Top Gear Rally
By now many of you will be wondering whether we've all gone mad - Top Gear Rally has already been reviewed in a past issue. So what, you might be wondering, could possibly drive us to review it again?
It's not what you might think - we haven't realised that our past review score was wrong and hastily decided to review the same game again in the hope of not looking daft in front of our readers, after all, no halfway decent mag would ever do that! No, we've simply got our hands on the Japanese version of TGRt which happens to be different enough from the US and European versions to warrant another review.
It turns out that rather than simply porting the original game across to Japanese NTSC format. Boss Game Studios have taken the time required to translate some of the text into Japanese to tweak everything somewhat.
Take the cars, for example. All the of the paint jobs have been redone for the island market and, more noticeably, some of the cars from the original version have been replaced with different ones, presumably models expected to be more popular with the game-playing population of Japan.
I Feel The Need...
More important than the aesthetic changes though,are the changes to the gameplay. In-game animation is a lot faster and smoother than before, giving the whole game a lot more pace and excitement. Just as importantly, the handling of the cars - one of the bigger bones of contention in the US/UK versions - has been adjusted, so that the responsiveness of the cars has been improved, and you should find yourself spending a lot less time getting to know the scenery on the bends a trifle intimately.
If you happen to be a brand-new N64 owner, and for some strange reason haven't yet encountered Top Gear Rally, then a brief recap is probably in order.
TGR is a fast-paced rally game -hence the name - which gives you the opportunity to drive a number of different rally-modified vehicles through championship seasons over a variety of different courses. Each course has widely differing terrain, and each contains its own hazards, shortcuts and nicely-designed scenery.
Initially you only have access to a limited number of cars and a couple of the courses, but as you progress through the seasons, you'll unlock newer, tougher courses and gain access to better, faster cars, which you'll need if you want to succeed when competing in the subsequent racing seasons.
Complicating your progress as you race are the other competitors, all of whom are as keen to win as you, and you'll also need to contend with the different environmental conditions, ranging from glaring sun through rain or fog to the ultimate challenge, snow. All these elements also have an effect on the various courses - snow turns previously easy bends into treacherously dangerous obstacles.
In addition to the increasingly powerful 'ordinary' cars, TGR also includes some more unusual bonus vehicles, such as the beachball car, which is constructed from a large ball with four smaller balls as wheels, and the Cupra car, which is basically a blue ice cube on wheels, complete with lights for night racing.
Run Your Mates Into The Ground!
As well as the one player championship mode, TGR also features a one and two player arcade mode, where players can race against a drone car or a friend over their favourite courses in all the various weather conditions. In this mode, though, only the courses and cars that have first been gained in championship mode can be used.
If you find that you're really bad at it, there's also a practice mode, which allows you to drive around the track at your leisure in whatever weather conditions you feel suitable, and thus learn the in and outs of the track without any other cars to distract you.
The cars are fast, but more importantly - in this version - they look fast. You see, the European version had the small problem that if you were watching rather than playing the game, as you probably would be if you were in a shop, then the game didn't actually seem as fast as it did when you were playing it. This does make sense, but you'd have to play it to see what we mean. Hence a lot of people tended to dismiss TGR as too slow after a quick glance. Since the Japanese version plays fast and looks fast, it's no longer a problem.
It's debatable whether or not 'ft's worth anyone who already owns a version of Top Gear Rally rushing out and buying this version. However, the increased speed, superior handling and - in our opinion - better vehicles, do make it a lot more fun to play than the UK/US versions of the game. And priced at only £5 more than the PAL edition (from our importers, at least), it's certainly well worth anyone with the appropriate hardware taking a gander at. If you can ignore the trivially small amount of Japanese text - the vast majority is still in English -then what you get is a superior game for only a slight cost increase!
Top Gear Rally DownloadsTop Gear Rally download
Until F-1 WGP, the best N64 racer. Excellent car handling, large and detailed courses and 'paint shop' for custom cars.
Some of the fastest, most realistic driving ever to grace a computer game. Well designed tracks help ensure a healthy lifespan.
Cue Allman Brothers music and lanky fluffy-haired presenter in cowboy boots...
Definitely one of the more exciting and adult games coming to the N64 Is Top Gear Rally from BossGame Studios. At the moment It's about 60-70% complete, but already it's wooing the press with some of the best visuals for a car game yet seen. It certainly makes Sega Rally look like it's running on a VIC 20!
The game structure is that you can race through a vast number of widely unpredictable courses, all with varying weather conditions (snow, rain, ice, fog, night time), and at the moment there are nine cars planned, plus two hidden ones. The Toyota Supra is the main car featured in the game so far, but we've also seen a splendid rendered Porsche 911 and 959.
And of course being a rally game, you are not just confined to a rigid track, and as well as being able to clip the sides with only minimal damage, you can also find secret short cuts and learn to avoid some hazardous areas altogether.
As well as being perfectly detailed, the game features loads of killer features such as perfect transparent lighting effects (good for the lights when driving at night), and quite the most realistic snow we've ever seen in a videogame. The game also has that "Need for Speed" knack for realistic physics and inertia, and each car will handle differently according to whether it's front, rear or four wheel drive. We have also heard that you will be able to damage the cars and even roll them if you have a particularly bad accident. There is of course a two player split screen mode (drool).
At the moment the Japanese version of the game Is thought to arrive In the Summer, with all the cars based on their favourite cars, and then the US copy should hit the shops In October, with Europe at Christmas most likely.
Prospects: It's got cars, you can roll them into ditches, this is going to be massive.
Racing on a Gameboy Advance never ceases to amaze me. How a company can cram the level of detail and realistic feel to a tiny, sometimes airborne, cars is always astounding. Top Gear Rally not only astounds, it manages to delight, giving handheld gamers the first truly real feel of rally racing in a diminutive game. Not only does the game pack 80 tracks and eleven cars into a GBA cart, it also makes the cars almost completely customizable from paint jobs to types of tires and sensitivity of brakes.
The game's tracks are a nice blend of on and off road, outback and city adding to the mix a variety of surface types like sand and mud and an assortment of nasty weather. Gameplay in Rally is a breeze, using the A and B buttons for brakes and gas and the shoulder buttons for shifting if that's your sort of thing. The select button swaps between a view through the windshield and a view of your car and the road in front of it.
The graphics truly push the GBA to its limits, with colorful cars and gritty landscapes. It actually pushes so hard that the game limits the number of cars that can be seen on the screen at any one time. Besides your view of the action, the screen is also filled with a tiny map marking the upcoming turns and opponents' cars, your place in the race, lap number and speed. The top of the screen also displays arrows to mark the severity of approaching turns.
The game's sound is just as packed, giving the cars a satisfying whine as they low gear it around the loose dirt turns of a desert course. An unseen copilot shouts out your driving instructions as you race, just like in the
full-blown rally games.
The game includes several of your typical racing modes like practice, time attack, quick race and three championship modes. It also features excellent head to head racing, though that requires to GBAs a link cable and two Rally game packs to play.
Another really cool feature is the game's online component, yes I said online. All you have to do is beat a time trial race and you're given a password that will allow you access to the game designer's website. Once there you can compare scores and post bragging rights - a pretty cool piece of online competition.
This game manages to blend all the right elements of control, graphics and sound into a package that fits in the palm of your hand while acting like a game fit for a console.