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Review: Speed Racer - Nintendo DS

by Steven Williamson on 13 May 2008, 10:30

Tags: Speed Racer, Warner Bros. (NYSE:TWX), PS2, DS, Wii, Racing

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Based on the anime series set in the world of automobile racing

In 1967 In the US, 52 episodes of the Japanese anime series Mach GoGoGo were dubbed into English and syndicated nationally on television. The title of the show was changed to Speed Racer and for nearly 20 years the series has ran on TV each afternoon, five days a week.

Heralded as one of the first shows to successfully introduced anime into the US, the success of the series has eventually led to a film directed by the Wachowski Brother’s film, which went on general release in the UK on May 9th.

In conjunction with the film, of course, we have the obligatory release of a video game to tie-in with its cinematic debut. In this case, rather than release the title on every conceivable format, something which most other publishers seem to enjoy doing (ker-ching!), Warner Bros has focused its attention simply on the Wii and the DS versions.

Many of the games that are released to tie-in with a movie are of a poor quality and have blatantly been rushed in order to cash-in on fans of the film, but the DS version has surprised me. It’s clear from the outset that Speed Racer is different than most and that a lot of effort has gone into the track design, the smooth handling of vehicles and the impressive visuals. Most impressive however is that Speed Racer really pushes the power and performance of the DS. The result is a deliciously smooth, aggressively fast and most of all fun combat racer!

Speed Racer is a straightforward racing game in terms of your overall goal. There’s no storyline as such that mimics the movie, all you really need to know is that if you're first past the post you bag the points and move up the leader-board on your way to world-wide domination and accolade of becoming World Racing League champion.

However, there’s still more than enough to set it apart from many other racers on the hand-held and plenty of features to ensure that you’ll not only have a good time, but more importantly want to come back for more.

From the main menu there’s plenty of options to choose from to keep you hooked, including an arcade mode where you can jump into a quick race, battle or stunt runs and the World Racing League mode, where you work your way through three classes and dozens of tracks in the hope to be crowned Champion. Despite there being a multiplayer mode, it doesn't take advantage of the online capability of the DS, but instead it restricts you to two to six players battles via multi-card play. Had the developer included that feature then Speed Racer really could have been up there amongst the great multiplayer games on Nintendo's hand-held.

The main game mode is the World Racing League where you participate over a number of stages against 5 CPU racers. Each tournament is split up into three tracks, although some have 5 tracks later on, and at the end of each race you’re awarded points (10 for 1st, 8 for 2nd, and so on). If you get the most points over the three tracks and top the leaderboard you win the cup for that particular event, you unlock the next cup, and can then move on. In between racing you also unlock and compete in special events in the form of stunt battles, where you need to outdo your opponents by flipping, rolling and spinning your vehicle over the futuristic, undulating tracks.