Welcome to this week’s episode of Back in The TAY, where I try to rekindle old relationships with games I have long forgotten. Sometimes it’s refreshing to take off the nostalgia goggles, just once in a while...
Hello all, and welcome to another segment in my never ending journey through my youth. This last week or so I decided to fire up the old Dreamcast and play one of my favorite titles. No, it’s not Sonic Adventure, or PowerStone, or even Soul Calibur. It’s this little peculiar racing title that melted my heart the moment it entered my little system.
Tokyo Xtreme Racer came out at the best possible time in the west, preceding the release of The Fast and The Furious. While the whole import racing scene was big in certain areas of the states, after seeing Paul Walker blow through the streets in his bright orange Supra, every kid wanted to get their own little Japanese racer.
While that was the case for some kids, I for own just relied on the digital asphalt to get my kicks.
The first title in the series offered a limited amount of cars, all being referred to by their model numbers. While it is confusing for some vehicles (especially Infiniti) it was a sweet little touch for those who loved cars enough to decipher the alpha numeric code.
This biggest draw to this game is the Quest Mode, which is it’s own take on a career mode. You are a young racer who just began driving through the streets of Tokyo, wanting to prove your worth, and working your ranks up the dark underground racing scene.
You start off with 25,000 super fun time racing bucks, or CP, and must pick your first vehicle. Do you take the old Sprinter Trueno and live out your Initial D fantasy? Possibly a safe and functional Civic? Maybe spend all of that money on a somewhat mediocre Silvia!
The Sprinter is always the correct answer.
Each vehicle has a slew of upgrades available; engine, chassis, suspension, and drivetrain to increase the overall performance of the vehicle. More interested in the aesthetics of your car? Look no further! This game is the racing equivalent of Armored Core, especially when referencing earlier adaptions. Front and rear bumpers, side skirts, mirrors, wheels, hoods, spoilers, mufflers... The world is your street racing oyster when it comes to options.
Now, the biggest kicker for me is not the customization, but the actual gameplay. You begin your runs not by starting a race, but by entering the dark highways of Tokyo. You stalk your prey through the winding chasms of asphalt, creeping ever closer to them. Once the moment is right, you pounce on them, giving a quick flick of your high beams.
Ok, so it isn’t nearly as dramatic as that. You drive around the pedestrian filled roads until you reach another racer, indicated by the red arrow overhead. To initiate the race, you press B to flash your brights at them, intriguing them to a battle. If they so agree, they will put their hazard lights on and start the battle.
The races are orchestrated to reflect a RPG almost. Each racer is given a name, has a health bar, and will use some form of AI to battle back. To me, this was fantastic when I first tried the game out. You weren’t competing over lap times, racing from A to B, or even trying to out score them. This game judges you solely on your ability to overtake and maintain your lead.
Now, when I said that your opponents will use some AI to beat you, I meant as in they fall into one of 3 categories. We have the “Bully”, which will pull such maneuvers as: Ramming you into the wall, brake checking you, or even nudge the pedestrians into your way. Second is the “Amateur”, which is the one you come across the most in the beginning, and just simply doesn’t have the speed to compete against you. Lastly, we have the “Asshole”, which is normally one of the bosses you come across. The last one doesnt use cheap techniques to overtake you, they just simply live on an altered plan of racing, where their vehicles steer like butter and use jet fuel to blast through the highway.
Each racer you come across is part of a street gang, and as such, share a lot of similarities. For instance, they normally use the same vehicle, with varying colors. After beating a certain number of them, the gang leader will come out and hunt you down for a final showdown. These racers ramp up to the “Asshole” level quickly, squeezing in between cars and narrowly missing walls with each turn they make. While not impossible, or aggravatingly difficult, it does give a quick spike in your heart rate.
Even with these multiple mini bosses you have to slay in your conquest of the Japanese tarmac, you still have an even tougher enemy to battle: The 4 Devas.
Yes, that’s is devas with an E.
These are the pinnacles of your racing career through Tokyo Xtreme Racer, and absolutely deserve the title they have gained. Flawless driving techniques, combined with top of the line vehicles, will absolutely devour your car with a side if wasabi and ginger (but only to cleanse their pallette). Each encounter requires all of your concentration, nimbly weaving through pickups and taxis. These encounters are the most aggravating races you will come across, but also the sweetest you will win.
Even with it’s absolutely blatant issues, I just cannot hate this game. Sure, the controls can be tweaked. Yes, the AI is absolutely broken. Of course, the racers are complete assholes. Even with all of these problems, the game does something that I wished more racing titles did; make racing fun. I’m sick of trying to out in someone to a spot on a map, and wished they would bring things back to simply racing for the need for speed. If you still own a Dreamcast, you should pick the title up. If you don’t care so much for a complete series, then jump ahead to Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2. It is far superior in every aspect.
Thanks for the read (if you made it this far), and tune in next time! Not sure which title I will pick this time, but I can guarantee I’ll have something to say about it!