Back in the day, Genki and Crave released a small title for the Dreamcast called Tokyo Xtreme Racer, and later Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2. Both titles were a unique look at the racing genre, but with the death of the Dreamcast, the future didn’t look very good for the series. Then it happened, Genki and Crave brought the underground hit to the Playstation 2 and had an instant hit with Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, whose sales were probably helped out by movies like Fast and Furious and the “ricer” trend that America was going through. Now Genki brings the third installment, well fourth if you are counting, with Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3. Throwing the game in my PS2 I was eager to discover the new additions that Genki had added, which include: 200 miles of accurate Tokyo highway, 600 rivals to battle, licensed vehicles, and some more tweaks that I'll get into later.
For those familiar with the series, this game fits just like a glove. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, don’t worry, it’s incredibly easy to learn. The game revolves around the Quest mode. The game takes place after the end of Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Zero, and the highways of Tokyo are lost without a “super champion” - that’s where you step in. You start the game by purchasing a car, possibly modifying it, and then racing “rivals” on the highways. The rivals fall into three categories: teams, bosses, and wanderers. The teams are the easiest to find/get to race you, and after beating everyone in a group you have to race the group’s leader. Not only do you collect some major cash after the “battles”, but you also earn new vehicles, stickers from the groups, and performance add-ons. The bosses come at the end of every level, after you've beat most or all of the teams in this level, and are normally pretty hard to compete with. Then there are the wanderers, these highway nomads travel the highways with no group affiliation and normally have some pretty souped up cars. A unique feature about the wanderers is the fact that each one has its own requirements before you are allowed to race him, offering quite a lot of frustration and requiring a lot of playing time to beat him 100%.
Unlike Zero, this addition to the series has three levels, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, all adding up to 200 miles of perfect Tokyo highway. The game features a total of fifteen car manufacturers, such as Nissan, Toyota, and Mitsubishi, alas there is no Honda/Acura in this game which to me was awesome, but for some might be a flaw. As stated before this time around the game actually has licensed names, so no more Eglipses for those familiar with the series, quite a welcome change. When it comes to actually modifying your car, you can receive performance upgrades from: engine, muffler, suspension, brakes, rims, tires, transmission, clutch, reinforcement (strut bars, roll cages, etc), weight reduction, and aero kits upgrades. Some new additions in the modifications department are cooling, material the aero kit is made of, engine changing, and the minor features that can be changed. This time around, if you race on the highways too long, your car’s performance will suffer as your engine heats up; that’s where the cooling upgrades come into play. The aero kits can be made of urethane or carbon fiber, if it is made of carbon fiber you have the option to leave it unpainted, offering some weight loss (I know it sounds crazy, but wait until you play, then you will understand) no matter how silly it looks. The ability to switch motors in your favorite car is available in this game after reaching a certain mileage point (12xx miles or something), which adds on amazing amounts of horsepower. Finally, painting is free but now you have the option to paint it pixel by pixel, offering some creative people with a lot of time on their hands to create some vehicular masterpieces, and if you don’t feel like using a controller, it turns out a USB mouse will work.
The biggest improvement to actual game play however comes in the heavily upgraded physics models. Cars no longer slide all over the road at higher speeds, which was a problem in Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, and rival cars are smarter and don’t crash as often, which sometimes was disheartening in those close races but added to the difficulty of the game. The only thing that I didn’t like about the game was the lack of an online multiplayer mode. The ability to race kids over the Internet would have been awesome, that and the ability to possibly share paint jobs or something would also be very interesting.
A big problem in TXR: Zero was the fact that all the cars sounded the same, from Honda Civic to Toyota Supra Twin Turbo. This problem was thankfully fixed, and the cars now have different sounds, according to the engines they have, throaty V-8s, mean inline-6s, and whiny inline-4s. Unlike EA’s NFS: Underground, Genki doesn’t have licensed tracks, let alone exclusive tracks. The game does make due with some fairly simple loops that eventually become repetitive, especially keeping in mind that you'll play the game for quite a long time. This does take away from the game a little, but doesn’t make it unbearable. I mean, you can always shut it off.
WOW! The game looks much much better. Car models are right on, and look crisper then in previous titles in the series. It seems like Genki and Crave just upgraded the graphics engine of the entire game, because everything looks ten times better than TXR: Zero, which is never a bad thing. The game shines the best when it starts to rain. To put it simply, Gran Turismo better watch its graphical back, as Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 is simply awesome looking.
This game is amazing. Really, it is. After beating 92% of it in 4 days, and I am talking 12 hour days nonstop, I am still hooked and nowhere close to beating the game in anything close to a week plus. As I said, the graphics and audio were upgraded for this title and make the game much better than any before it. The countless additions to gameplay make you wonder how you were able to play the first couple of Tokyo Xtreme Racers. I was only disappointed in the lack of online multiplayer support, but, I guess there is always Tokyo Xtreme Racer: 4, nothing wrong with that either. Oh, by the way, did I mention that for me it blows Need For Speed: Underground out of the water and is half the price at $20?