The Bugs Of MSR

I make no secret that Metropolis Street Racer is one of my favourite racing games. Sure, I've been pouring hours into Driveclub over the last few months, but no game helped me hone my virtual racing skills more than Bizarre Creations' amazing real-world masterpiece. The way in which deft taps of the handbrake coupled with feathered use of the accelerator allowed me to rack up immense amounts of Kudos was just unrivalled at the time, and while it was bettered - in just about every way - in the following Project Gotham series on the Xbox and Xbox 360, Metropolis Street Racer will always have a place in my heart alongside the likes of Sega Rally, The Need For Speed and Outrun.
This post is slightly different from my recent frothing love letters though. This time I'd like to focus on an aspect that is very rarely mentioned when MSR is discussed, and that is the way the original PAL issue of the game shipped with various (fairly serious) bugs and glitches, and even had to be recalled by Sega. The first batch of MSR GDs featured some fairly major errors that Bizarre Creations either missed or weren't able to iron out in the time Sega had given them before being told that the game simply had to hit the shop shelves in November 2000, and thanks to an interesting blog I recently discovered here is a complete run-down of the bugs lovingly included (for our displeasure) in the various iterations of MSR:

  • Completing Street Race challenges without the required number of Kudos would be considered successful nonetheless (first PAL version)
  • The game would sometimes corrupt VMUs (first PAL version)
  • After some time of playing, Tokyo races would always be at night (first PAL version)
  • When using a keyboard to enter names etc., the keys were mapped incorrectly. Pressing C would give B, pressing B would give A etc. (first PAL version)
  • The "Quick Race" screen in the multiplayer mode would be blank and thus impossible to play (first and second PAL version)
  • The Alfa Romeo GTV cannot be gained legitimately as the 'time to beat' was set too low at 31 seconds (first and second PAL version)
  • The Street Race in Chapter 17, Challenge 8 cannot be beaten legitimately as it was mistakenly set to infinite laps (first and second PAL version)
  • Special Events could be completed without the required car or clock time (first and second PAL version)
  • During wet conditions, it still rains inside tunnels and under bridges (all versions)
  • Ghost cars loaded from a VMU can become corrupt and crash into the sides without reason. This includes ghosts saved within Time Trials (all versions)
  • Two Time Attack records (Asakusa Eki-Iruguchi and Koen Minami) are pre-set to 0.000 (all versions)
  • Creating a Time Trial with 'misty' or 'foggy' weather will default to 'clear' weather once a ghost car is saved (all versions)
  • When selecting a personal music playlist as the default choice, MSR reverts to its own preset list when resuming a game (all versions)

I did also discover that turning off the tire smoke effects and the rear-view mirror improves the frame-rate immeasurably...but that's hardly a bug, and is the only thing I can add from personal experience. Um. Moving on...

As stated in the original article, the second and third releases of the game had most of these issues rectified but I still find it quite fascinating that Sega actually allowed gamers to send back their bugged copies and receive a new version for free. What happened to all the buggy games? Were they simply destroyed or were the cases re-purposed? Or did gamers simply send back the GDs in a jiffy bag? Either way, the logistics of such a program must have been a nightmare. Even so, I would imagine there are a fair few copies of the initial release still floating around in the wild. I personally don't recall experiencing any of the mentioned bugs - apart from the rain inside the tunnels one - so maybe I was lucky (or unlucky in this case) enough to never part with cash for issue one...but it would still be interesting to be able to compare the two (or three) different revisions of MSR first hand.

On that bombshell, I would imagine the only way to tell which version you have is by looking for the bugs yourself, as there appears to be only one serial number for the various PAL releases (MK-51022-50 according to the amazing Dreamcast Collector's Guide).

Source of the list: MSRDreamcast blog

While perusing the Bizarre Creations website on Wayback Machine, I stumbled across this entry in the 'notes' section of the MSR microsite:

Sega Europe have just released an official statement on MSR. This includes information for those who have found problems in the first retail version of the game, on how to go about getting a replacement disk. The statement is below:

Official Sega Europe Statement: 
The development of MSR has been an astonishing accomplishment and has since set new standards within the gaming industry - pure driving games will never be the same again. Thousands of calls have been received since launch, complementing on the sheer size and precision of the sound, visuals and game play, though undoubtedly, a game of this calibre will experience some difficulties. It has come to the attention of Sega that the first version of MSR, currently in retail, has shown some irregular, minor problems which may affect game play. Since discovering this issue, we have all have worked extremely hard to produce an updated version of the game for you, eliminating these problems.

Should you discover anything unusual then do not hesitate to call the Sega Customer Services number - 08456 090 090, where helpful Sega staff will be on hand to process your details and replace your troubled disk. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope you enjoy the game everyone is talking about - Metropolis Street Racer.

--------- end ---------

We, at Bizarre Creations, are also happy that those people who have experienced problems will have them solved by Sega's Customer Services, and are sure that they will be able to answer all your queries. We're sorry that we've not been able to put any more information up here on the website, or give out more by e-mail, but Sega have needed to focus customer support and the solution to the problems at their HQ.

Now there that the disk replacement operation is in place, Sega have assured us that they will be doing their utmost to help all of their customers as soon as possible - as a games publisher, they are already set up to provide swift and effective support for their products. And, of course, we hope you continue to enjoy the game.

This pretty much solves the mystery of how people were meant to get a replacement copy of the game!


ian said...

I'm not sure I ever sent my copy back. Pretty sure I had a first batch copy though.

Reprise said...

I've owned MSR 4 times since it came out... There seems to be far more copies of the first iteration out there then people think. I'm pretty sure 3/4 of the copies I've owned have been the first iteration.

The first time I bought it, it was second hand about a year after it came out and straight away I noticed so many bugs. I then happened to read about the game being bugged and copies being recalled, so I went back to the shop and exchanged it for another copy of the game. But when I got it home, I noticed that the other copy they'd given me had the exact same bugs. I decided to just keep it in the end, since I really loved the game.

Years later I ended up selling it I think and re-bought it from Gamestation. Again, this had loads of bugs and seemed to be the first iteration.

Finally, last year I bought a brand new, sealed copy of the game off Ebay and what do you know? It has very few of the identified bugs. I presume it must be the final release. It only took me, like, what? 13 years to finally get a decent copy haha.

The other option, BTW, for others in the PAL region, is to just buy the North American version, since that's the same as the final PAL release, with most of the bugs fixed.

RJAY63 said...

Hi there Tom, here's a brief rundown on how Sega dealt with the recall

At first Sega denied there was a problem with MSR. When people intially complained via their helpline, they were simply told to take the game back to the point of sale if they encountered any problems. However they eventually relented and on 13 November 2000, customers were told to send their buggy disks (not the case) to Sega Consumer Services along with their name and address. A Freepost address was provided for this service. Here is an email response a player got back from Sega at the time:

"In response to your query about MSR, we are aware of the problems with this game and are currently producing another bug-free copy to send to those customers affected by this problem. Please reply to this e-mail including note of your name, address and telephone number, and also note of the MK code on the back of the MSR disc, and we will contact you when the new disc is ready to be sent out. This is expected to be on or around the 12 December [2000]."

You can also read the public statement from Sega Europe on my blog:

Also have listed the 3 different ringcodes found on each version of the PAL discs:

MK-51022-0146SS: v1.001 (10.10.2000)
MK-51022-0146SA: v1.002 (20.10.2000)
MK-51022-0146SB: v1.009 (21.11.2000)

I have 3 copies of the first disc ending "SS" and can confirm that most of the major bugs have actually been fixed. I would therefore guess that only the first batch of these discs had all the bugs present.

BTW I note you have seen a test pressing of the Japanese version of MSR as displayed on your Facebook site. If you get the chance to play it, can you confirm if the replay function is available. I doubt that it is but it's worth asking! ;)

Tom Charnock said...

Wow - thanks for this RJAY63. Really cool to hear how it went down. Next time I visit my mate who owns the NTSC-J MSR, I'll check it out for you :)

Unknown said...

I read somewhere that the USA version had the replay function but having got hold of a copy, it does not. So did you find out if the JAP NTSC version does ?

Unknown said...

I read somewhere that the USA version had the replay function but having got hold of one, it does not. So, did you find out if the JAP NTSC version does ?

CHewD said...

My version of msr doesn't like to load the multi round races...For example the timed runs where there's two tracks to be timed on... Or the championships, it goes into the load screen, but just doesn't do anything at all. It means I'm not able to win the car at the end of the chapter. Annoying! Any suggestions?