Review: Hey look! It's not an extreme racer; it's a, Xtreme racer!
I remember back in the good "old days" when the streets were safe places to hang out and play around for a while. You know what I mean: Playing street hockey in the neighborhood, riding my favorite Huffy bike down the road on a hazy Sunday afternoon, and acting unconscious in the middle of the road and hoping, just hoping to any higher power above that I didn?t get run over (Don?t try that at home kids). Okay, okay, I'll admit, I didn't do that last part because frankly, I'm not a complete idiot. Anyways, what was I talking about? Ah yes, I was going to relate that little narrative to Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 somehow, but just failed completely.
Alright, enough gibberish, let's get down to the good stuff, the game. Genki's follow-up to the mildly successful Tokyo Xtreme Racer has finally been released in the States: But what's that? You don't care? You say you didn't like the first one? Well, you're not alone. I too (gasp!) thought the original was lacking in many areas, mainly personality. Don't get me wrong though, the first was decent, it just could have been improved. So I personally wasn't really looking forward to the sequel that much that is until I heard all the great press the Japanese version was receiving. I would look at the pictures, proceed to drool over the slick graphics, tell myself that graphics aren't that important, look at them again, drool some more, and then finally realized I needed this game.
In case you've never played any incarnation of the Shutoku Battle (Japanese name) series, you basically assume the role of a gang-member striving to become the "king" of the streets. In order to do this, you must challenge every rival gangster you come across by simply flashing your headlights at him/her until they finally accept the contest. Once accepted, merely flatten the gas pedal with your lead foot and just wish that you don't tap a wall, because if you do, that's usually a good indication that the race is over.
Before I go any further, let me just underscore the fact that, just like it's predecessor, the whole game takes place on one "track," the city of Tokyo itself. You heard it right, you will be confined to one course, but in all reality, it's extremely immense in size and since it has numerous branching sections and alternate paths, things never gets boring. Okay, now since that's out of the way, let's proceed, shall we?
The real aspect, however, that makes Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 so appealing are the wildly creative play mechanics. Never before have I played such a creative racing title that truly takes the aging genre to a completely new level of creativity. Like I said before, TXR2 doesn't confine itself within the barrel of typical "get to the finish line first" racers, but instead opting with a foreign, yet novel concept a fighting/adventure/racing game blend. After daring a rival, you both simply just... go onward and try to stay ahead of one another for as long as possible. You see (here's where the "fighting" game aspect comes into play), during the race two bars filled with "speed points" appear at the top of the screen. Whoever is currently losing the race gets speed point deductions (the farther away you are, the more points you lose) until the entire bar has completely vanished, just like any common fighter. This allows for an incredibly dynamic gaming experience due to the obvious fact that you have no idea how long each race will be.
Now, to the "adventure" aspect of the game. Most of your playtime will conveniently be centered around the game's all-encompassing quest mode, which has you basically cruising around the streets at night trying to find some rival's ass to kick. If you are successful in achieving victory, money will be awarded for your accomplishments so that car upgrades and other various add-ons can be bought to really beef up your machine. The sheer amount of purchasable components at hand is far above the average racer. Almost anything is upgradeable, from amplifying the engine, to modifying certain aero-dynamics, all the way down to making your own stickers/gang signs. And if you wish to actually win the races, upgrades other than an enormous engine are vital, such as suspension improvements and better breaks.
There are other things to do instead of the quest mode too. For those who don't have the patience to drive around the highways themselves and search for opponents, there's a clever little "quick race" mode that cycles through opponents over and over to see how long you can last, with each rival getting harder than the last. I like to think of that as the arcade mode. You can also select from time attack, free run (Because let's face it, leisurely driving around a virtual Tokyo is pretty damn fun, regardless if you're racing or not), or the now standard (on Dreamcast at least) homepage. This automatically takes you to Crave's page where you can upload and/or download custom stickers. I haven't tried this out yet, but it's still cool nonetheless.
Although the actually game itself is great, there's no denying that the amazing visuals certainly do make it much more of an enjoyable experience. Quite similar to the original's but much more refined, Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 is definitely one of the prettiest games for the system, racing or not. You really have to see it in motion to believe it. I mean sure the pictures look gorgeous, but the utter smoothness overall is simply breathtaking. While it does slowdown occasionally, it's never for more than five seconds or so, meaning that gameplay remains the same.
Each car, although not licensed, looks identical to their real-life model, only greased up with the glossiest paint job your virgin eyes will ever see. Add to the fact that the whole game takes place at night, which means you're in for some gratuitous streetlight reflections and motion blurs. But that's ok, because you'll love every minute of it. Plus the textures are just so crisp and detailed, and the overall feel is so perfect that I can't help but get the feeling of being in an actual living, breathing city. It's just so slick!
But what's perhaps even slicker than the stellar visuals is the incredible interface and presentation. Combining a subtle mix of gray and black, the menus are quite stylistic. While they can be slow at times, especially during the car select screen, they overall great "feel" more than makes up for the sluggishness. I must say that the music too is great as well. Most of the songs are either techno or fast 80's cheese metal, either way it keeps the pace alive and well. And the cars sound just superb as well.
Wow. That one word pretty much sums up my feelings towards this precious example of videogame excellence. It excels in every single category: lush visuals, intense sound, involved gameplay and splendid controls, and tons of replay value. There's really nothing else to say friends. I can't believe I actually put it down long enough to write this. I swear that if they made TXR2 into a liquid form, people would be shooting it in their veins because it is that friggin' addictive!
Okay look... You know I'm just going to tell you to buy it, and you know you want to buy it too. So what are you waiting for? Go buy it! What's that? You don't have any money? Oh well, then steal a friend's copy; just get the game at any cost!