Running High

Running High (ランニングハイ) - PlayStation (1997)

Running High (ランニングハイ)
Developer: System Sacom
Release Date: 1997
Platforms: PlayStation

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Although best known for their adventure games, System Sacom occasionally dabbled in other genres. Running High is an on-foot racer, where athletes in super-powered mech suits run around tight windy tracks in the distant future of 2014. You hold down the X button to run, and maintaining speed for enough time will build up a meter that you can use for a quick boost or vault over a nearby racer if your meter’s full (though you can also hit them with a standard punch, Road Rash-style).

Racers can vault over you too, and it’s quite frustrating getting stopped in your tracks when you’ve got no way of countering them. Not helping is that tracks are so windy that it’s easy to find yourself rubbing against walls unless you can figure out the drifting mechanic, which involves letting go of the X button briefly before pressing it again while holding left or right. It doesn’t work as consistently as it should, making it quite tough to navigate turns. 

To be fair, that adds to the overall franticness of the races, where you’re desperately dashing to keep up and overtake your rivals. There’s some rubberbanding, so you’re never completely left behind and other racers can still surpass you. Throw in a steady framerate and plenty of pounding house/rock tunes, and you’ve got a difficult game that can equally exciting and overwhelming.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to check out unless you want to get seriously invested. There’s only three tracks, with no multiplayer or other modes besides single races. You can unlock a fourth track, but only by coming first in all three tracks as all six of the racers available to you. Their stats are varied, but this means that some of them are much harder to use when they can’t run or drift well. 

Still, if you’re able to achieve that, you can go on to unlock reversed tracks and a handful of extra characters, including extreme variants on existing racers, a regular gal named Mary and even a baby mode where all the racers are replaced by babies crawling around at super speed. The character designs were done by Shufo “SYUFO” Itahashi, a manga artist known for series such as Cyber 7, Ai City and Gaira. He also did illustration and design work for other games including Download 2 on the PC Engine and the PS1 brawler Cyber-Org.

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