Tecmo’s version of this passion for horse racing has made it to the United States in Gallop Racer 2001. If horse racing is the Sport of Kings, everyone who plays this game should get a crown. Play it too much, however, and you deserve a crown of thorns. That’s not to say that Gallop Racer isn’t a good game. It is. It has loads of style, especially in the front end. If you tally up the overall features of the game — such as the complete design, the front end, the art, graphics, and animation — instead of just the racing elements themselves, this game comes out way ahead. If you approach it as an action title that involves horse racing, however, you may be bitterly disappointed.
Gallop Racer is fully 3D in all the right places. The horses and track elements are beautifully designed and textured. The game is a joy to look at, even while you’re simply setting up which horses to put in your stable and how to outfit your jockey. There are scads of individual races to investigate in the game’s database and there are more horses than names in the phone book (actually, about 1500 horses with individual names – most of them sounding like they were put together with a random English language generator). If you’re a simulation fan, you’ll love all the things you can do prior to and after each race.
If you’re a racing fan and you really just want to pick a horse and get into the action, you may have a different opinion of Gallop Racer. While the game’s polygonal engine is well made and avoids the slowdown that most PS2 games have from time to time, the level of interactivity within the races is actually quite limited. You can urge your horse on by pressing the analog joystick forward, or ease him up by reversing the direction. Going from side to side will help avoid other ponies in the pack, while pressing a button will apply the crop to your horse’s flank (either hand). You can also change your camera view to spot other riders as they make a run to overtake you. If you manage all elements correctly, you may be able to maintain a lead going into the stretch. If you don’t you’ll be picking grass out of your teeth nearly every time you come out of the backstretch.
Gallop Racer is a very pretty game to look at, especially in its front end (where all the horse trading, raising, and entering is done). The menu system is clean and very functional. The screens are well designed and offer wonderful views of the individual horses. The creature animation is some of the best anywhere.
The races themselves are nicely rendered and the game suffers no ill effects of having a full slate of horses and a 3D environment on screen simultaneously. If you look closely at the track’s infield, you can see some texture seaming and the low-poly look is more obvious. While you’re racing, however, this is not noticeable at all.
The game’s sound effects are appropriate for a horse racing game. The music is also appropriately understated.
This game is a blast for people who enjoy building and operating a stable, as well as racing the horses therein. If that’s your bag, you’ll probably enjoy this title very much. If you want to get in and enjoy the thrill of racing, however, you’ll probably want to invest in another title, perhaps one with weapons and power-ups.
This game must rate very high in Replay Value, considering the nearly limitless possibilities if the simulation aspects of the game. If plumbed thoroughly, Gallop Racer should hang around for a longtime. Unfortunately, the legions of twitchy video game fans in the U.S. are likely to ship Gallop Racer out to a glue farm after a few hours, if that.
Considering that controlling the horse the first time around the track is anything but intuitive (except the part where you beat the horse to death with the riding crop), the manual is a must read. The fact that Tecmo put full-color illustrations on each page is a plus! Call this horse Pretty, Pretty Princess.