Sunday, July 24, 2011
Choro Q Park - Sega Saturn
I only played Choro Q Park once, a few years ago when I was burning a giant stack of Sega Saturn discs, and I wasn't very impressed. The graphics were very colorful and solid, but the pacing was a bit slow, and I really couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do. Now I'm revisiting the game again, thanks to Youtube, and I'm finally able to see what all the fuss was about.
Takara's Choro Q series is based on tiny racing cars, better known in the US as Penny Racers. The Saturn version was made in 1998, which puts it in that glorious "Late Saturn" period when most developers had finally cracked the beast and were churning out the console's best games. Unfortunately, it was too late to make a difference, as Sega was about to introduce the Dreamcast in a desperate last stand.
Once you get moving, this is a really terrific little racer. It's obviously the Saturn's answer to Mario Kart, and - dare I say it? - Choro Q Park's racetrack designs are better than Mario Kart 64. Of course, I'm one of those gamers who felt disappointed by Mario Kart 64 (SNES, DS, and Wii versions are all superior), but it's still an impressive achievement for a relatively small outfit like Takara.
The idea in Choro Q Park is to collect Penny Racers, and there are 80 cars in all. During a race, you can switch between four different vehicles on the fly, which is pretty cool, and once you're able to move up to the faster cars, this game really does take off. Watch these Youtube videos and see for yourself. Very nice! I really enjoy the winding pathways, hills, and jumps in these racetracks - here is a perfect example of why track design peaked during the 32-bit era. Developers were forced by short draw distances to create winding, weaving tracks; today, everything is just a straight line, and it's like driving through traffic.
I've long believed that the Sega Saturn needed another good year before retirement. There were so many great games from Japan in 1997 and 1998, and they couldn't come to the US or Europe because, frankly, it was too late. This would have been a welcome hit for Western Saturn fans. This, and the other 400 or so Lost Saturn Classics. Is this the most underrated videogame console of all time? I've never seen a console's reputation completely turn around like the Saturn. It's become the Captain Beefheart of video games.