Ahh yes…AeroGauge. If you’re even reading this in first place, it might be because the premise intrigued you, had seen this game before (and didn’t get to understand it) or saw me rambling about it/playing it online. And well, the reason I even know about this game in first place is because I happened to own it many years ago along with other games for my Nintendo 64…and even then, this game used to elude me as a mystery for a couple of years as a kid since I think I had given it away to someone for some reason, and then spent the time after trying to remember the game until I stumbled upon the game again on the Internet and emulation. So…for starters, my story with this game would be split in three times: Back when I owned it for N64 (and then gave it away), the day I remembered the game and tried to handle it as I could back in 2016 and understanding the basics to play in Novice, and this year where I revisited the game again and after finally putting in some good work in practicing strats (and suffering with understanding Chinatown, let alone Chinatown Jam), getting to beat the Grand Prix in Intermediate and Expert difficulties a couple of times…and since then, I actually hadn’t got myself to play it again since then.

What I want to get with this is that the game objectively isn’t superbly amazing or something, replayability is arguably close to Sonic R (which I also liked to play a lot many years ago, haven’t revisited) with the low amount of default and unlockable content to play with outside of playing time attack by your own volition, it isn’t a groundbreaking game in technical aspects for the N64, and if anything, the way the controls are were this game’s biggest flaw, as it was such an invisible barrier unless someone else explained at you how to actually play it, happened to be the 0.1% of people that owned the game AND read the manual explaining the two essential tricks, or you tried to research how to play this thing in the first place…but between the times of early internet, and nowadays where it is expected that controls are intuitive on the first playthrough or at least there’s a non-intrusive tutorial to explain things, a lot of videos showcasing the game on surface level feel off because of that.

So…sounds like I’m describing a rather bad game, but not quite. What I just explained are the most obvious gripes that people can have with this game, reflected in reviews from its time and specially in how many people that try this game keep failing to beat the AI because of a trick they aren’t even aware of because the game doesn’t explain it…but people can always talk about whatever they want regardless of how dumb or bad it is from their own perspective, experience, and also even recognize any good stuff a certain piece of media does (even if it doesn’t outweigh the cons), and this being my own place to write my piece of thoughts, I’ll bring you forward everything I can think of for this little game, from the subjective comments on pieces of cool ideas that are buried in the manual, the little details in the game and my own opinions on what’s in the game, and the objective uniqueness of the game that is what had me hooked to aim for the goal with this game in first place, which was buried behind the lack of explanation and odd curve afterwards…but really vibes with me in a way arcade games do: Short and rather difficult from unfair enemy scaling/mechanics or finicky controls, but standing out with concepts, giving the little you play of a lot of unique detail and care, and a sense of accomplishment from taming the beast that can be games like these that task you with a brief but grueling mission (or missions).

And well, after all, I’m free to write about as long as I want to about an hour long game if I want to, but I’d like you to join me through what is a rather interesting game buried in the sands of time 🙂

(I’m going to give a quick shout-out to Scud Race/SEGA Super GT for absolutely fitting that trope with how gorgeous and satisfying it is, yet incredibly punishing and even rage-inducing with just a handful of tracks. For now it will be just a shout-out because it would be fun to actually give an in-depth review/talk about this game just like with this one someday)


I know that I just wrote a lot of words about why I even want to talk about AeroGauge (the first paragraph even addressing that)…but well, to have everything here clear, AeroGauge is an anti-gravity racer game developed for the Nintendo 64 and released in 1997, and while the first thing that might come to your head is “oh, F-Zero!”, the gameplay is totally different, even if it might look similar to it. While in most anti-gravity racers it is more like having futuristic cars without wheels and having to handle through twisting and turning roads, AeroGauge is about flying machines that…actually fly in their races, getting more speed while in the air. I had thought about what would it be like if Star Fox was a racing game…and I guess that games like Diddy Kong Racing and Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed would fit more in that idea (talking about their airplane modes)…but as I’m not aware of a futuristic high-speed racing game with ships that contrlols like that (if you do know one though let me know), AeroGauge is interestingly the closest I would think to that, not in the way they control, but in the high-racing stakes and how you have to control precisely your ship to not eat the walls head-on. Never apply that directly to the forehead.

In Grand Prix, you race through 4 tracks consecutively (5 if you are playing in Intermediate or Expert) against 7 other racers, and you have to end with a certain minimum position in each race to proceed into the next race. At the first one, you have to get a 6th place or higher, but getting higher places will give you more points, and thus, more room for error if anything goes wrong in the later tracks…but if you keep reaching the goal with the bare minimum (by getting the lowest position needed, ending in the last places while there’s no qualifying position needed, or retiring a race to skip into the next one on purpose or by losing all your health), it will instead ask you for better placements or you’ll get disqualified. You have an accelerator button, a brake button, and a drift button…which is going to be the first most important thing to know about if you want to play this game properly, as the drifting mechanic here is never explained in-game but ends up being essential to win any races (I’ll be explaining this in the next section).You can also lose health if you crash the machine, and too many times will retire you from the race; this requires that you drive properly to survive and even take the pits if needed (which slowly reduces any damage received when driving through them)

So far the premise is pretty simple, but being able to fly up and down instead of just left and right means that the tracks will be more complicated to handle than your usual anti-gravity racing game, but the first track, Canyon Rush, lets you warm up with a fairly simple layout yet having some pipes and a few obstacles to dodge by increasing or decreasing altitude, while the second track, Bikini Island (there are no sponges here by the way), lets you off the training wheels with more obstacles and a few paths to take, as well as some thinner areas to drive on. However, the next two tracks will make for a sudden difficulty jump with how complex they are, Chinatown being a pretty claustrophobic track to drive on the first half with 90° turns and walls (and the second half still being less open than most of the first two tracks), and Neo Arena not being as ridiculous with sharp turns, but still requiring you to have quick reflexes to maneuver aronud the track. But if you can get to survive the last two races after getting good positions on the first two races, then you might make it for the credits, and all what would be left then is to practice how to dominate those.

…at least in Novice difficulty. As I mentioned before, there will be a FIFTH track at the Grand Prix if you’re playing in Intermediate and Expert (these difficulties are called “Limited”, “Limiter Cut” and “High Tension” in the Japanese version, which is cool)…and it is a pretty ridiculous jump as well, Chinatown Jam being a modified version of Chinatown that has an even more claustrophobic first half with more sharp turns that is going to seriously mess you up on the first visit, specially with the fact that you need to be playing at a higher speed level to even try this track in first place. There’s also a track called Neo Speed Way, but it is as simple as the first and last wide sections of Neo Arena forming an oval, and it is only playable outside of Grand Prix after being unlocked. In any case, the Intermediate difficulty being the only one that seems to have staff ghosts and last track seems to make it the actual supposed default speed intended to play the game with, with the Novice being the 50cc training wheels (though always the default difficulty when booting the game), while Expert/High Tension is the 150cc hyperspeed challenge.

On the topic of unlockables, that’s probably the weirdest thing this game has, and easily the most frustrating if you want to go for a legitimate 100%: You can unlock vehicles by completing Grand Prix in Intermediate (I think) or Expert in first place overall with a specific vehicle, with each starting vehicle (except Interceptor, the default one) unlocking a different vehicle if used to complete the GP. However, Neo Speed Way and Chinatown Jam can only be unlocked to be played freely in Single Race/Time Attack by completing not just every race in the Grand Prix in first place, but also every QUALIFIER in first place as well, in Intermediate and Expert respectively. This means that you have to always hit a good enough time in the qualifiers at the start of every round and ensure you get a first position on the race itself, and then also beat that with a first position. With the qualifiers being entirely decided on your time and the other racer times by random, it is quite easy to miss a qualifier out of the blue in one of the later tracks, which instantly kills your chance at that unlock even if you were to beat the races themselves in first place (which are easier to track because…you can see if you’re ahead at all).

And that would be all the unlocks, which as you might noticed, is actually…very little to unlock and overall in content, with 4 base tracks, a fifth one that’s a modified version of an existing track (that can only be accessed at Grand Prix at a high difficulty if not unlocked), and an extra one that’s ALSO modified from an existing track but making for a very simple one, and the two unlockable ones are unreasonably strict to unlock in order to play them freely at Single Race or Time Attack. At least the machines themselves are way more lenient to unlock (aside from the Prowler; I’ll explain this later)…except for one. You can unlock a Nintendo 64 controller (called “N64 Control Pad” ingame) which is super cool and also is possibly the best machine ever…except that you virtually can’t. There’s a supposed unlocking method by getting a lap that ends in .064 seconds in any race, which is already an insanely specific thing to ask for an unlock, but even that doesn’t seem to be a reliable method from what I’ve read on this speedrun.com page (which is the source of a lot of things I will talk about regarding strats for this game), so the only way is to either play it A LOT and wish for sudden luck that the machine just shows up at one point, use a secret code to unlock everything in the game (which also seems to be rather complicated to use for no reason as well), or use something like an emulator cheat code or savefile to save yourself any hassle.

Oh, and there’s also a first-person camera that, while is definitely impractical to drive with in-game due to how it also rotates with your machine (which would make for a pretty disorienting hassle to play, specially considering the higher speeds of later difficulties), but if you play on Time Attack and finish a run, you can watch your replay and set the camera to this mode…which shows exactly what I was talking about. Still a cool feature though, even if it definitely won’t have any real use.


Before going on this section, I’m definitely not an AeroGauge speedrunner or absolute expert in any way unlike other people I’ve seen out there, but I will still try to provide my thoughts and own observations about trying to

Now I will be talking about a couple of basic and advanced techniques (the advanced ones being provided thanks to the speedrun page I mentioned before) for this game, the basic ones being pretty much required to get anywhere in this game in first place. The first one is the Rocket Start, which like in many other games, should help a lot at the start of a race but not account for being able to catch up at a later point in the race…but here the AI is always using the Rocket Start, so you might definitely need to use this one at all times. Luckily, it ends up being as simple as holding B and A when the race is starting, then letting go of B right before/as the race begins. You will notice if you are doing it right because the machine will tilt downwards in place when holding those before the race begins, and obviously if the machine goes off with a big boost.

But an even more important trick is that, if you turn while holding the Drift button, it will make a sudden, sharper turn but with a lot of speed loss…however, if you let go of the accel and then tap accel again (or let go of both Accel and Drift then tap accel), your machine will boost! This is vaguely similar to the miniboosts in Mario Kart, except it is way more about timing the drift and the button presses to activate it properly, and knowing where to use it. According to the manual, this is called “Drift Dash”…but I’ll just be referring to this as whatever I feel like it. The machines also have a variety of stats, from accel and max speed, turning, and a hidden stat that determines how much your machine overheats when you use a boost. Yes, every time you use a boost, it will add a certain amount of heat, and most machines have an average of half the heat bar per boost, a couple of them have very little overheat per boost but giving you short boosts, while others take almost the entire heat bar in just one boost, but have longer boosts which means faster speeds at straights.

As the AI works in a simple way of going at a mostly set speed through the courses, you will only be able to get ahead out of the pack by using the drift boosts in the turns where you see it the best for, like if it leads into a long straight, if the turn would need a sharp drift to go through without crashing, or drifting a lot if you’re using a low-heat machine. However, there’s another trick that even seems to be used by Staff Ghosts: If you use a drift on a sloped surface, like in pipes or half-pipes, you will gain more speed than an usual drift on the ground. And what’s more, there’s a mechanic to cancel your drift boost by pressing the B button, which inmediately stops the machine from heating up any further and also cancels the boost speed…unless you used the boost from a slope, in which case cancelling the boost while on a slope WON’T cancel the speed but will cancel the overheat. This means that in certain sections (though definitely taken advantage the most of in any pipe sections, Canyon Rush and Neo Arena) you can use this trick for a riskless boost to gain speed and keep a raw boost for any other moment thanks to cancelling the overheat.

With that said, there are a couple of different things to take in mind like the way machines handle and their overheat/boost power, as well as the tracks (and even a strat at the first upwards incline in Canyon Rush where you can get free speed by drifting upwards in the invisible ceiling), but I’ll try to keep it consistent by splitting this in two categories to talk about: The Aeromachines and the Tracks, since approaches to each machine and strategies for each track vary differently from their characteristics.


There is a set of default aeromachines, with almost every one of them having an unlockable counterpart, and a extra machine that is only unlockable on a VERY unorthodox and unreliable way (the N64 Control Pad), but getting out of the way that unlocking machines otherwise is feasible and you can use a save/cheat to unlock the pad for convenience, its time to talk about each Aeromachine in the game. Note that this is, once again, all from my own experience and playing, so it can definitely vary from your own experience and other people insights, but I will try to make it coherent with the stats I perceive from each of these.

Interceptor: The first machine, default all-rounder, and funnily enough the one that DOESN’T unlock a new machine if you beat the Grand Prix in 1st on Intermediate/Expert. Being the balanced machine, can be good to start playing for the first time with average stats on everything and around three consecutive boosts for a full overheat, so as long as you use up one or two and then wait for a while (or take advantage of the boost cancels), it is manageable to use boosts with this machine.

Black Lightning (JPN: Husaha): This one might look cool…but man, driving it certainly doesn’t feel like it. It is a “low boost” machine so you get low overheat but the boosts are really short, and this is not helped by not only the maximum speed being worse than the Interceptor, but also that the handling is also worse. It might be possible to get some good out of this machine with “snaking” or taking advantage of the low overheat boosts on several sharp turns, but otherwise it feels like a hard machine to use without too much reason (unless you like challenges), and even for low boost/overheat machines, there’s a couple of other ones that are easier to use.

Hornet [JPN: Zero (Grooverider)]: Stings like a hornet, can die as easy as one, because what this machine has in raw speed and boost power, it really makes you play a risky game as it feels like just crashing like…5 to 10 times on a wall will destroy your machine and instantly retire you (which by the way makes you skip to the next race in last place…if you had enough points to proceed like that), and the boosts are pretty long and good BUT the machine overheats in just two raw boosts, so you either have to sparely use those and take advantage of any boost cancel tricks when you can, along with trying to survive with the machine’s poor durability.

Avenger (JPN: Guezzpecs): In my opinion the better of the “low boost” machines for a very important reason: Unlike the Black Lightning, this one machine has way better handling than most machines, which makes for taking certain tight turns without having to hassle with the drift a possibility, while having the same benefits of said machine type with drifting over certain sections repeatedly and snaking. Really fun to drive with even if it has to be that way.

Shredder (JPN: Meteor): A good middle spot between the Interceptor’s balance and Hornet’s higher speed/boost and heat, which made it the machine I used beat the Intermediate GP in first place for the first time ever.

And those are all the default aeromachines, now going into the unlockable ones, which in almost every case are pretty much souped up versions of the original machines.

Reaper (JPN: Dukem): You could call this the “Super Interceptor”, “Interceptor MK2” or “Interceptor GT” (I wonder if someone will get those lol), as it not only resembles visually a lot the Interceptor in shape (but with a different color and decal design), but also is pretty much a better version of the machine in stats, along with a more powerful booster giving it a bigger chance of getting ahead in straights when using it…and yes, it overheats around 2 full boosts instead of 3 due to the longer boosts, but by the point you have unlocked this machine, you’ve likely got a good hang of optimizing your boost usage, so this machine is definitely worth using over the Interceptor. And funnily enough, it is unlocked with the Shredder instead of the Interceptor.

Vengeance (JPN: GLoad) & Dominator (JPN: Goliath): At the time of writing this…I actually haven’t played with these; the designs look interesting and I know that one of these two had great turning yet keeping a good booster, but I haven’t played this in a while again so…I will fill this in after updating this, as there’s some stuff I’d like to add in presentation for this, but considering how big this already is and other stuff I have to keep up with, I’ll have to leave it for later… (UPDATE: The Dominator seems similar to the Shredder as it shows the same stat hexagon but still plays good; gonna have to try it again but with an analog stick to make sure of the differences)

Prowler (JPN: Calvados): I have to admit that this is the only one that I haven’t unlocked yet (at least on the time of this writing) so I haven’t played with either, but from what I’ve heard and seen, it is pretty much a more extreme version of the already extreme Hornet, seemingly being as fragile and fast, and even the booster overheating ON A SINGLE USE, meaning that you are forced to use and time properly the boost cancelling technique if you don’t want to be left locked out of your most useful tool in the game. I’m sure that this machine will be suffering to use when I do get it (considering how much the Hornet already is of a pain), but on the other hand, it might potentially be one of the fastest machines by design, just like how in F-Zero, the Death Anchor is supposed to have great speed at the cost of slippery handling and atrocious durability, making both of these the epitome of risk-and-reward at best…but asking for certain death at worst.

N64 Control Pad (JPN: X-Machine): The myth and the legend itself, one of my favorite machines not only for the most obvious reason of being a ffffffffflying Nintendo 64 controller (though I always imagined as a kid that the prongs would go forward with the middle prong being the cockpit and the side ones being cannons…but that’s besides the point lol), it has good enough steering, stats and a booster on par with the unlockable machines, so it actually ends up being a very good machine to use as it feels like it can go really fast through the boosts but being not as fragile as the Hornet/Prowler. Well, if you ignore the fact that unlocking this legitimately is virtually impossible unless you spend an insane amount of time playing and wait for the machine to suddenly break through your door because it felt like it (always keep your liver safe from plumbers, y’know).


Canyon Rush (JPN: TagRag): The easiest track of the bunch, has two pipe sections and open areas for you to get used to the controls, drifting, and a couple of areas where you have to move up and down to avoid obstacles. Here is where you can get used the most to drifting on sloped surfaces (as there are a couple here and there labeled with arrows specifically for that purpose, like the turns at the beginning and at the end), pipes, and in general. Being the first track in the game, it is easy to drive through with experience, but at the beginning, if you can’t get a hold of the controls to get at least a 6th place in the Grand Prix, you will be locked out here, so make sure to practice! The design is…well, a canyon, with some built road intended for races as well as an actual canyon-like section with water at the bottom, and the pit is at the left when reaching the circuit finish.

Bikini Island: The second track, which will put your driving skills to test with more turns to maneuver through with the usage of drifting. One of the first sections also has a vertical split (though there’s not really any benefit from going upwards in this case) and a pillar in the middle of a turn, making you choose between taking the safer right turn, or trying to fit between the wall and the pillar for an advantage. Other than that, it is also simple with the pipe sections giving you a chance of gaining speed (but needing to be careful when leaving them at high speeds to not crash with something), and there’s some mileage that can be obtained from sloped roads placed in most turns with drifts. The pit in this track is also, interestingly enough, hidden behind a waterfall right at the end of the second pipe, but you have to steer into it as otherwise the machine might just automatically turn to the left into the normally intended path.

Chinatown (JPN: Chinois Polis 15124): This track is a serious jump in a lot of things: A track with a lot more of personality in visual detail and the location, the music being pretty noticeable and fitting with the scenery…and has the biggest difficulty curve you will face with this game due to the amount of inmediate turns you will have to do with closed walls at high speeds (both horizontal and vertical), as well as there being a split which can lead to different routes for the same place (I’d always recommend that you take the right path instead of the left one because it does have less turns). Proper drifting as well as precise analog steering will be necessary for the first bits of the track, but then it is a matter of taking good lines and using the drifts properly since while it still has less space than the first two tracks overall (as well as there being no pipes or sloped surfaces to gain free speed), the turns aren’t as closed as at the beginning. Near the end of the track, there’s a vertical split; the pit is at the lower path.

Neo Arena (JPN: Earthcream Circuit): A two-lap track that will mark another noticeable challenge with way more turns to deal with (even if they aren’t as sharp), vertical movement needed, and room for error being way smaller with how faster the AI races on this track. There’s a couple of small alternate routes and the pit is actually in the last stretch of the track instead of being an alternate path, but for the most part you will have to be at the top of your game to make it here, specially if you got a poor placement in the previous track. However, if you make it through here, then you’ve finally made it through the entire Grand Prix…in Novice. Oh, and the Japanese name is supposed to be a joke on “Ice Cream” (since “Earth” in Japanese would be pronounced something like “asu”, while Ice would sound like “aisu”…so “Earthcream” and “Ice Cream” would actually sound somewhat similar in Japanese. Yeah, no idea why they had to make a pun, but its there.)

Chinatown Jam (JPN: Chinois Polis 43310): Yep, the true final track if you are playing in Intermediate or Expert, with an identical second half of Chinatown, but being a two-lap track and the first half being mostly modified to have a lot of 90-degree turns. If you found Chinatown claustrophobic to drive on at the beginning (which I definitely did), then this track will be a nightmare to deal with, only getting to edge out your competition at the end with more precise steering, taking certain driving lines, and taking advatange of your drift, as well as making the best out of the exponentially easier second half (compared to the first half). If anything, I’d recommend you to look up videos of other players going through this track to have an idea not only about how grueling the first set of turns are here, but also to have a hint on how to handle them, as there certainly is room for many close shaves.

Neo Speed Way (JPN: Earthcream Jam): A track unseen in Grand Prix and technically the actual easiest track in the game…because its the big beginning stretch of Neo Arena converted into an oval, making for a very wide track with the same ending pit elevation. It does remind me of how Sonic Oval in F-Zero AX was used for the first Story mode mission in GX, but otherwise you have to unlock it by completing the AX Cup as the track is absent when playing said cup in Grand Prix. It might also be the weirdest unlock you can get in this game (aside from the N64 Control Pad), as while unlocking Chinatown Jam shows a level of mastery (and luck) in completing every qualifier and race in first place as well as knowing the track as the last challenge of the Grand Prix, this one is NOT seen at all in Grand Prix, requires a similarly tough first place in all qualifiers and race but in Intermediate, and the track has way less substance despite the effort still needed to unlock it.


The game actually ended up releasing before F-Zero X and being pointed out by IGN as a game “you could use to wait for that meanwhile” or something along those lines…but that’s also one very important thing I want to address for starters. With F-Zero being one of the most iconic anti-gravity racing game franchises ever (if not the most) along with Wipeout, anything else that tried to tackle a similar idea would of course compared to that. While it makes sense to make parallels to other very well known games to explain how another one can be in gameplay and also try to see if it would fit for your tastes or wanting a game like it…it can also take away from the unique stuff a game can offer if it is just simplified as “Its like X” or “Its like playing a new Y game”, something that can definitely be VERY wrong if such statments are from a surface-level look, like saying stuff like Higurashi and Doki Doki Literature Club only would appeal to people that enjoy certain kind of VN games would like, when in those cases they are actually designed to subvert entirely that stereotype and catch you off-guard…but it can still happen with games that aren’t even trying to be a clone of something else yet get chastised for not being a “perfect clone” of something.

Dunkey’s videos are always fun for me (greatest of Yoshis), and you might take that a lot of his stuff is supposed to be jokes (which fairly enough, some are, and the rest are peppered with jokes or obvious sarcasm), and yeah that doesn’t have anything to do with this topic at all…except for this video. It doesn’t even have the Dunkey talking, but showing a lot of clips from reviews that does tell you exactly the kind of thing I was talking about.

So that whole rant and donkey deal is one of the reasons on why this game missed the mark for many at first glance, expecting something that this game definitely isn’t, and while this comparison is like, quite a stretch, you MIGHT think that someone completely unexperienced with games trying out a 3D Zelda game, being handed over Dark Souls, and feeling completely alienated about expecting a “similar experience and controls” only to have everything be completely different…but that does come from certain kind of expectations (and in this hypothetical/imaginary case, some REALLY bad comparison since as far as I know, no sane person would actually compare Zelda and Dark Souls that way only because they share very vague concepts like swordfighting and fighting monsters), and AeroGauge being such a weirdly designed game in controls and back from a time where there was way less information on the public eye with the Internet being just on its early days, got stacked as a “F-Zero style” game that missed the mark in being fun because of how it lacked something for feedback to feel good and the game having all odds stacked against you for no reason.

And here is where that nonsensical “Zelda/Dark Souls” comparison might even have a bit of relevance, because once again, while anti-gravity racers might feel like should have the same style of controls, the thing is that F-Zero does have valuable precision on the stick steering due to the speed, using the shoulder brakes/attacks and using the boost button at the expense of your health; F-Zero X on the N64 having cut down graphics to keep a 60fps speed shows this kind of vision that the team had for the very purpose of precision driving at high speed with the analog stick, and even Wipeout is different in how the shoulder brake usage is way more prominent between the different feeling of the handling (literally floating over the road instead of being practically attached to it) and not having the side attacks, while the courses don’t have loop-de-loops and there’s actually weapons. However, AeroGauge’s gameplay style is not as apparent with the obscure but almost mandatory rocket start, the tracks actually not being as much as racetracks but more like locations where you HAVE to steer up and down as well, the variation between driving on the ground and in the air, some tracks having rather claustrophobic sections or even outright weird in either how you access them or how you leave them (like that Neo Arena high pipe that spits you DOWNWARDS near the end of the track), and the boosts not being achieved by a simple button press but with a visible cost (Wipeout ALSO has this with the afterburner for that matter) or with an item, but by a drifting mechanic loosely similar to what Mario Kart does but is definitely not as intuitive nor explained yet very necessary for success. And while I have mentioned a lot of gameplay videos missing the drifting idea as well as IGN’s dismissal of the game as a cheap clone, I’d say that this video from IGN, apparently recorded back in 1998 for their website back then (and is very likely to be from that time considering the first logo shown, the quality, and playing with the Japanese version), shows about how the lack of communication of the pivotal drifting mechanic led into the game lacking…something important when players and journalists alike played it.

So while Dark Souls might feel “clunky” to uninitiated and say, if you came in expecting something like a Zelda game (not to say that they are bad, absolutely not, but I mean in the style of difficulty curve and intuitive way to approach through the controls), there’s a level of intentional design that is not about clunkiness but about adapting to a difficulty and specific strategies (or even making your own) with whatever you have, and having an interesting approach to difficulty that was so bold that lead to this infamous deal of “THIS DIFFICULT GAME IS THE DARK SOULS OF THIS GENRE” for a couple of reviews (oh, Cuphead and Crash Bandicoot…). AeroGauge’s drifting style is pretty weird and might even be objectively clunky to use at times, and the harder tracks can be weird…but there’s actually a lot of interesting intention with the track designs actually complimenting a good use of the unique controls and having some fun depth to get at in this game. It is difficult to get into, not as well implemented as the subtle way of trying to figure out fights like in Dark Souls (as the whole drifting stuff should have needed a tutorial, though again, this is a 90s game we are talking about, in-game tutorials weren’t as widespread as they are now), but it happens to be so unique in its own way and so satisfying to overcome when you do that, at least in my opinion, give you a new perspective about the developers having passion for the concept and gameplay they had made up here from scratch. So once again, this is basically a “one-of-its-kind” game in that the controls don’t resemble anything else, which is why I would say that it is worth an attempt to mastering since its not an inherently bad game, just one that literally never explains you what you have to start practicing, but once you do, suddenly playing it makes way more sense than at the beginning.


For this section, I have to admit that what would have been the biggest inspiration to even do this in first place are ThorHighHeels videos; there’s something magical about the sincerity of his appreciation of small details and very specific topics complemented by some good comedic timing and odd but unique presentation style, and that strange energy of the channel is why it has been deservingly getting more and more attention on the platform. In any case, I really respect about how he can take that space and use it for really talk about just whatever he wants in whatever way he feels like it regardless of how insignificant or out of place it might seem, and makes me feel more confident about doing something like talking about an obscure racing game you’ve probably never heard about and specific details about the machines, tracks and stuff in the instruction manual that might seem like I’m obsessed with the game for no real reason or substance.

And let me tell you, I can mostly see where that one thought would come from, but if you’ve seen me before, you know that I can basically turn my head as a hammer to put a nail on whatever I get really interested on at any point (which is what got me into the incredible pushes I made for the History of SADX Modding and the still unconcluded History of SM64 Modding articles), and it does also come from, once again, noticing details put either in the game itself that I find really interesting, or that are in the instruction manual that feel like the people behind this game really had a lot on their heads about the conception of this game which I find really cool, and I want to put a highlight into that as a contrast to how this game is not only very unknown, but also on how little there is actually about this game’s developers and promotional media at all, considering Locomotive Ltd seemed to only work for less than 10 licensed games, and some being infamously bad, and I think that this is literally their only original game they ever worked on during their very short lifespan.

Each machine has a sponsor which is seen in their decals, as well as the Japanese version naming these along with the machine names and even some serial for them (and for the N64 Control Pad they actually used the controller’s NUS-005 serial, which is a nice nod), tracks have a variety of sponsor banners here and there (and some are even different in the Japanese version), and I do like the way that Bikini Island goes underwater through the pipe and you drive on an aquarium-like zone and out (the track might look barren in the backgrounds but I still like how it looks overall) as well as Neo Arena having an uniform design. Canyon Rush is simple but does do enough with the variety of textures, and Chinatown looks very interesting with the amount of decoration and details placed, though the track layout itself is still pretty confusing. These tracks and machines, as well as manual information, just tells me about how much they poured even though it might not look much on the surface, and truth to be told, I admit I did expect to speak more about in-game details in this section, but not having played it for a while has made that thought much more of a blur than something concrete. However, as I mentioned as the beginning and in a couple of videos, it still gives me a vibe of that they did try to have something unique to show despite the short experience just like how SEGA arcades did, and I still appreciate that feeling regardless of how well these ideas were executed or hold up; I still like a lot the HUD and the way the announcer counts down on the race!

The machine designs are definitely unique enough to be recognizable, and most of them having a different way of handling makes them stand out in gameplay as well. Something that I also dig is that the boxart shows some high-resolution renders of the Interceptor, which is nice to have when there’s so little to find, and the track shown seems to be either a scrapped concept for a track or just made specifically for the rendered box, something that isn’t too uncommon to see from games after all. And on the note of promotional material, I digged up a few promo posters for the game and even a Japanese commercial which actually showed the drift boost being used, as well as a very brief shot of a CGI Hornet and Interceptor models racing!

https://www.mobygames.com/game/n64/aerogauge/promo/promoImageId,715716/ promo art
https://www.mobygames.com/game/n64/aerogauge/promo/promoImageId,779198/ german promo

High Quality Japanese Comercial
High Quality Japanese Commercial (Proper Aspect Ratio, Timestamped)

Something that I found very interesting is that, while I thought that I was going to have to write “I mentioned the instruction manual but I actually got this from the Japanese version as it is only there for some reason”…but turns out that the manual for the English release ALSO had the extra information and material written on it, which is a pretty neat detail considering how it seems crazy that this game was even localized in first place from how it pretty much came out of an unknown developer and publisher. In any case, it is cool to have translated official information of the little backstory given to the game, though there’s some interesting details here and there regarding that. The “story” given at the beginning is that you compete in the Master Formula a.k.a. “F-MAr” series taking place in 2065 (funny how this now makes two anti-gravity racers that spoof the Formula One name/concept) in the “Sky Step (SS) Class”, which is actually referenced in name in the Japanese title screen with the “Racing Revolution of Skysteppers” blurb and in the corner of most menus, and that “AeroGauge” actually refers to “the spatial orbit traveled by Aeromachines”…which honestly doesn’t tell me a lot either, but it is interesting that they tried to give a meaning to the game’s name like that in first place other than sounding cool. Every machine (except the N64 Control Pad) also has text written describing their pilot bcakstories and brief hints of the aeromachine capabilities, including a photo of the stat hexagon seen in-game (except for the unlockable machines, and even those still have pilot designs and text shown, but not the machines themselves). While it is definitely not a lot, it is cool that each machine has a pilot with a name (except Black Lightning’s), design and brief backstory, like Hornet’s pilot Shinano Abu entering the competition despite her father not wanting her to, and asking the development team to (and I quote) “not murder his daughter”…and well, knowing how the Hornet is like, it doesn’t sound like an empty concern.

Interestingly, in the manual, there are a few descriptions of these machines that while show their localized name at the title, use their Japanese names instead, like the Hornet, Black Lightning and Shredder being referred in their descriptions as “Zero”, “Husaha” and “Meteor” (there’s a bit more info about this in TCRF). The tracks also have brief descriptions and a minimap render, the first two having very few lines of description, while the other two having surprisingly longer descriptions about their locations and development, like Chinatown being in Shanghai and based off the Monaco course (in-universe), while Neo Arena is in Fukuoka City and apparently the pipe sections in thus track being a remodelation after previous races here having grueling result (the unlockable tracks are omitted). But well, that’s all the lore there is to Aerogauge in the manual (…and at all), as the rest covers menus and even the essential turbo start and drifting tricks, though oddly enough it seems that these are referred twice in some parts of the manual. The race tracks also had different names in the Japanese version, but these original names didn’t slip by on the translated manual unlike the machine names, though both the tracks and machines had some odd original names; Chinatown used to be called “Chinois Polis 13353”!

All in all, this is probably going to be the biggest amount of information you will be able to find from AeroGauge considering how much it went under the radar in its entirety, with the scarse amount of advertisement this game had and even only finding a single Japanese commercial, since I remember being quite interested in investigating anything I could about this game back when I started writing this, though more recently I have tempered my expectations about this between the results being way less than I thought, but it is interesting how the game had a second Japanese revision in first place, as the first one apparently had a bug from both players finishing the race at the same time (this from TCRF), and a Kiosk Demo version of the game floating that doesn’t even seem to have any visible difference from a normal Japanese copy.


Now that was a lot of text for a pretty obscure game, but if anything, it feels good to put out there not only a bunch of thoughts I had about this game for years, but also to express on how cool it was for me to play despite its flaws, the weird way in that it got buried due to “everything being in the manual”, and even some few thoughts about when I was playing it last month. I might update this gigantic write with stuff like banners, screenshots, and even writing some stuff for the machines that I haven’t played with yet/completed the Grand Prix with, but for now, I want to thank anyone that even bothered to read anything of this in first place (let alone EVERYTHING here), as well as anyone that has played and kept playing this game as to see videos of people pushing this game despite everything are a very fun and inspiring sight (specially the people at the Speedrun.com page, with the dedication they have shown and even the details they documented to play this game in first place), and to everyone that worked on developing this game, wherever they are, for trying something as boldly unique as this and giving their best to develop this weird gem of a game (which technically gets to work pretty sound with the concept), considering how little fanfare these devs and the game themselves had back in the day, trying such a crazy idea but being doomed to be drowned out by many strong hitters on the N64 library, being in an obscure company that would go under not too long after…and the main trick of the game being buried in the manual (there’s also not much content…but just try to think about how many people ended up stuck in the first race in Grand Prix and not being able to get far in any other race through Single Match due to this). Oh, and also props to this guy for making some of the Aerogauge machines for BallisticNG!


Link of the source for the high-resolution boxart used in the cover