A Japanese racing title that's as fun and quirky as you'd expect a Japanese game to be, though it should have been released on the N64.
Choro-Q is the Pokémon of the racing genre. The object is to enter races, win money, buy new parts for your racer, and collect new car bodies. You can then customize your car in any way you like, then race it that way. Even though it’s definitely a below-average title, there’s some fun to be had in this little game, but still only while it lasts.
The concept of the game is simple. You start out with a set of basic parts on your car (sometimes called a “Q“). You then enter races, win some money, and buy new parts to upgrade the basic attributes of your little racer. Then, you can take your souped-up hot-rod, enter more difficult races, and repeat the process. You can enter a single race or a six-track circuit race, the latter of which unlocks a new set of track variations if you manage to place high in it.
There are six track locations, all with short, medium, and long variations, as well as a backwards option, for a total of 36 tracks. They include a standard oval track, a high school campus, a snow-capped ski resort, a child‘s bedroom, and more. The game’s first circuit takes place in the six short-length tracks, then the second circuit goes through the six medium-length tracks, etc. After completing the forwards tracks, you go back to the shorter tracks in backwards (not mirror), where you start again. Each set of tracks can be unlocked one at a time by scoring a podium finish in each of the single races.
You are able to earn money in the single races along with the circuits, and this presents the game’s first flaw. You can keep racing in the single track events until you’ve hoarded enough money to make some substantial upgrades, then waltz in to the bigger-money circuit and destroy everyone. It’s a bit too unbalanced, especially when you get to the backwards tracks, since the CPU drivers will have downgraded their parts back to what they had in the original forward courses. You’re probably not going to downgrade with them, so you’ll just rip through the smaller tracks without even a hint of competition. It gets to be a little boring most of the time, since it generally turns some of the racing into one big time-trial.
During the actual race, you can do things that you usually couldn’t do in other racing games. There are some on-track weapons and power-ups you can get, like a shield, oil slick, nitro boost, or an object that slows down the next car ahead of you. Other quirks that make this game unique are some special moves your car can perform. When you press the L button, your car will spin in place. Similar to that of F-Zero X (but not as powerful), this move will slightly push away anyone else that gets a bit to close to you. If someone is trying to do this to you, you can simply jump over them with the R button. Jumping is quite handy in other situations too, such as pre-jumping before cresting a hill to be sure you don’t fly off the top of it, or righting yourself if you get flipped over.
Besides the racing, the other major aspect of this game is the ability to customize your little Qs. Some additions, like a engines and rear wings, will improve your top speed and acceleration. A new set of snow tires will help you in the snow track, but might kill your car’s handling on the park track, unless you change over to the off-road monster tires. You can switch the bodies on the vehicles, which can be anything from a Lamborghini Diablo to a urinal on wheels. A new set of rims or a different horn might tickle your fancy too. On top of all that, every car can be named and have its own color pattern, 100 in all. It’s really fun to tinker with the looks of all the cars and see them race on-track.
Now with all the good stuff out of the way, how does the rest of the game stack up? Well, for starters, Choro-Q looks like a gorgeous N64 game. It’s too bad the system in question is the GameCube, though. Some of the car bodies and track backgrounds are embarrassingly simple, and you can almost see the shapes of the polygons that make up all the background objects. Don’t confuse that with jaggies, though, as everything in the game is very smooth against the backdrop. However, something else will stick out like a sore thumb from time to time, and that’s a questionable framerate. When multiple cars are around and you are going at a high rate of speed (at the beginning of the race when you get a boost start, for instance), the game chops up significantly. For the type of graphics the GameCube is pushing, this is inexcusable.
Although there are some pretty below average areas in the way the game looks, there are some good things too. Despite the fact that the game does feature simplistic graphics, the style in which it’s presented is rather cute. In the Kids’ Room Circuit, for instance, racing up a transparent ruler to the top of a desk that overlooks the rest of the track is pretty cool, as well as screaming down the other side of it on another ruler. It’s also pretty neat to see a giant snowball heading straight for you as you charge up a hill in the snow-covered track. (Just make sure it doesn’t hit you.) However, even though the presentation of the game is “cute," the fact of the matter remains it is far too simplistic for the GameCube’s high standards.
Control is a little unforgiving. Even with an extremely high handling attribute (which doesn’t max out, no matter what you do), you’ll still spin to a stop with any extreme turn. This is made worse by the fact that there are many sharp turns littered throughout the courses, so you’ll have no choice but to turn hard. Coupled with really sensitive steering, cars will be sliding around the track far too much. It would have helped greatly if the controls were tightened up some, as you’ll be correcting any tick of over steer with over steer the other way.
Sound effects and music are in the same category as the graphics, meaning they are far too simplistic. There are only seven music tracks in the entire game: The menus, and one for each of the six track locations. We’re talking low quality music here, and it doesn’t help that they get repetitive after some time. Sound effects sound just as generic. The engines sometimes sound out of sync with the relative speed and gear your car is in, and anything else you hear happening on-track is simplistic down to the bone. At least the developer was kind enough to include stereo sound.
Even with all the poor work done on most of this game, the bright spot in all of it is all the stuff there is to collect. With 100 car bodies to buy, earn, and unlock, just about as many parts to go along with them, 36 total track variations, four-player support, and even a GC-GBA connection (for those that want to also import the GBA version of this game), you will want to come back to this game from time to time to make sure you’ve got it all 100% completed. It’s fun when you start playing it, and even though it gets more and more boring and tedious as you go, for a quick race or two, it’s just the thing.
Since this game won’t see a release outside of Japan, should you import it? Well, if you’re worried about the language barrier, as long as you’re okay deciphering katakana, you’ll be fine. Otherwise, there are a few menus that are self-explanatory, with everything else in Japanese. As for the game itself? It’s really not worth the import unless you’re a general fan of the Penny Racers/Choro-Q games, and even if you are, you might want to seek out Penny Racers for the N64, as there isn’t too much of a difference between that game and this one. Even though Choro-Q has some fun parts to it, overall it’s just not enough to rescue this game from mediocrity.