Bursting onto the scene as a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, Tokyo Xtreme Racer was an awesome new game based on underground illegal street racing. It sold decently at first, but it became an even larger hit after the release of The Fast and the Furious in 2001. If you had gotten bitten by the car customization bug after seeing that movie, playing this game was a cheap alternative to buying a dodgy second-hand car and modifying the shit out of it. Even though I owned all the big name games for the Dreamcast like Soul Caliber, Sonic Adventures, and Shenmue, Toyko Xtreme Racer put the most miles on my machine.
The gameplay revolves around an incredibly simple concept: Night falls, and you drive endlessly on long loops of dark Japanese highways looking for other cars to race. Finding opponents in the game is easy, because every racer decks out their car in an obnoxious color and slaps a bunch of stupid vinyl stickers all over it. You pull up behind these cars, flash your brights at them and then it becomes Car Street Fighter with a health bar. Whoever ends up with the most color left in their SP bar is declared the winner and wins credits. These credits can be used to buy upgraded parts, custom body kits and lots of stupid stickers you can paste all over your car as well. Take down all the racers and teams and work your way up towards defeating the top racers in Tokyo.
While the premise is simple, the game’s strength comes from the sheer number of opponent street racers (over 300), the unique racing teams (with unique logos and character backstories), random bosses and unaffiliated racers known as “Wanderers”. These racers are the hardest to defeat due to the strange method for making them appear in the game. Some only came out at certain points in the actual day, certain days of the week, on prime-numbered game days….I’ll spare you the insane details, but every one of these games have insane 400 page comprehensive guides online for luring out these goofy bastards.
These games were always a guaranteed good time. Now that we are halfway through the lifespan of the next generation of consoles, some of us old guys miss having a fresh incarnation of TXR to enjoy on the Ps4 or XboxOne. As far as my research goes, I discovered that the company behind all these titles (Genki) worked on a mobile version of TXR up until 2012, but ultimately, it ended up getting discontinued. Even though it looks as though this series officially died with the last generation of consoles, you can always go backwards and enjoy the older games and just pretend the graphics are better than they actually are. Just a few weeks ago, even I bought a used Ps2 so I could specifically play these stupid games.
So if you are new to the genre, or don’t remember which incarnations are good, I’ve made this quick guide so you can buy the best versions of TXR for whatever console you have sitting around collecting dust on your entertainment center (..and for cheap too, all the Ps2 TXR games were under 5 dollars each!).
Note: All games are scored in characters from the Fast and the Furious series
TOKYO XTREME RACER (Dreamcast, 1999)
(I don’t have a screenshot because I don’t feel like digging out my Dreamcast after getting out all the Christmas shit out of the garage)
(Current value: $11.99 on eBay)
This was THE game that started it all and got us hooked on the concept of modifying shitty cars into veritable speed machines. If you enjoyed this game back in 1999, the odds were high that you also owned a Honda Civic that was three different colors and had a rad fart can exhaust. This game helped spread the urban myth that slapping a yellow TYPE-R on your vehicle will give it a magical 5 horsepower boost in performance.
⊗ Great graphics for the time period.
⊗ Tons of different cars and a wide range of years of cars available. This game has all the best 90’s beast cars like the Acura NSX, Toyota Supra and Mitsubishi 3000GT-VR4. Lots of unique enemies and cars on the highways make this game a definitive classic.
⊕ The music sucks. But that is one of the required components of TXR games. These games all have two things in common: street racing at night and really shitty music.
⊕ Lots of subliminal advertising is displayed on the VMU memory card. All it does is flash advertisements for aftermarket car parts manufacturers. Gee Sega, I must turn off my Dreamcast and go buy that K&N air filter RIGHT NOW!!
TEH BEN RATING: 5 out of 7 Paul Walkers
TOKYO XTREME RACER ZERO (PS2, 2001)
(Current value: $0.24 on Amazon)
The North American follow-up to the Dreamcast game was TXR: Zero. The game was basically the exact same as the original, but with a few more cars added to the roster. Zero still kept all the gameplay mechanics of the original, but it exposed more people to the TXR game series due to the surging popularity of the PS2. It wasn’t considered by most to be a “sequel”, since it really didn’t add a whole lot in the innovation department.
⊗ Massive selections of different vehicles. Personally, I was unaware that there were 35 different WRX models.
⊗ There’s only two loading screens per in-game”day”, which makes the load times bearable.
⊗ All of the opponents have unique driving style which makes you strategize your attack accordingly.
⊗ Driving control and physics are responsive and natural. Pinballing your way off of the guardrails on Tokyo roads has never been more fun.
⊕ Traffic is nothing but walls of complete assholes as far as the eye can see. It doesn’t matter if it’s another racer or a moving truck, they are all hellbent on shitting on your day. It’s a great simulation of normal road traffic after New Year’s.
⊕ It is insanely hard to get started in the dangerous world of street racing by starting with a stock CRX with 80 horsepower. You are going to lose a LOT of races until you can finally save up enough credits to get that bitchin’ Taurus station wagon.
⊕ Your car takes invisible damage over the course of your nightly drive. When you start racing, your car easily accelerates up to 150mph, but after a few battles (and smashing into walls), your car embarrassingly struggles to get over 80.
TEH BEN RATING: 6 1/2 out of 7 Vin Diesels
TOKYO XTREME RACER 3 (PS2, 2003)
(Current value: $2.58 on Amazon)
More of the same here. It’s almost identical to the other two games. The same stretch of highways are used, almost all the available cars are the same too. Look for the addition of vehicles from the Initial D and Wangan Midnight manga. Just remember the vaunted Panda Trueno 86 is a complete piece of shit and does not perform anything like the one in the cartoon.
⊗ Customization is turned up to 11 in this game. You can add your own artwork if you have the patience to sit there for hours drawing a giant dick on the side of your MR2 using a Ps2 controller.
⊗ The graphics have been upped a few notches from the first couple games.
⊗ The difficulty curve is more realistic in this game, and there are fewer battles that feel completely unwinnable. Best of all, you don’t have to start from the bottom of the barrel with a fucking CRX.
⊕ The control is a little worse than Zero. Trapping your foes in highway corners and smashing the shit out of them is a lot harder to accomplish.
⊕ The limited color palette available for your epic dick artwork makes it look like it was drawn by a blind caveman.
TEH BEN RATING: 5 1/2 out of 7 Michelle Rodriguezes
TOKYO XTREME RACER: DRIFT (PS2, 2005)
(Current value: $0.99 on eBay)
They finally broke away from the tried and true method of just releasing the same game each year and finally tried to do something different. In this TXR game, there are no familiar stretches of Tokyo highway, but instead there are uphill and downhill mountain courses. The story is that the government shut off these dangerous roads to the public but they decided to open it up only to drift racers to hold competitions. Sounds legit.
⊗ It’s something new! All the scoring is based on your drifting skills and not your ability to bounce off walls around your opponents. The physics feel like a total ripoff of the drift competition from Need For Speed, which actually is a good thing.
⊗ The Subaru XT Wedge is available (see above screenshot). I’m too sexy for my car!
⊗ Racing during the day? What a novel idea.
⊗ The music is actually better than normal with some weird/creepy ska tracks thrown in.
⊕ REGODAMNDICULOUS LOAD TIMES!!! Select car (LOAD SCREEN) modify car (LOAD SCREEN) add muffler, exit (LOAD SCREEN), up menu (LOAD SCREEN),go race (LOAD SCREEN), course select (LOAD SCREEN)skip intro (LOAD SCREEN) NOW RACE! Wait, where’d you go?
⊕ You only get to compete in three races per day. I guess after three minutes of intense drift racing, you better sleep the rest of the day, cupcake.
⊕ That message board is useless addition. It does absolutely nothing and it looks like a creepy AOL chat room.
TEH BEN RATING: 3 out of 7 Jason Stathams
STREET SUPREMACY (PSP, 2005)
(Current value: $18.95 on eBay, which is 20 times more than what it’s worth)
I really tried hard to like this game.
⊗ The case artwork has aggressive looking cars on it.
⊕ Everything else. This game is a shit sandwich.
TEH BEN RATING: -2 out of 7 Ludacrises
IMPORT TUNER CHALLENGE (XBOX 360, 2006)
(Current value: $15.99 on eBay)
The TXR series goes back to its roots by republishing the same exact game in HD. The graphics look fantastic, and there are three different phases of night to go hunting gangs of racers. Getting attacked by groups of cars make for some high intensity racing. There are three modes of racing you will encounter in this version: Time Attack, SP battle and GT. Time attack is hands-down the worst, and you have to complete some of these to progress through the game.
⊗ You can make your licence plate say “PENIS♥♥”.
⊗ Loads quickly after the game is installed on your hard drive.
⊗ Handling and control are perfect no matter how badly you fuck up your car’s settings.
⊗ For some strange reason, all of the traffic is always in the exact same spots in the highway every time you go around a highway loop, so once you memorize all the patterns, you can destroy even the toughest opponents.
⊗ Yo dawg, I heard you liked vinyl on your stripey vinyl on extra vinyl on even more vinyl! Seriously, with 60+ layers available, you can make your car look worse than that time you made a collage out of Cat Fancy and Highlights For Children magazines in third grade.
⊕ For how amazing the graphics and physics are, the game is extremely easy to play through quickly from start to finish. My third play through consisted ten hours, although I skipped all the wanderers that needed stupid requirements.
⊕ They brought back the same stretches of road again, but got rid of almost all of the cars. The car selection in this game is horrible. Most of the best cars of the 90’s are completely omitted.
⊕ There are a lot of online-based achievements to earn, but there is no possible way to get them because nobody has played this game online since 2008. I remember racing you fondly, C0CK_MAS7ER45564.
TEH BEN RATING: 5 1/2 out of 7 Tyrese Gibsons
TOKYO XTREME RACER: DRIFT 2 (PS2)
(Current value: $4.95 on eBay)
It’s another extension of the Drift style game with slightly improved graphics and cars, even though you can’t see any of that based on my terrible screenshot. Instead of the normal rating system from the first Drift title, it yells “STOP JUDGEMENT!” every time you hit a guardrail, which happens on practically every curve on the mountain. Instead of enjoying a game full of car-drifting fun, this game gave me an inferiority complex.
⊗ Better loading times than the first Drift game, which isn’t all that high of a bar in the first place.
⊗ The Subaru SVX can be purchased out of the gate. I love me some SVX.
⊗ If you already own TXR: Drift, there’s really no point in buying this.
TEH BEN RATING: 3 1/2 out of 7 The Rocks
WANGAN DRIFT: MIDNIGHT (PS3 (Import), 2007)
(Current value: $29.95 on Amazon)
This is one of the stylistically cooler of the TXR games available. Instead of the “normal” TXR games, this one is based on the manga (and movie) that came out copycatting the success of Initial D. The game follows the original story using small snippets of playable races. You start with the Devil Z, which is a legendary car that always kills its driver in so it can fulfill it’s life dream of being crushed in a scrapyard. Maybe it’s not the best story ever written, but it actually makes for an extremely good film. Really. Check it out:
⊗ Gorgeous graphics and aesthetics. When the race begins, it starts as comic panels showing the dialog between the racers. Even though its all gibberish (to me), this adds depth to your opponents that makes all of this feel a little more immersive.
⊗ The Devil Z. I have a huge affinity for 240 and 280 Z’s.
⊗ Story mode is really silly, as you slog though tons of dialog you don’t understand. The Survival Mode is awesome, with hundreds of racers challenging you back to back.
⊕ I really wish I understood Japanese. There is a collectible card game that gives both your car and driver different attributes, but to me, it just looks like D&D in Yiddish.
⊕ The game gets weird when you have to balance your racing with keeping your engine temperature down. Get too hot and it’s ENGINE BLOWN!
⊕ The worst selection of cars of any of the TXR series. They stick to the seven or so characters from the manga and don’t deviate. They repeat on a never-ending loop in Survival Mode.
TEH BEN RATING: 6 out of 7 Eva Mendezes
For real, you guys. Check out Tokyo Xtreme Racer in any of its many repackaged versions, and you won’t be disappointed. Unless you start with the PSP version.