Imports Only #0 - Planning a Ranking of Racers

The port is open for business.

For the past couple of years, I’ve found myself assembling a bit of a collection of random racing games that were never released here in the United States. It wasn’t intentional, but this was a rabbit hole that I found hard to climb out of once I was in it.

Touge Max 2 - one of the games that sparked my interest in import racing games.
Touge Max 2 - one of the games that sparked my interest in import racing games.

I’ve always enjoyed racing games, but there’s also never really been a shortage of them available in North America. Any video game enthusiast is well aware of the fact that there are games that don’t reach their own region, but rarely do many pay much attention outside of the strongest niche communities. I certainly never had much cause to keep tabs on all of the games that weren’t reaching our shores. That changed though when I actually started trying a few of these old buried racing games and realized that some were in fact treasure and not all total trash as I’d assume. Immediately I started frustratingly cursing the names of video game publishers for not delivering these games to me earlier, but that line of thought quickly gave way to me wondering how I could make up for their mistakes by tracking down more of these games.

Soon the wiki searches were going and my browser tabs were filled with eBay pages where I was trying to track down these games as cheaply and easily as possible. As sure as I was that many of these games would be bad, I really wanted to see for myself. I needed to know.

Now, after a couple of years of randomly looking at games here and there when they came to my attention, I find myself wanting to formalize this process a bit. It’s time to stop messing around here and start applying some damn science.

Enter “Imports Only” - a blog series where I plan to thoroughly document all of these foreign racing games. We’re going to find the good ones and grit our teeth through the bad ones. Before that though, I want to establish a few rules and procedures for this process.

The Rules and Directives

  1. Any racing game that was not released in North America on a home platform shall be documented and ranked. This means that games that were released in North American arcades but did not have their home ports released in North America will be ranked. For example, Initial D Special Stage for PlayStation 2 will be ranked even though the arcade game it’s based on was released here. It will also follow from this that games that were only in arcades in Japan or Europe and never had a home port do not need to ranked - however they may optionally be ranked.
  2. If a racing game was released in both Japan and Europe, documenting and ranking only one release is sufficient. For instance, Tokyo Road Race in Europe is the same as Battle Gear 2 in Japan, so it would be sufficient to just play one or the other.
  3. A game that was released in North America but was significantly different in another region may optionally be ranked. One sample case of this is the Sega Saturn game known as Highway 2000 in the US and Europe. Since it was significantly changed from its release as Wangan Dead Heat in Japan (including the unforgivable crime of removing FMV), it may be documented and ranked but it’s not required.
  4. Any Europe only release may be ignored if it is deemed sufficiently trite. I just don’t know if I can be bothered to play all of these random F1 and WRC games that somehow didn’t get a North American release. I’ll at least play a sampling of them, but I may not play all of them.
  5. Games do not need to be played to completion. Games should be played thoroughly enough to evaluate the depth, breadth, and overall quality but do not need to be played completely. This rule should particularly be taken into consideration in cases where the language barrier makes a game especially difficult to penetrate or enjoy - it’s ok to throw in the towel in these situations as long as a significant effort is made and the issue is documented.
  6. These rules may be amended or modified as is necessary to maintain the sanity of the researcher. Obviously I want to stay true to the spirit of the rules, but there may be some unforeseeable issues that need to be addressed later.
It's time...for SCIENCE!!
It's time...for SCIENCE!!

Preparations

In addition to gathering some of the games I’ll need to play to accomplish this feat of blogging, I’ve been using a database of racing games assembled by the users of the RollingStart racing game enthusiast forum to start preparing some spreadsheets and lists of all the games that will need to documented and ranked.

Since ordered lists on Giant Bomb are limited to 100 entries and I should eventually go over that limit, I’m planning on using the Google Docs spreadsheet linked here for game rankings.

Let’s Go Racing

Now that I’ve written this all out, I guess there’s no going back. There are anime kart racers and downhill touge driving games that need to documented and ranked, and while I may not be the most qualified person to do it, I’m still going to roll up the sleeves on this lab coat and apply some damn science.

I'm still trying to decide which games I want to start off with - don't want to kick things off with anything too good or too bad - but I’ll be back very soon with episode number one!

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