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Tanuki Sunset

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Developer: Rewind Games
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2022

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Xbox Series X Review - 'Tanuki Sunset'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 27, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Tanuki Sunset is a fun, arcade-style longboarding game starring a radical, thrill-seeking raccoon!

With so many games promising cinematic experiences, high action or an unforgiving difficulty curve, it feels rare to see a game go in the opposite direction without being made for young children. Games can still provide some challenge while also including a tiny penalty for failure. The title should come in at a decent length but have a main goal of relaxation to put players in a good mood. One such game is Tanuki Sunset, a title that has been on the PC for some time but is now making its way to consoles.

There's not too much of a story going on. You're a raccoon named Tanuki who's into longboard skateboarding. You've recently decided to take on the mythical route of Sunset Island, a route so legendary that reaching the end guarantees a cover on FISH! magazine, the #1 magazine for longboarding enthusiasts. That's all there is to it. There's no twist near the end of the game, no saving the world or winning a competition, and no rivals to beat. It's just you trying to complete the run and a small cast of characters cheering you on.


The core gameplay mechanics resemble that of a 3D endless runner. With the camera set behind Tanuki's back, you automatically skate forward down a procedurally generated two-lane highway and try to reach the end. You'll avoid cars, the only thing on the track that'll knock you off your board, and you'll try to not fall off, since there are no guard rails. Forward movement is automatic, but you can slow down, speed up, and tilt left or right to handle turns. All the while, you collect bits to spend in the store on items like a new stereo, decks, wheels, hats, and other types of clothes and equipment.

Although this is a skateboarding game, the longboard doesn't give you much room to pull off a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater arsenal of moves. That said, you can still pull off some tricks. The first one you learn is the most important, as you can drift either left or right to handle sharp turns on the track. Drifting is easy to pull off, as you can either use the triggers or the left analog stick in conjunction with the A button. Later, the game lets you revert with the X button, which nets bonus bits over certain areas if you time it well, and there are ramps where you can pull off basic tricks, like spins. It's not a massive set of tricks, but it's enough to make the standard skating more exciting, especially once you've discovered hidden things like riding near the edge of the road for bonus points.

For the most part, Tanuki Sunset is a relaxing affair if you can live with the concessions. The game only wants you to finish a leg of the course before unlocking the next piece, so while you will be prompted to get the highest scores possible or finish tracks quickly, no roadblocks prevent you from moving forward. As mentioned earlier, only the cars and falling off the track will count as deaths, so hitting cones and dumpsters (and crabs!) aren't going to kill your run. If you hit a car or fall off the track, there's no death screen, and restarts are immediate. With only a five-bit penalty for dying, you can use this to grind away bit collection for the stuff you want, but expect everything to be cosmetic; no stats or abilities are gained by getting new boards, shirts or trucks.


The low-stakes nature of the game reveals one annoyance with the checkpoint spacing. The title offers up to two checkpoints per leg of the run, but the spacing between them is rather large. While it takes some work to slam into a car, falling off the edge of the track is easy, and with the spacing so far apart, minutes of your run can be wasted due to one mistake. The procedural nature of the tracks means you can't memorize the layout to conquer it, so it's annoying to see some of that work get burned away.

Beyond the campaign, everything else seems tailor-made for completionists and high score chasers. You can replay any leg of the campaign, and you can focus on not dying, fast completion, and high scores to get the respective stickers on the map. Going back to the arcade machine lets you play specific runs for high scores, and it also lets you play a truly endless version of the campaign. Without an online leaderboard, you're mainly competing for personal gain, since you get nothing else for getting to the top or obtaining stickers.

Graphically, Tanuki Sunset goes for a lo-fi look. The characters are rendered simply, with Tanuki having a hilarious walk cycle. They fit in quite well with the environments that are low-polygon in nature. What still makes this appealing is the color scheme, which goes for the 1980s art style, with deep sunsets and purples; it doesn't ape other games that have used this style recently. Little details like building lights and a pulsating sun add some character, even if there are only three backdrops for the entire game. It looks nice, especially with the game's solid frame rate throughout.


The audio is mostly quite good. The sounds of longboard wheels against the asphalt sound exactly like expected, and crashing against things doesn't sound harsh. There is no voice work, but the soundtrack comes off with a mix of lo-fi hip-hop and rock tunes that feel like abandoned themes used in '80s action films. The only problem stems from a bug that kills the soundtrack during the middle of a run once a song finishes. The ambient noises put you in a more relaxed state, but since this isn't intentional, knowing that you're missing something from the ride and constantly having to fuss with the stereo to get a new track to play is an annoyance that takes you out of the chill mood.

Tanuki Sunset is the kind of game you'll dig if you want a relaxing time that's still somewhat challenging. The lack of upgrades and far checkpoint distances are a pain, but the overall friction between you and your goals is minimal enough that you can finish the experience with a bit of effort and enjoy the scenery while doing so. It still needs some bug fixes for things liked a dropped-out soundtrack, and while it lacks much to keep you coming back, it's the perfect game to hop into between much longer games in your library.

Score: 7.5/10



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