The Tokyo Xtreme Racer series has always been one of those dubious sleeper hits that I, on the one hand, never figured out why people would like, but, on the other, always liked. I never played the first one, but when a friend of mine lent me the second one, I decided to try it, and I got hooked on it for some reason. So now, when I saw TXR0 is out here in Japan, I decided to pick up a copy of the Japanese version.
The first thing that I should mention is that nothing has really changed from the previous ones. It’s still based on the Shuutokou highway around Tokyo, and the basic premise of the game is still the same. What has somewhat changed are the graphics (things are quite a bit nicer than they used to be on the Dreamcast), and the opponent list has been somewhat souped up (though not excessively – if memory serves, the DC version had approximately 360 – 370 opponents, and there are 400 in TXR0). The car list has been souped up with more unlicensed cars, which is always what I respected about Genki, and never figured out how they pulled off.
But to more specifics. The graphics are quite impressive, with lots of superfluous background animations, like planes flying around, helicopters, miscellaneous scenery and so forth. Generally, though, you won’t be paying much attention to that, since you’ll be racing and a bit busy surveying the track. The car graphics have greatly been improved, too: the models are quite detailed, and the headlights have been improved a lot: on the Dreamcast, they just looked like circles which changed into bigger circles to simulate high beams. Here, they actually appear to really light up. Unfortunately, the high beams are essentially useless for anything other than flashing at opponents to make them race. They don’t light up the highway in front of you like they should, which is unfortunate, since there are some fairly dark spots.
The car list has been improved, too, however, some additions are a bit questionable. Okay, the Nissan Skyline is an amazing car, but does the game really need 16 versions of it? Or the Lancer Evolution (6), or the Impreza WRX (11). I guess to a Skyline freak, that might be heaven on earth, but as far as I’m concerned, Speed Freak’s R34 Skyline by “Burstspeed” (are they trying to imitate Neuspeed? Worked for me!) is one of the best cars of the game, and the others are just there as extra décor. Foreign cars are still a bit lacking, though. There still is the Dodge Viper GTS, two Porsche 911 Turbos (a RWD ’91 and a 4WD ’93 model), a BMW M3, a Mercedes CLK, and that’s roughly it. I may have missed one, but that’s about all there is to non-Japanese cars. The Japanese lineup is much more complete. In the car shop, I would estimate there are about 160 different cars spread out across Classes A, B and C, but, as I mentioned, there’s a lot of duplication, with most Japanese cars coming in several editions/years/whatever.
The basic premise of the game has remained the same ever since it was introduced. You purchase a car, and go out on the highway to race rivals, by getting behind them and high-beaming them (or, slightly later on in the game, getting in front and having them challenge you sometimes). The race lasts until either yours or the rival’s SP are spent, which is a sort of energy bar which decreases all the time while you’re behind the other car, and the further back you are, the quicker it descends. Once the race is finished, your win is based on the type of rival (did you just beat a Honda Civic in a Porsche? Or did you beat a super-custom Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec R34 Custom?), the distance you raced on (did you just dart out ahead and he never saw you again, or was it a close neck-to-neck race?), and % remaining of your energy bar. Then, once you race enough rivals, you can go into the parts shop and buy upgrades for your car, like engine, muffler, transmission, aero parts, or stickers. Yeah, you can get stickers. You can’t choose their placement, though, unfortunately. The aero parts are funny, too. The only thing that I haven’t seen in TXR0 that I have seen in real life are six-packs of 6’ chromed mufflers stretching out to the top of the trunk line. That’s just disgusting. But getting back to the point, you upgrade your car, and race other cars, just a bit faster than before.
Opponents increase in difficulty, and occasionally, you will encounter zone bosses, which are tougher than any of the opponent gangs combined, since they usually drive fast, hard, and have cars that look like the most wackiest things on earth. There’s one with a horn on the front hood which looks like a… actually, never mind. When you defeat all the zone bosses (they are called the 13 Devils), you fight the 13th one, who is incredibly fast, but gives you a really nice Skyline R34, which you should stick with until the end of the game, ‘cause it’s just NICE. Following that, you fight some more gangs and another set of zone bosses called The Zodiac, and then you fight the final boss. But before you do, you must defeat about 64 rivals called the Wanderers, which are these wacky individuals that appear only if certain conditions are met. For some, you have to be driving a specific car. For others, your car must have at least a certain mileage. Yet others need you to be driving at a certain time of day (easily remedied via the PSX2’s Date Setting screen, though). And so forth. Unlike TXR2, you don’t need to complete the game 3 times to unlock all the rivals, though. In TXR2, depending on the car you drove, a certain Zone Boss would come out, and if you drove a Class A car, that automatically precluded a Class B boss from appearing, so you had to replay the game again to unlock him.
In TXR0, you cannot start a new game with the Keep Garage option as featured in TXR2/DC, so you have to complete the whole game in one run. A suggestion: all cars can be upgraded to a level 7 engine/level 8 muffler, but only once you reach 1864 miles/3000 km on the odometer. I suggest you do that for the first “big” car that you will use until you defeat Speed Freak, and then do the same to Speed Freak’s car, if you decide to go with his car. It makes things much more bearable, because the engine is very, very powerful. The best way of doing it goes like this: challenge someone, win or lose (win is better, but it really doesn’t matter), then accept the results, but do NOT choose “Free Run”. Let the game run until the menu disappears and you get a camera view of your car, then pull out the memory card, and eject the CD, then close the tray. A few seconds later, the music will stop, and a few more seconds later, the track will disappear, but the game will keep running. Now just leave it there for a while. You’re looking at about 100 km/h/ 60mph autopilot speed, so calculate. When you want to play again, open the tray, put the CD in, put the memory card in, wait for the music/track to reappear, then just hit any button on the PSX controller.
In a way, it’s kind of difficult to see for me why people would like this game, because there is only one track (you unlock 2 parts of it further in the game to make it a bigger track), and there isn’t really all that much variety to it. However, I really, really enjoyed it, and I think it deserves a Gamers’ Choice Award. The car handling is very good, the physics are excellent, and while there is no car damage and the car variety is limited to 10 – 15 variations of the same car times 5 cars, it’s still fun. I enjoyed this a lot, and I recommend you check it out. Rent it, perhaps, to see if it’s your game. This doesn’t carry quite the same level of realism as F355 Challenge on the DC or Gran Turismo 3 A-spec on the PSX2 does, but it’s still quite an enjoyable racing sim with an interesting twist to it. Recommended.