Monday, May 28, 2007

High Velocity - Touge King of Spirits

Way back when I owned my first Sega Saturn - I'm on to Saturn the Third now - there was this really great racing title that practically disappeared through the cracks called High Velocity. It's the American title for a Japanese racer called, in that weirdly Japanese way, Touge King of Spirits.

Anyway, this racer was completely ignored by the prozines except for the faithful fanboys at Gamefan. It's times like this that you really appreciate what they did, in spite of all their problems. They focused endless attention of Japanese videogames that were either destined to remain there, or be translated for a Western release and immediately forgotten. For hardcore gamers, Gamefan was a valuable resource for your fix, especially when you needed something a little off the page. And that pretty sums up any Saturn fan.

High Velocity is a 1-on-1 driving game, featuring moutain and city roads around Japan. The driving took me a little to adjust too - it's a bit too much traction and not enough grease - but it was endless fun. This was also the game to turn to once you were finished killing time on Daytona and Sega Rally and Wipeout. What else was there to play for a racing fix? Nothing. It was so bad that I was forcing myself to like Time Warner's lazy rendition of Virtua Racing, and not cringing at all the developers' struggling to come to grips with Saturn's hardware.

So this game easily filled a void. I think High Velocity features some of the best polygon graphics on Saturn at the time. Everything is very solid, great variety in textures and color, and hardly any popup that I can remember. There were only 3 racetracks, which was pretty much standard in those days, but they were immensely long and varied. I can't think of another driving game wit so many hills.

That's one of the great things about 32-bit racing games. Drawing distance was a constant issue, so in order to combat the ever-present threat of pop-up, designers would create complex, swerving racetracks. This made for some great driving games. Then the technology improved, and now we're all stuck driving name-brand cars (which can't even be scratched) driving down endless straightaways. Booo-ring.

High Velocity has one real weakness, and it's always stuck me. It's a 1-on-1 racer. There are never any more cars on the tracks, just the two. I thought this was a terrible shame, especially when one of the racetracks shamefully echoes Ridge Racer. You need swerving and weaving and reckless violence, and it's not here. I guess this is really meant for friends to play against each other. Still, I'm surprised that wasn't remedied in the sequel - which, as you'd expect - stayed in Japan. Another day in the life for the Saturn fan.

Oh, and where do I have to go to find a copy on the internet?! And somebody find me a working copy of Wipeout while yer at it.

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