Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wow, been a while...

Combination of not getting any RPGs lately (been saving up for a PSP so haven't bought any and all the places who have sent me review copies have apparently stopped, ) and boring movies from Netflix/BB.

Street Supremacy - PSP (Final)

Street Supremacy is the latest in the long line of street racing games from Genki. Although they apparently have the same name in Japan (Shotoku Battle), in the US, the name depends on who the publisher is. Most of them come from Crave, who call it "Tokyo Xtreme Racer" (and have the rights to that name). But Konami must have outbid them for the rights to this game, and they decided to call it "Street Supremacy". Other than being on the PSP, this version changes things around a bit, some for the good, some for the bad.

Basically, you play a street racer in Tokyo. You get so many credits to start and have to pick a car. Then you race other street racers, and depending on how you do, you get more money. Then you can upgrade your car, or buy new ones. Not exactly a new formula, but a tried and true one (and this series was one of the first to use it).

The races are fairly straight forward - basically an "outrun" race, that is, you have to be ahead of your opponent for so long to win. Each racer has a "spirit" bar that diminishes when they are behind or when they hit something. When it's gone, you lose.

While this is a fairly dynamic sort of race and one that makes you feel like you really beat your opponent, I would have liked more types of races. Most other street racers on the market have other race types - drag races, circuit races, even drift races (though I can do without the latter).

What makes Street Supremacy different from previous incarnations, is it adds a strategy element. It used to be you were a lone racer. Now you are part of a team.

Basically Tokyxo is divided up into several zones, and each one is controlled by a race team. The object is to take over each zone one by one, by having a team battle race. Basically a team battle is a 5 on 5 race, one at a time. That is, the 1st racer races the 1st, then the winner races the next one in line. And so on until there is no one left on one team.

While team racing has become the new thing for street racers, this sort of strategic gameplay where you battle for territory is new to the genre. At least, I've pretty much played every street racing game and I haven't seen anything like it. Unfortunately, you really don't have any sort of control over your team members. Unlike "Juiced", you can't coach the team members while racing, only watch. Nor can you improve their cars.

The driving model itself is fairly true to the series. It's not overly realistic, but neither is it arcade like. Cars don't really turn on a dime, it's more like they sort of glide. But it's very easy to drive with the analog nub. While you do get penalized in your spirit bar for hitting things like the side of the road, there is very little friction, so you can slide around curves in many cases. It's not like Gran Turismo where you bounce off of things, and in many cases there are projections or turnstiles that will completely stop you when you hit (you learn to be very careful around those parts).

Car customization is pretty decent. Not the most indepth in the series, but solid. You can improve the engine in 3 different ways, each with separate levels. Same with the transmission and clutch.

You can choose any color you want for the car by setting the red, green and blue values from 0 to 255. Nothing fancy like metallic or pearlescent paint, nor can you change the window tint, but you can paint your wheels 2 ways and change the head light color.

There are some 20 basic vinyls for the car, and if you like neons, you can pick any color you want (via the RGB values) and 4 different styles (Side, Front & Side, sort of pulsed). There's about a dozen bodykits and hoods for each car.

The car selection is unfortunately pretty limited. Pretty much just the big name Japanese sports cars - Skyline, GTO, Impreza, Evo, Fairlady Z, Supra, etc, along with the obligatory AE86. Some other mid range cars like the MR2 and the Celica, but they are generally too weak to compete for most of the games. (No Hondas, BTW, as apparently Genki decided to go back to their roots and clearly make it an illegal street racing game, which Honda frowns upon, at least unless you have the money of an EA)

The graphics are excellent. Probably the best in the series. Which is perhaps not saying much, as none of them really had great graphics. But they are sharp, crisp, and the framerate is solid while racing. While watching 2 AI cars race, the frame rate can drop, but I've never experiences that while racing myself - good sense of speed for the most part.

The game is set at night on highways, so it is a bit bland looking. Darkness and lots of pavement.

The sound is pretty solid, but not spectacular. Different engines sound differently.

The music is actually good. For the first time ever in a Genki Game, I didn't turn off the music immediately. It's a mix of styles, mostly electronic.

I had heard terrible things about the loading time for this game, but really, they aren't that terrible. About on par with first generation PS2 racing games. About 40 seconds to load a track area, then about 15-20 seconds to load each opponent as you scroll through them (you can scroll through them without their car loading, though). The frequency can be annoying though, since you basically have to re-load the area for each race because you go back to the map screen after each one. For team battles it just had to load the next cars, so the loading time is only about 20 seconds between each one.

All in all a pretty good game. Not the best in the series, but a solid entry. The gameplay is perhaps a bit repetitive, but it is fun. The first game I got for the PS2 was "Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero" and the sequel is one of my favorite racing games ever, which I've spent countless hours playing. And I still find the racing in this to be incredibly fun, even though I know the city almost as well as the back of my hand.

The real downside to this game is that it's rather short. It took me only 2 days (albeit with a lot of playing) to beat the game once. It does have a "New Game+" where you can start again with all your old cars, which helps, but there are only 200 different opponents in the game, about a 1/3 of previous games. And most of the opponents are pretty easy to beat if you have a halfway decent car.

Some of the length is also padded by only being able to beat one opponent at a time. In the console versions, you would simply cruise around the city, racing opponents until your car overheated. Usually 5-8 opponents per trip. Even so, I think it took me about 50 hours to beat TXR3. This took me maybe 12.