On April 27, 2000, a virtually unknown Japanese developer by the name of Prism Arts released a humble little racing game called Rally De Europe for the PlayStation. It would be the company’s third and final title. It never reached North America, nor did Prism Arts’ two games that preceded it — Rally De Africa and Circuit Beat. But much like Racing Lagoon, another Japan-only PlayStation racer, Rally De Europe is getting its due these days. And frankly, I’m gutted about what we missed out on 20 long years ago.
I never played Rally De Europe until 2020, when the pandemic compelled us all to run, screaming, to our respective happy places. Mine is and was playing old games, and so Rally De Africa and Europe — two titles I began to hear quite a bit about from the retro community — crossed my radar.
Off the bat, I should stress that neither of these games offers any sort of earth-shattering, revolutionary gameplay concept in the way that Racing Lagoon did. These are straight up run-of-the-mill arcade racers, tasking the player with finishing first across a series of events, to unlock more cars and tracks. It’s basically Sega Rally, but without Sega Rally’s sublime physics.
That’s not to say cars handle poorly in either of these games; they’re just not quite as agile as those in Sega’s classic, and frankly, Sega Rally remains almost impossible to beat in the handling department almost 30 years on. Africa and Europe handle well enough, though, and look splendid in a low-poly ’90s way, with some of the finest pixelated car models you’ll ever see. Players are treated to a small selection of unlicensed versions of rally icons, like the ’99 Impreza WRC, Lancer Evolution V and Peugeot 306 Maxi, as well as classics like the Nissan 240Z and first-generation Toyota Celica.
The simplicity of these games, and their graphical and musical prowess, are what stands out the most. The PlayStation didn’t have a game like Sega Rally in its repertoire. It had the Colin McRae Rally series, sure, but those were decidedly more serious. Not that Prism Arts’ racers are any less difficult; you might not destroy a turbo in these games, but the mistake-free AI, momentum-crushing collisions and claustrophobic track design will do you in all the same.
Given the choice between Rally De Africa and Europe, the latter is the one you’d want to play. It has pretty much all the content from the earlier game plus lots more, with a little less of the... racist caricature. (Rally De Europe ditches Africa’s musical pandering but unfortunately retains the earlier game’s co-driver voice.) Both capture the arcade rally spirit, though, and will make you yearn for the golden years of early 3D racers.