Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Truck Kyousoukyoku - Ai to Kanashimi no Rodeo (PS2)

This game's title means "Truck Mad Dash Melody: Rodeo of Love and Sadness", and it can most easily be described as "Outrun in a truck", though it's also much more than that! Like Outrun, it is a linear against-the-clock racing games with branching paths (though the branches just lead to different routes through the same stages, not to completely different stages as in Outrun) there's also a little bit of Chase HQ in there, not to mention the different feel a truck has compared to a Ferrari, and on top of all that is this game's distinct style and theme.

The basic premise is that you pick one of four truckers and drive overnight to return home to your loved one. The journey takes place over five stages, the time limits for which are incredibly strict, and that's only the first part of this game's brutally steep learning curve. Not only are the time limits strict, but hitting other vehicles actually carries a time penalty! There's one exception to that rule, though: the evil trucker in his demonic truck who turns up once a stage. You actually get time back for ramming him! There's also branching paths, as I mentioned before, and interestingly, you get different time extensions depending on the route you take though a stage, and obviously, some routes are shorter or easier to get through than others, so over the course of several plays, you can eventually figure out the best way to go. And you will have to have several plays, it took me over an hour before I could get past the first stage without credit feeding!

There's also an "original mode" which has you going on longer, less exciting missions. For example, the first mission (and the only one I played) has you driving around town collecting fish, and at one point the evil trucker shows up to shoot bombs at you on a perilous winding mountain path. I came very close to finishing this first mission a few times, but the fact that a single attempt takes nearly five whole minutes combined with the generally lower level of excitement mean I quickly gave up on this mode. No great loss really, as the arcade mode is pretty compelling on its own, and original mode is just the standard "pad out the home release" type stuff.

Now, the most interesting thing about Truck Kyousoukyoku to me is the setting and general aesthetic. The most obvious part of all this is that all the trucks in the game are Dekotora, gigantic and luridly decorated trucks that have had their own subculture in Japan for decades. I think probably the place most people in the west will have seen them is in the background of Sodom's stage in Street Fighter Alpha 3? Another cool thing is that it's set in Japan during what appears to be the 1960s or 70s, by my reckoning, with dramatic character artwork and a soundtrack of sad-sounding romantic ballads to match. It's something that really makes the game stand out from the crowd (though to be honest, the crowd of games about driving trucks has never been very big, though it was probably at its biggest around the turn of the century when this came out).

So yeah, if you're interested in a checkpoint-based driving game with a different feel and a differrent style to it, and you're willing to climb a steep learning curve, then I definitely recommend Truck Kyousoukyoku. As an aside, TCRF notes that the game has a debug mode, that includes a model viewer for all the vehicles in the game, as well as one for all the stages, so videogame tourists who know how to use action replay codes and that kind of dark sorcery might also want to check it out.

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