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PSP Video Game Review: INITIAL D STREET STAGE (頭文字D STREET STAGE)

If you love the manga series and you are very good at racing games, “Initial D Street Stage” is an impressive racing game on the Sony PSP but caution, not for the casual racing video game fan.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Initial D Street Stage (頭文字D STREET STAGE)

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

COMPANY: Sega

Initial D: Street Stage is a racer based on the popular manga by Shigeno Shuichi and serialized in Kodansha’s Young. It has spawned several anime series and a live movie.

Many people who have an interest in street racing (especially illegal street racing) have watched Initial D and followed the story revolving Takumi, a guy who is a delivery guy for his strict father’s tofu business. Driving a Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-APX to make deliveries in record time, Takumi has driving skills that have surprised (and surpassed) street racer’s who race at Mount Akina and thus rival racers want a piece of this “unknown racer” and the best want only to challenge him.

Although several video games have been released for the console, the game that caught on like wildfire in the arcades was Initial D: Arcade Stage. Many people would go to the arcades and bring their ID cards and spend their money in trying to be the best racer.

Now the game is out for the PSP and Initial D fans are rejoicing for the portable version of the popular arcade game. Note: Not all aspects of the arcade game is included in the PSP version.

The video game allows you to be one of the characters featured in the manga to play as rival, driving their car or other cars or also playing as Takumi.

The game features different modes:

LEGEND OF THE STREETS (which you pick a racer and you challenge rival race teams), TIME ATTACK
THE BUNTA CHALLENGE (Go against Bunta, a difficult character that you will test your skills in the game)
WIRELESS MODE (Ad Hoc and you can go against another racer via Arcade stage, Time Attack and Sudden Death)

and sections such as

GARAGE (which you can use cards to tune your car, switch or purchase cars)
CARD COLLECTION MODE (To view the cards you have earned)
PROJECT D WEBSITE (A place to watch replays and listen to music and audio)
OPTIONS

GAMEPLAY:

With several racing games on the PSP, Initial D is a very enjoyable racing game but unlike Ridge Racer (which you can drift easily) and Burn Out Legends, you make one or several mistakes and you can easily lose the race. You will literally be neck-and-neck with other rival racers many times until you master certain maneuvers. If you played arcade stage, you will know what to expect from this game.

As for tuning your car, this is where it can upset Initial D arcade purists because the game uses a card system not point system. When you win a match, you get three cards faced down ….pick one and you either get artwork or a tuning card. Get enough tuning cards and you can really make some major improvements on your vehicle. What if you get multiple cards? Good news is that you can trade cards with friends who also have the game.

GRAPHICS:

I’ve played variations of this game for different consoles and Initial D has never been a winner in the graphics category in terms of racers. On the PSP, Burnout Legends looks very good…Initial D looks good. Sometimes when racing in the background in the mountains and seeing the trees, you’ll may say the scenery looks nice…but all in all, once you played Burnout Legends…Initial D is not the greatest in the graphics category but still looks good.

AUDIO: Well, although the game utilizes the manga characters, the cut scenes do utilitze the voice actors from the anime series and will interact before and after each match. As for the music, it’s Avex music….you’ll love it if you’re a move fan or JPOP Euro hyper mix fan, but if you are expecting Tokyo Pop hip hop, you are not going to find it here.

USER FRIENDLINESS TO NON-JAPANESE SPEAKERS AND READERS:

Well, if you don’t understand Japanese, the cut scenes won’t matter much to you at all. Fortunately, the anime series and film can be obtained to understand what the series is about. As for the menu’s, they are not too hard to figure out. There are guides available for reading online.

Just a word that there are two versions…the Japanese and Asian version of the game. Asian version comes with the manual in English and a bonus Initial D necklace (or whatever you call it).

All in all, I enjoy the series and I enjoy the game. If you never played Initial D, your mindset will think about playing it like Ridge Racer on the PSP but it’s important to learn advance maneuvers to beat our rival challengers. The biggest knock that Initial D has always received from purists is the mechanics of the actual cars being driven so high performance cars such as a Nissan Skyline or Mazda RX-7 will not outperform many of the cars in the game… so as much as the game tries to be realistic for a racing game, in actuality, it’s not. So, if you are not a purist…each car on the game is fair game. Don’t expect a high performance car to make you the best because this game is all about the person behind the controls…you.

As much as I enjoy Ridge Racer and Burnout Legends on the PSP, there is a certain excitement of playing Initial D especially if you are familiar with the series and the thrill of the competition of taking on your rivals and beating them. But there are some factors that make me score the game down as well. But even then…the game still makes it one hell of a racer on the PSP and I recommend the purchase of this game.

RATING: 84%/100

PROS:
+ Based on an awesome manga/anime series.
+ Initial D is very enjoyable as races are challenging but the thrill of beating a rival racer is awesome.
+ A lot of Arcade Stage (version 3) is in this game…characters, tracks, cars
+ Many songs from the series and arcade are in this game….
+ Tuning is simplified
+ Replay is very good with various modes and the next go around, the rivals come back at you with fury, so you have to be at the top of your game.
+ Utilization of voice actors in the cut scenes
+ Hardly any load time that I noticed.

CONS:
– Graphics are not as detailed as let’s say…Burnout Legends. This is being very nitpicky though. Occasional glitching
– Akina Snow is not featured in this game
– Can be difficult that those who don’t want to take the time to learn the game, may want to pull their hair out of frustration.
– Unfortunately not all songs from Arcade stage are not in this game.
– Hardcore fans who felt the excitement of challenging for points to tune your car may feel slated by the use of a simple card system.
– Car physics makes things a bit unrealistic for purists who expect the faster cars in the game and in reality to out perform the cars on the video game.
– Controlling your vehicle on Initial D is important and may be a bit of a challenge for some on the PSP and may challenge your patience on later levels.
– Being nitpicky: Using the manga as the main basis, so no animated cut scenes but voice actors are used.

Reviewer’s Score: 8/10

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