San Francisco Rush 2049, developed by Atari Games and published by Midway, released in late 2000 for the N64 and Dreamcast. It is my favorite game ever made in which you drive a vehicle. I got the game for Nintendo 64 back in January 2001, and it’s the only game I have had for that long and have definitely played at least some of in every year since I bought it; next on that list would be Guild Wars, which I have probably played at least a bit of every year since 2005, but I’m not 100% certain about that, while I am for Rush 2049. The game is not one of my most-played games ever, there are PC and handheld games I’ve played more, but it is the game I’ve gone back to more regularly than anything else. That is one of the reasons it’s my favorite racing game; at first I liked F-Zero X more than Rush 2049, but then I realized that I was going back to Rush 2049 again and again and again, while after beating F-Zero X, I stopped playing it.
So, I have played quite a lot of this game. Years after getting the N64 version, I got the Gamecube version in Midway Arcade Treasures 3. I won’t be talking about that highly disappointing collection of great games much this time, though; Rush 2049 there it is a bad port of the Dreamcast version I will discuss below. After getting a Dreamcast in August 2007, I got the DC version of Rush 2049. It’s a great version of a great game, but the N64 and DC versions have differences, and I’ll go over those below. I’ll mention the biggest issues with the Gamecube MAT3 version at the end of each category. I would generally assume that the PS2 and Xbox versions of MAT3 will largely be the same, but I have not played those myself; comments from anyone who has would be great.
Overall, subjectively, the Nintendo 64 version is the one I still mostly play, but objectively the Dreamcast version is better in most ways. After the version differences list, I’ll explain the four reasons why I mostly play the N64 version despite its not-quite-as-good graphics.
Table of Contents
- Feature Differences – Feature differences that are not graphical — multiplayer, control, music, and car colors.
- Graphical Differences – Graphical differences between the versions — this lists the various ways that the Nintendo 64 version was downgraded versus the Dreamcast version.
- The reasons I mostly play the N64 version.
1. Feature Differences
- Car painting (N64 Advantage) – This is the one thing the N64 wins. As I said above, you can choose the three colors your car will be painted in on the N64, out of a selection of several dozen colors, selecting a different color (if you wish) for each of the three zones on the car. You can’t fully paint or sticker the car as you can in Top Gear Rally or some newer racing games, but it is a nice option. On the DC all you can do is choose between eight presets, which probably aren’t quite what you want. I don’t know why this is, but it’s a bit annoying, if minor.
- Analog Acceleration (DC Advantage) – Unless the N64 game has some wheel support I don’t know about, the DC version has analog acceleration and braking while the N64 version, as per its controller, does not.
- Multiplayer (DC Advantage) – On Dreamcast, Race (Single Race only), Stunt, and Battle modes are all playable with up to four players. On N64 however, while Stunt and Battle modes are playable with up to 4 players, Race mode is for only 2 players max, probably because of framerate issues I would guess.
- Music (No Clear Advantage) – The two games have similar soundtracks, but they are not the same. The Dreamcast version has a total of 18 music tracks, while the N64 has only 12, and they are not all the same as the DC music. The DC music is mostly based on the arcade soundtrack, while the N64 has a somewhat different soundtrack. Perhaps because it’s what I am most familiar with, I’ve always liked the N64 soundtrack the best. I think the compositions are better, and that makes up for the smaller number of music tracks. The DC soundtrack is good, but just doesn’t match up to the N64 music for me… where they are different, I mostly prefer the N64. Both soundtracks should be on Youtube, for comparison.
- Track Names (No Clear Advantage) – On the N64 tracks are named with numbers — Track 1, Track 2, etc. On DC however each track has a word for a name instead — Marina, etc. This isn’t a better-or-worse thing, just different. It’s just a bit weird that they didn’t use consistent labelling between the two versions of the game.
- MAT3 – Feature-wise, Midway Arcade Treasures 3 is mostly the same as the Dreamcast version, but with longer load times because it’s a bad port. The one major feature difference is that you cannot change the controls in MAT3; they are locked to one preset, and it’s not great. In the N64 and DC games you can change your controls in the menu, but not in MAT3.
2. Graphical Differences
Here are graphical differences between the two versions. First though, the list below compares the N64 game with the Expansion Pak attached. Without an Expansion Pak, Rush 2059 for N64 has no in-race music, no moving objects on the tracks (planes, trolley cars, and such), and no Race Track 6 or Extreme championship. Just be sure to always play it with the expansion pak.
With that said, there are no categories here where the N64 version is the better of the two; all categories are ways that the N64 is downgraded versus the Dreamcast. The DC version looks very much like the original arcade game, so it is very impressive that the N64 holds up as well as it does– and it gets very close! I have always thought that Rush 2049 is one of the absolute best-looking games on the N64, and it really is. The game looks fantastic for the hardware. It can’t match up to the DC however, and it’s interesting to look at the changes they made to get the game running on N64.
- Resolution – The N64 version runs at the N64-usual 320×240 interlaced resolution as far as I know, Dreamcast at 480i or 480p, with VGA progressive scan support.
- Framerate – Both versions run fine most of the time, but the N64 version does probably have a lower average framerate. The N64 version also has some occasional framerate issues, particularly on Race Track 6, but mostly it is smooth. The DC version probably runs at a higher framerate, though it’s hard for me to tell, and doesn’t have issues on Track 6. The MAT3 version does have some framerate problems, at least on Gamecube, that make it run maybe worse than the N64 version. But MAT3 has a lot of issues, so that shouldn’t be surprising. All versions have some weird camera/framerate spinning issues while you’re high in the air in jumps in the stunt arenas, so that’s probably some camera engine issue and not framerate.
- Textures – Of course the DC version has sharp textures, just like the arcade, while the N64 has lower-res textures. The N64 textures look great, but they are clearer on DC.
- Special Visual Effects – While as far as I can tell the draw distance and model polygon counts are identical between versions almost all of the time, the DC does do a couple of things the N64 doesn’t — on DC there is a reflection of the car on that disc the car sits on in the car select screen that doesn’t exist on N64; a building in track 3 has a cone of light emanating from the top of it on DC, while there’s no light coming out of the top of the building on N64 (there may be other similar buildings elsewhere with missing light effects, that one just stands out); on night tracks (tracks 4 and 6) on Dreamcast the cars have projecting headlights, while they don’t on N64. That’s it, as far as I know.
- Draw Distance – for the most part, both versions have full draw distance all the way to the horizon. However, there are a couple of very minor instances of popup in the N64 version. The most obvious one are the small vertical cables on the Golden Gate Bridge (the small cables that connect the top cable to the one along the bridge deck) have a closer draw distance on the N64 than Dreamcast. This is one of the only places I’ve ever seen anything other than full detail all the way to the horizon in the N64 version. The other place is that rarely, particularly in Race Track 3 or 5, when you go around a turn into one of the big open areas, stuff may pop in far in the distance. This does not always occur and you have to REALLY be looking to see it before everything’s appeared, but I have noticed it a few times while looking for popup. I don’t think the DC version has a similar issue but I haven’t played it enough to be certain.
- MAT3 – MAT3 graphically is the same as the DC version, but with more framerate problems, particularly in 3-4 player multiplayer. MAT3 in 3-4 player almost certainly has the worst framerate of any version of this game. I’d recommend sticking with the DC or N64 for multiplayer. Of course, as mentioned previously, the load times are longer as well.
Otherwise though, as far as I can tell the two games look the same, apart from the texture, resolution, and maybe framerate differences, fairly impressive for the N64 considering that both versions are down-ports from an arcade game with lots of added content made for the new console version, it wasn’t N64-first. The DC version looks a little better, but the N64 version also looks great.
Why I Prefer to Play the Game on Nintendo 64
- Nostalgia – I got the N64 version in January 2001, while I didn’t get the DC version until after getting that console in Aug. 2007 (and the Gamecube MAT3 version in between). I’d played the N64 version a lot before getting the others, it’s the one I have the most memories with. Rush 2049 is the only game I am sure I have had for that long and have played at least some every single year since I bought it, and it’s my most played TV console game. There are handheld and PC games I’ve played for more hours for sure, but not TV console games, and there aren’t any other games I have had as long and played at least some every single year. Maybe I’ve played Guild Wars (PC) at least some every year since ’05, but that’d be the only close contender in how often I go back to a game.
- Stats / Save File – The game keeps track of total stunt points, time played on each track (not counting resets, though, which surely removes scores of hours), best times for each track, etc etc, and my stats are all in my N64 save file, which I still have from when I first created it. The GC and DC save files don’t have anywhere remotely near as much time, times, points, etc. on them. Of course not having to unlock everything again is also a big plus, it takes a while to unlock some things in this game! Getting a million stunt points in those versions to unlock the Obstacle Course would be time-consuming, for example. Why not just play it on N64, where my stats are all there? I like being able to see how I compare to my old times, etc.
- Car Painting – The one major feature the N64 version has over the DC (and MAT3 because it’s a DC port) version is that on the N64 you can directly choose the three colors you want your car to be painted in. In the DC version, however, all you can do is just choose one of eight preset color sets. I like my car’s colors on N64, and can’t make a car that looks like that on the other version. I like my florescent green and purple car on the N64, but on DC/MAT3 the only green option is a somewhat bland teal and white one or a decent but not as great one in two shades of green. Bah.
- Controller – I like the DC controller quite a bit, but the N64 controller is one of my favorites ever. The game plays great on DC, but I do prefer the feel of playing it on N64.
- Soundtrack – The DC soundtrack is also amazing, but there’s just something about the N64 music that I really love. Rush 2049’s soundtrack for the N64 is one of my favorite game soundtracks.
I like the game the most on N64, but I am an N64 fan, of course. And the Dreamcast game is also amazing; I’ve been playing it some recently, and it is fantastic. For anyone who has not played the game on one platform, just get whichever version you want, you can’t go wrong either way. The DC version may look a little better, but the N64 version looks great as well, and the polygon counts per frame are mostly identical (apart from those effects I describe above). Get whichever version you have the system for, on either system it’s one of the best games ever made! Just remember to avoid the MAT3 version if you want to play the game as it should be; get Rush 2049 for N64 or Dreamcast.
Overall, Rush 2049 is the best racing game ever made! And it is the best stunt-arena game ever made as well. And it’s perhaps the best multiplayer vehicular battle arena game of its generation. And that Obstacle Course track is pretty great also; it inspired the recent PC racing game Distance. Be sure to play this incredible masterpiece.