Release Date: March 14, 2006
The Dreamcast was host to the first Tokyo Xtreme Racer, a game that etched the series' name into the minds and hearts of racing fans. The above-average graphics, the crisp night ambience, and the sense of interaction with rival racers made it a sleeper hit. The series has seen a few sequels since then, with moderate success. However, Craze and Genki currently hope to inject some much-needed life into the series with Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift.
Unlike many racers these days which go for speed and flash, Drift is completely methodical, even more so than most simulation-type racers. As one would expect from its name, TXR: Drift places a heavy emphasis on drifting (powersliding through curves), even more so than other simulation and/or trick-heavy racers such as Forza Motorsport or Project Gotham Racing. The mountains of Japan are full of twisting, winding roads; straightaways are a luxury, and your skills will be put to the test like never before as you attempt to navigate all of these brain- and finger-busting courses with your car.
You'll be able to choose from a variety of brands, from all the major Japanese manufacturers (Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc.) to "imports" such as Volkswagen, Audi, Mini, Alfa Romeo, and still others beyond. You'll be able to purchase both used and new cars (used are cheaper, but, of course, come with performance costs tacked on), and you'll only be able to move on to cars with better specs by winning money via races and track tests.
Know this now — those races and track tests are no laughing matter. The physics and judgment systems in Drift are extra sensitive, and this is where the skill comes in. You can certainly expect to be drifting your way through huge sections of winding track, sometimes chaining one drift's direction into another. You're expected to not lose any speed during these drifts, and if you even nudge a wall or railing during your drift, all of your points will be instantly forfeit.
Furthermore, it takes a lot of practice to alternate between these drifts without spinning out, or over-drifting such that your car ends up in full reverse. It's all very tough, and very precise, especially when you also have to take things such as weather, driving conditions, the make and model of your car, and the quality of your parts into account. People used to arcade racers will probably get lost in it all, but people into sim racers will be in heaven trying to crack it. The lure of chaining that perfect sequence of drifts such that you glide along for almost an entire racetrack can be strong even for the casual racer.
While there's even more emphasis on technique than in the earlier TXR games, there's still the sense of rivalry and challenge. Drift sports an "online" message board, full of tips from well-meaning folks as to how to build your racing empire and your cars in top shape. There will also be posts giving you tips on potential rivals and locations for you to have your grudge matches. Checking the message board is key to maximizing your Drift experience, as is the Parking Lot, where you'll be able to pick and choose people to battle in a number of race types. You'll be able to race folks during the day and night, uphill and downhill, in timed races and races where you'll only be able to drive so far unless you drift well. In fact, the game sort of asks you to lead a "double life." During the day, you'll race in sanctioned races to earn money, to the point of getting sponsors if you're a good enough racer. At night, however, you'll race whoever and wherever you please, for both pride and the ability to win upgrades for your car.
The graphics, at the moment, strike a balance between the old-school Dreamcast look, and several touches that could only have come from a current-generation system. Little nuances like dozens of cherry blossom petals blowing in the wind, ran-induced fog, and lightsourcing during the night races help to keep the atmosphere the same as it's always been throughout the series. The soundtrack has a generic rock/trance-ish feel to it — not exactly unique, but certainly inoffensive.
It'll definitely be a while until the next Gran Turismo or Forza decides to make an appearance, especially with the two respective companies behind those games gearing up to put all of their high-profile franchises on their next-generation systems. TXR Drift is one of the last chances for sim racers to test their minds and their fingers in a racing game that's more than "go fast, brake at the right time" using current hardware. If all that's been described up to this point sounds like it's up your alley, then you should definitely be on the lookout for this game, tentatively set to be released a month from now.