Release Date: August 8, 2006
D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series is a mouthful of a title, and I can't see why the higher-ups at a publisher could sit down, look at the design document for D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series, and say, boy, this title, D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series is going to be on the lips of every racing game fan in the western hemisphere!! Do you call it D1 Professional Drift? D1 Grand Prix Series, or maybe just D1 Grand Prix? How about D1PDGPS?
The answer is something that has plagued the video game industry since its inception: Nobody looked too hard at this design document. It wasn't negligence. Simply, nobody needed to look at the proposal. The concepts were enough for a green-light: niche, racing, drift, small budget, sales.
I've already covered this topic in a recent WorthPlaying review for the PSP racer Street Supremacy. There's a reason I'm covering it again: Racing games are the new platformers. When looking for a quick cash-in in years past – mostly the eight- and 16-bit generations – there wasn't anything easier than drawing up a few rectangles for a badly animated cartoon character to bounce across. Now that these types of games prove far too expensive, as gamers expect far more out of an action/adventure title than ever before, racers are the easy Trojan horse.
Sorry, drift racing fans. D1PDGPS, or whatever you want to call it, is one of these Trojan horses; a product designed to appeal to a niche community. A niche community is preferable because it is easier to sell damaged goods to a starving community. In a country with no video games at all, lesser products are sold by larger companies with much better technology available to them. (Although video games are widely available in illegal form in China, no mainstream companies dared enter the intellectual property dead-zone in that country. Nintendo's solution? A purely software solution running on modified Nintendo 64 hardware, while the rest of the world was enjoying the GameCube, and had been for years.) Basically, drift fans are desperate for a drift game, so they get one with an ungodly, long-winded title and some of the worst production values you can imagine.
In Street Supremacy, I described the handling of the cars as being similar to piloting a capsized yacht. In an amusing twist, D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series inverted the yacht issue: The cars, again regardless of which model is chosen, control something like runaway speedboats. Not cars, no.
With such a dry moniker as D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series, it is insinuated that this is a professional racing simulator, i.e., something that is supposed to play something like what you might find in real life. You will not. Friction, for example, is one concept that is badly reproduced. Physics, as a whole, is another.
Drift racing works on a point scale instead of the usual single-minded "get there first" mentality of a standard racing game. Here, it's a judging system based on the players' driving skills.
I'll let you sit with that concept for just a moment.
You got that? I'm assuming that the WorthPlaying audience is mostly an intelligent bunch, but here's what you need to do just in case: Read the last four paragraphs again. Now, realize what condition this game is in with the facts in these paragraphs combined. Players are judged on handling. The handling is terrible. The physics are intolerable.
In less than two weeks, I have reviewed two intrinsically flawed games. Broken games. Both racing. All to keep you, dear reader, far away from them.
The trap of this game is that the point standards are based on real drift racing, not accommodating for the many flaws of the game. Therefore, it is incredibly difficult. You cannot handle your cars gently because you will get penalized for having no style. You cannot play stylishly because you will careen right into a wall and lose points for not being able to control your car. With a bit of luck (and some fairy dust or something), matches can be completed.
Okay, a lot of luck.
There is a difference between difficult games and badly designed ones, and this one clearly falls in the latter category. Devil May Cry 3, for example, has some flaws that ramp up the difficulty unnecessarily, but by and large, it is a great game despite being so difficult, so most of the time, the repeated attempts to get through a stage feel justified. The same goes for Ninja Gaiden, or most of the Tom Clancy games, where redone strategies can always get a player through hard times.
To get closer to D1 Professional Drift, think of F-Zero GX, one of the hardest and best-designed racers I've personally played. Mastering the layouts of the tracks and handling of the crafts will get a player far, albeit with much more concentration than most racing games demand. In Grand Prix, the wild-card of bad design proves too difficult to surmount. That lack of consistency, coupled with grading criteria set in the real-world instead of the game's flawed reality, leaves me with no choice but to deem this game unworthy. There have, and will be, worse games than this (most of them fellow racers), but this is definitely on the very lowest tier where retail games are concerned.
Hey, D1 Grand Prix, say hello to Street Supremacy while you're down there, will you?