Review #1 by Rajiv Vaidya
HERE HE COMES! HERE COMES SPEED RACER!
"The Mach-5 is the most complex and ingenious car ever built, a tribute to my father's imagination, genius, and technical skill!" -- Speed Racer
Japan's Mach GoGoGo [retitled Speed Racer here] anime gained cultish popularity in the 1960's. We recall nostalgically Speed Racer's fight against a bizarre rogues gallery of villains--villains with creepy names like Ace Deucey, Mr. Fixer, and Tongue Blaggard. Each episode brought complex family dynamics; Dadaist, oneiric race tracks; comedy and tragedy; and virtuousness. Speed Racer's courage was as important as his Mach-5 in attaining victory.
Now pop culture has regurgitated Speed Racer: Speed Racer makes up part of MTV's modish programming. Speed Racer sells Japanese automobiles. Speed Racer decals emblazon teeny-bopper t-shirts. Speed Racer is kitsch.
Just what does this all mean for Tomy's racer? Nothing really. Tomy's racer is an average racer, which happens to feature Speed Racer. That is, his presence is simply decorative. Speed Racer's characters adorn menu screens, and Speed Racer's colourful story has no bearing on racing. And although you're able to operate the Mach-5's nifty gadgetry, this gimmick affects gameplay insignificantly. In short, aside from similar superficial characteristics, Tomy's videogame has little to do with the anime. Nonetheless, it's worth playing.
Mach GoGoGo's opening is a real humdinger! While MGGG loads, Spridle and Chim Chim jig happily [i.e. you'll see a boy and a monkey stomping madly]. Next, you're welcomed to the animes unabridged opening cinema, sung in hearty Japanese! You see Speed Racer weaving around elephants and giraffes; Speed Racer chased by nefarious, machine-gun-wielding Egyptians in race cars; and quick-thinking Speed Racer using a dinosaur's rib-cage as a tunnel.
For those baffled by this cartoon, Tomy also provides a CG-rendered cinema, showing off the sexy Mach-5's capabilities: There's autojack, for jumping; belt tires, for traction; chopper, for cutting [when selected, you see twin rotary saws extend from the Mach-5's front]; defencer and frogger, which allow underwater driving; evening eye, for illumination; and gizmo, which ejects a mechanical bird for no reason [I believe it's a homing device]. Although these selectable functions open up short cuts, they're inessential for placing first.
Option screens are clean and straightfoward. You may choose race style: orthodox racing is cartoony [e.g. bumping walls makes cars leap high into air, high speeds reach 335 mph]; endurance racing places emphasis on racing 10-25 laps. You may select enemy level: "light," "easy," "normal," "hard," and--eek!--"heavy." As in Namco's Ridge Racer series, three courses ["small"/"medium"/"large"] branch off from one main course. Transmission may be either automatic or manual, with some variety; for instance, you may pick "automatic-grip" over "automatic-speed." Also, best lap times may be auto-saved to your memory card. Music test play lets you sample MGGG's breezy, happy music. You may choose from, or edit, three controller configurations. And loading times are miniscule.
Fortunately, almost everything's in English, even MGGG's whiny commentator ["Come on! Wake up!"]. In-game sounds are adequate and numerous: caves reverberate engine noise, cows moo, Mach-5's gadgets click and whir, waterfalls churn. Also, sounds differ with terrain [e.g. mud/grass/pavement] and tire [e.g. belt/standard]. There are three camera views: in car, above car, and far above car.
MGGG looks as pretty as Ridge Racer Revolution. However, unlike RRR's paper-thin environment, MGGG's solidity astonishes me. Collision detection is ambitious--as well as environmental interaction [you may knock over objects, such as traffic cones; when driving off-road, your vehicle's tires kick up grass or mud]. Problems with clipping, vanishing polygons, and white seams are almost absent.
Tracks offer a mishmash of scenery, but there's poor transition from one scene to another, specifically, from standard race track to black-orange RR tunnel to spooky cave [wherein a dinosaur skeleton rests] to calm farm to placid lake to quiet town to serene hill to...erm...falling waterfall to finish line; at least you're able to drive through a parking lot--revolutionary! And, apparently, one lap takes one whole day to race because day becomes night [and vice versa] rapidly.
The Mach-5's handling is not complex and ingenious; once you adapt to the Mach-5's loose handling, you'll begin to win. And once you win, Racer-X's head taunts you in Japanese.
Appeal: For aficionados of Ridge Racer videogames.