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Tokyo Extreme Racer 3
Platform:  Playstation 2
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Genki
Publisher:  Crave
Features:  Analog Control, Vibration Function
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  PS2 Memory Card- 382kb
Anyone out there remember a little game called Tokyo Highway Battle on the PlayStation? That was the first “next generation” tuner car game that hit U.S. shores, and it wasn’t very well received, if I remember correctly. Featuring night racing on actual Japanese highways (with traffic), the game (and assorted sequels and offshoots) were huge in Japan, and developer Genki soldiered on, eventually coming out with Shutokou Battle for the Sega Dreamcast (released here as Tokyo Xtreme Racer). That game did well enough to warrant sequels on the DC and PS2, but Genki got a bit busy programming loads of other games, and let their baby rest for a bit. Now that the whole tuner car craze has permeated even the tiniest back wood rural road here in the states, can the folks who originally bought gamers the thrill come back with a winner? Well, that depends on what you expect from a street racing game. If you’re full of Hollywood hot air and want to recapture the feeling of the modern “classics” The Fast and the Furious and its sequel, you’ll probably hate Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3. But if you’ve been hooked on the series from the beginning and can live without the flashier visuals and blasting tunes found in “bigger” games like Need For Speed Underground and Midnight Club 2, well start your engines- your game is definitely here.

Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 is new and improved with over 15 licensed cars (a series first), better visuals, upgrades with actual custom parts from Hart, Riverside, and Yokohama, and 200 miles of roads to drive on with over 600 rival drivers to face. You can even edit your own emblem and come up with your own car color if you so choose. Yokohama, Nagoya, and Osaka are the new environments here, and while all the racing is still at night, the new courses mean you’ll find hours and hours more of the same cool one on one racing found in the earlier games. In case you’ve never played a Tokyo Xtreme game before, here’s a rundown on the gameplay. Unlike most other racers where you know who your opponent(s) are, here you drive around and look for cars with a Rival marker above them. To initiate a race, you flash your brights, and if your challenge is accepted, the game switches to the actual racing part. Similar to a fighting game, strength bars appear on either side of the screen, and it’s your job to outpace the other guy so that his bar runs out before yours. Succeed, and you get points (CP) for things like remaining spirit, distance traveled, and “combo” moves completed. There’s a deliberate simplicity to some aspects of the game, and that’s part of what makes it so much fun. That, and the low price point ($20) make it a great addition to the series as well as a fun racer overall.

There are four game modes here (Quest, Free Run, Time Attack, and a 2-player VS Battle), and a Replay Theater for you folks that love to savor the perfect ride. Amusingly enough, the game’s Quest mode starts like a console role playing game, and there are more than a few elements found throughout that’ll give you a good chuckle if you play a lot of RPGs. Some of the rival names are a hoot, and as you progress in the game, your own ranking changes accordingly to reflect your driving skills. There’s also a wealth of detail on each of your rivals, accessible on one of the many sub-menus. You can skip reading their stats and info if you wish, but it’s a total trip if you spend the time to read up on your competition. Initially you’re allowed access to only one stretch of highway, and you’ll have to defeat a load of rivals in order to move on to the next area. After a few hours, you’ll know every stretch of a particular road, but defeating rivals isn’t as easy. You’ll race on the same road with lower class racers and tough bosses, and if you’re not careful, you’ll get into a race with an undefeatable opponent (until you upgrade your ride with some great tuner parts). I shelled out for a cool GT-R, but even after a few upgrades I still got smoked by a tiny Daihatsu. Control is pretty good with the stock analog, and excellent with the GT Force wheel. Once you get some quality parts, the sense of speed is solid and realistic, which is a relief after the freakish blurring and visual overkill in certain other racers out there. Like most racers, there’s no damage model here and you definitely can’t glide off or around the course walls like in Gran Turismo 3, so try not to hit anything. You can push your opponent into a divider or one of the other cars on the road if you want to though. Free Run and Time Attack are pretty self-explanatory, although you can open up more cars and areas to race in if you play through Quest Mode a bit.

As far as the graphics go, on one hand it’s the best Tokyo Xtreme yet, but on the other hand there are a few caveats. While the car models look really sweet, the only other things on the road are a few rivals and dozens of yellow maintenance vans. As much as I love classic arcade racers like Pole Position and Night Driver, I don’t think Genki intended TXR3 to emulate the feel of these titles. Also, there’s some pop-up to be found as larger buildings “introduce” themselves suddenly like long lost friends at a high school reunion. There are some nice lighting effects and the occasional wet road to race on, but if you’re spoiled by the other games mentioned above, you probably won’t be too impressed. Sound effects are serviceable- not bad and not great, but they get the job done. The music is (of course) mostly very Japanese guitar rock madness with a bit of jazzy stuff. You’ll like it a little or hate it a lot, depending on your tastes. I usually turn the music down entirely when I race, so it’s never a deciding factor when I make a purchase.

If you just love car games and want another good one to add to your collection, well, Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 will spend some quality time in your PS2. But if you’re hopped up on hoopla and only buy games based on visuals and bangin’ tunes, you’ll want to at least rent this one to see what you’re missing. The low price point isn’t going to break the bank, and you’ll get to learn a lot about a couple of roads in Japan to boot. Who says video games aren’t educational?


Greg Wilcox

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