Review by Daaku_Sephiroth
"A very simple and very realistic horse racing game."
I was looking through my Wii collection one day and thought about something, most of my time I was playing Virtual Console games and only played one of my games when I was bored. Since there wasn't many interesting titles that were being released for the system, I was getting pretty desperate to try and find a new game that could at least give me something to play with, Just at least before SSBB, SR:ZG and Mario Kart Wii will come out, and that's when I picked up G1 Jockey Wii, by KOEI (of Dynasty/Samurai warriors fame). As I read about it, I realised that this version was just a port to the system, rather than an original game (the first version was on PS2 going by the title: G1 Jockey 4). But I didn't care, because it was my first time playing this, and I was hoping to get a good experience out of it. Now, see the results.
What? There's a story in this game!? That would probably be the first thing on your mind when you read this, but it's true. There is a story in this, but at least it isn't awful. You start out as a man/woman, who aspires to be (*yawn* cliche) the world's greatest Jockey, so you went to a horse racing school, and are on the verge of graduation. But before the graduation, you have to race four mock races. After that, you graduate and your horse racing career begins. You join the stable you picked and blah blah blah. I haven't played the whole way through, but I don't really think the story is that big of a deal to me since I'm too busy just playing the game for what it can offer. Speaking of gameplay...
I'm quite surprised actually, when I picked it up, I was afraid that the game would be bad, if not nigh unplayable. The races are shown on the Jockey's view as expected (3rd person view). Of course I was having a rough time trying to get used to how to get the best experience out of it and eventually managed to conquer the supposed awkwardness I was feeling. Remember, though this may be just a racing game, It's not just about going all out all the way, no way in hell! You have to learn the basics, which of course takes a lot of patience and concentration to learn. If you have trouble, there is a tutorial to help you, and offers racing tips on how to win. Basically, it's about keeping your pace while conserving stamina and your horse's motivation. After you get used to it, you'll be winning races left and right. But there's also a lot more then just racing, outside the race track, it is somewhat of an RPG. You can build your reputation on the race track, your relationships with others stables and other jockeys, and even breed your very own race horse and train it to become a champion (which is done by playing mini-games to raise it's stats). Prior to some races, you can negotiate for which horse you can race on which track, and are in colour codes, which represent the type of negotiation. (For example: Yellow means you're requested to ride that horse, and green means it is pending for having a rider.) Plus you can compete in greater races the more you win. With all this, you won't be bored.
This too caught me by surprise, as also some of the games on the Wii have frustrating controls, and sometimes just plain won't respond to your motions. There are some minor issues, but they'll be gradually ignored once you get into this. However, when you're browsing through the menu, unfortunately, you don't use the Wii remote, which means you'll have to go through the menus the old fashioned way, yep, with either the D-pad on the remote or the thumb stick on the nunchuck, but this too can easily be bypassed. Of course the most important part about the controls is the racing part. You have your nunchuck which is used for accelerating or slowing down, and your Wii remote as your whip. You hold the nunchuck forward to gain speed and pull back to slow down, for steering, you simply twist the nunchuck left and right with your wrist, to go into full drive you hold the Z button, and the C button to change the leading foot, which is useful for entering and exiting turns. The Wii remote can be shaken up and down, which shows the whip to your horse to increase it's motivation, be shaken left and right, which whips the horse and causes motivation to rapidly rise and cost stamina, and the cool part it can be shaken in a circular motion, which initiates the whirlwind whip. The game recommends that you use it for horses that are stubborn, but I do it all the time because it excites me (It doesn't make a big difference really). If you think the controls are too awkward, you can set it to standard mode, which means you use the analog stick and buttons to use as acceleration and the whip, but this just defeats the purpose of using the Wii remote and nunchuck, which I recommend you keep it on advanced (the game's default setting.)
The game is very realistic, and makes me feel I was there. The only problem is that it's not perfect, and is noticeable by the somewhat dated graphics, but the horses are eye candy, and their movements are beautifully emulated. The characters seen during the dialogue in story mode look like they've been cut out and pasted onto a piece of paper, but they are very well drawn, and look realistic. Being that this game is from the PS2 port, I wasn't really expecting updated graphics.
The music in this can range from beautiful, having a feeling of freedom, a feeling of concentration/seriousness, and having a strong feeling to win. I thought that the music had a sense of emotion in them, which what I liked about it. The sound effects are really good as well, the opening of the gates, the hooves thundering along the track, the cracking of the whip, and of course, the crowd roaring as you approach the finish line, which is very rewarding. The only thing that is stopping it from getting it a 10 is a lack of voice acting, and of course, the announcer on the race tracks. Since the announcer continuously focusing on the race and announcing what's going on, it is the heart of horse racing, and definitely needs it. But oh well, I guess I can deal with that.
Once you feel you finished the game's 'storyline' and just put it away, then it lasted a fair bit, which is what I pretty much do. But if you're into raising horses and racing them, then this will last you a long while until you finally get sick of it.
Overall: 8/10 (Buy or Rent: I'd say buy, but if you're not familiar, rent.)
I have enjoyed this game for what it has offered, and have underestimated its potential. Since I am somewhat into betting on horses and watching the races, I thought this game may kill some time, which it did, and was worth it. I have no regrets for picking this up. Unfortunately, it's an obscure game, which must be the reason why it never got a US release and was only released in Australia and the UK. But for being obscure, it's very good. I got this game for a marked down price ($20 off) for $80 AUD at EB games. To my luck there was only 1 in stock. Once more, for those who are looking for something fresh, though you may like it or not, I'd say give this one a shot. For those in the US, you may import this game, though I'm not sure if the Wii is region friendly.
Final words: I am happy to know I have added 1 more game worthy of my Wii collection.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/10/07
Game Release: G1 Jockey Wii (EU, 06/29/07)
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