In December 1999, over a year since it first made its appearance in Japan, the UK got its grubby hands on SEGA’s Dreamcast console. This white bundle of joy brought us a glut of bright and colourful games, such as Soul Calibur, Space Channel 5, Chu Chu Rocket and PowerStone to name but a few. Many have questioned just why the console failed, and cry at the unlikely prospect of seeing Shenmue 3.
Unlikely as it is for SEGA to ever return to the hardware side of the console market, they have recently been making strides to bring some of the Dreamcast classics on the downloadable platforms, to gamers old and new alike. The first was Sonic Adventures, which didn't wear its age in a particularly favourable light. Now we have Crazy Taxi, originally released Feb 2000, which readers will be pleased to hear is a much better quality port.
However, potential purchasers should be aware that this isn’t a HD makeover, nor does it have the original soundtrack due to licensing issues. Resolutions, polygon counts and textures haven’t changed, so on new TVs the game looks a touch blocky (particularly noticeable on the title screen) and the game world is a little flat compared to the current console generation standards. If you’re able to look past that then the raging hectic gameplay hasn’t been lost from the original, and will still make you smile as you burn around the San Francisco inspired city, collecting fares along the way. The only other notable nobly is that the steering controls seem very fast to react, perhaps a little too fast, but it's something that you adjust to fairly quickly.
The main premise of the game is to pick up passengers from their start location, and drive as fast as possible without hitting too many obstacles, to their final destination. There are two modes in which to do this: the arcade rules or the fixed time limits of three, five and ten minute stints. The fare awarded at the end depends on whether they arrived fast, average or slowly. Drive at snail pace or hit too much stuff as you go there, and the passenger will give you the finger as they jump out of your worthless cab. It’s frantic fun right up to the point the timer ticks to zero.
Under the arcade rules mode, the player starts the game with just one minute on the clock. Completing fares then adds both money to the score and time to the game limit. This becomes a little more of a tactical process, as passengers are available with short, medium and long journeys, indicated by the colour of the circle they stand within. The longer the journey, the more cash there potentially is to earn – miss that deadline though and it’s all for nothing; it’s an interesting risk and reward system that works well.
To guide the player to a fare’s destination, a large arrow sits above the cab, but rather than giving SatNav like instructions, it points in the general direction of the goal, regardless of obstructions in the way. It’s necessary then to learn as far as possible, the layout of the city and the roads and short-cuts within it – the Crazy Taxi knowledge if you will. Learning the back streets and even off-road excursions can shave valuable seconds off the ride time, so are well worth seeking out.
Mastering the driving tricks, especially for Crazy Box - the mini game selection, is also essential if you’re to do well in the game. Manoeuvres such as Crazy Dash, which make you speed off without wheel spin, Crazy Backdash, Crazy Drift, Drift Cancel and Limiter Cut will all add to your arsenal of cabbie know-how to bring in those extra few folding notes.
Players bored with the fare taking side of things might want to venture in to the previously mentioned Crazy Box selection, consisting of around sixteen mini-tasks. Here you will need to perform a number of set pieces within a stringent time limit and/or target requirement. Tasks such as the Crazy Jump require the player to fling their cab as far as possible off the bottom of a ski-jump, and must pass the magic 150 metre mark. At first it might seem impossible as the car slams disappointingly well short of the task objective, until it’s realised that the Crazy Dash is the only way to succeed. Other mini games involve knocking down a series of flags, popping a number of giant balloons within an allotted time, performing a number of Crazy Drift combos within a time limit, and so it goes on until they become tiresome.
Back in 2000 Crazy Taxi received fine praise from the Dreamcast massive; now in 2010 it’s the turn of the next generation to enjoy the delightful world SEGA invented. Whilst it may not be quite the looker it was back in the GD-ROM days, it still plays well enough to warrant the £7.99 asking price it sits in the PSN store at, even if eventually it becomes same-old, same-old. Thankfully It has shown that the Dreamcast ports SEGA is bringing to XBLA and PSN can actually work.