Review by MajinTB

Reviewed: 08/26/08 | Updated: 08/28/08

And Everyone Says Driving Stick Is Easy! Har Har Har..

Please excuse my lack of experience, as this is my first ever review since writing my first ever FAQ; but I have total confidence that it will cover as much as my memory can recall about the enjoyment of this game. Oh, and before I forget, I’m playing the Asia version of this game.

Initial D, known to 'outsiders' as "That anime with nice cars and nice CG races, but weird character drawing style" (or "If Wangan Midnight is straights, Initial D is corners") and to 'insiders' as "The tofu driving theory of life, nothing more needs to be said, go watch it".

This is the story of a young man, who has driven up and down Akina Mountain for years on end, every morning, delivering tofu for his father. While using the cup-water method over time to make sure the tofu isn't damaged, he picks up on driving techniques that make delivering more enjoyable to him, rather than a chore. One night, a pseudo-professional team coming from a different area of Japan challenges the locals to a race on their home course, and so the "legend of the unbeatable downhill expert" begins...

Now, for the game...

Gameplay - 7/10
I know what you’re thinking: "7/10!? For such a fun game, ARE YOU MAD!?". Why yes, yes I am! The game itself isn't bad at all, taken straight from Arcade Stage Version 4 with improved graphics and a new course to boot, but two things docked points off this section: Not being able to use the D-Pad, and the massive over steer found in the newest update of the arcade version, Kai. So maybe I’m not too familiar with controlling the car like in Street Stage for the PSP (and yes, I own it and have played it) with the stick, but at least with the D-Pad, the control is a bit more accurate, to me anyway. The over steer was what really ticked me off playing the arcade version at my local arcade. I can understand that Penalty Cancel was a new concept, even IF it was abused, and that this new over steer forces us to brake before each corner, but it just feels so random! What perfect drift stability I used to have with my full tuned Evo III in Arcade Stage now becomes a game of pure luck that I enter the corner at the right speed and angle in Extreme Stage. I can only advise you to watch out for this, as for those who are not used to this new system will find themselves slipping and sliding in ways you can't control. The game play deserves my praise, along with anyone else who has ever played Initial D games before, but at least leave the option to use the D-Pad like in Street Stage! Maybe then countersteer sliding won't be so darn hard to pull off in some of the tight courses.

Story - 7/10
Not much to say here about it without spoiling the plotline, but the game follows the storyline of both the manga and the anime with painful accuracy. Almost TOO accurate, to the point where I wish they would have thrown in more variety, or new cut scene/in-battle lines. This goes for both Arcade Stage and Extreme Stage, as you can have a copy of the manga in front of you and the game cut scene/in-battle lines running at the same time, and they will speak the exact same lines! Sure, it is supposed to be like this to not only give the arcade experience in the comfort of your own home, but to make you feel like you were in the Initial D world, but we want to be MORE involved in the initial D world, and re-using the same lines does not do that!

Graphics/Sound - 10/10
Excuse me while I get some cookies for the cream in my pan-*shot*. Graphics are hands-down amazing, even on a CRT! Has anyone noticed why some of the courses look like your driving on glass, instead of cement in the daytime? No choppy frames, improved car graphics from Arcade Stage, more songs, (not to mention the ability to actually choose songs too!) give this game a killer combo when it comes to graphics and sound. Although the songs aren't any different from the anime's Fourth Stage, they remixed them just a bit, added a new title song, and looped them in a way where you can tell it wasn't a sloppy job. Personally, I mute the BGM and put on the actual Super Eurobeat songs on my headphones and play like that, to not only enhance the race, but to not go deaf from that insane BEEP noise from the RX-7s when you are red-lining around corners.

Play Time/Replayability - 8/10
You'll be finding yourself replaying courses A LOT in this game, so get used to enjoying it. Mastering each and every course is essential for running faster times and beating the story mode on higher difficulties. My only complaint is that there aren’t enough courses! What happened to Akina Snow? Or Tsuchisaka? Snow would look amazing with the PS3 graphic engine, and make for interesting online battles! Oh well, hopefully people learn from their mistakes and include it next time. Besides that, don't go thinking this game will go easy on you even with the easy setting in Options. One straight play through won't get you the parts you need to full tune, get used to the stick rather than the wheel, or let you win in online battles. Practice, tune up, rinse and repeat.

As I’ve stated before in the introduction, I do not have online race capability, so I cannot review the ups and downs of online battle. If you have ever played Arcade Stage before against other drivers, you know what the outcome will be like. Plus, with the ability to use the Logitech G25 steering wheel (assuming you have the money to buy it and set up your own steering column in front of your fancy HDTV), you can kiss the controller, and anyone who uses it online goodbye. So basically, ye who has more money, wins. This was a primary choice in buying the Asia version instead of the Japanese version (Asia version costs 1/3 the price!), plus, the manual is in English (so sue me, I can't read Japanese).

Final Score - 8/10
This isn't the type of game you rent, in fact, YOU CAN'T! */evil laughter* So make sure you know what you will be buying before you import either version. Hopefully my review has given even the slightest bit of insight to what you will expect of this game, positive or not. I wish I could comment on online battles, but that can't be done with the Asia version of the game. My advice is as such: If you have the extra cash, buy the Japanese version, create your Japanese PSN and play the game online with other people around the world. If you do not care, or don't want to spend the money, buy the Asia version to enjoy the game, customizing your car, and beating your own personal records in Time Attack. That is all, I hope you enjoy playing this game in practice for Initial D Arcade Stage 5.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Initial D: Extreme Stage (JP, 07/03/08)

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