.
0=Citroen, 1=Ferrari, 2=Lambo, 3=Porsche, 4=Acura, 5=Renault.
Ux7, Dx7, Lx7.
Watch the Credits! (as seen below)
Ux3, Dx8, Lx4, Rx0-16.
Stage Select.
Ux9, Dx6, Lx8, Rx0-5.
Car Select! As in the main game, 4 and 5 button presses get you the Citroen and Renault.
Ux10, Dx0, Lx9...
Ux4, Dx2, Lx10...
What a wacky bunch!
More ARC game dissections to come!