Philippe Siruno (Monday, 27 February 2006)
Can a PSP really put out enough power to make a near-perfect arcade port of Initial D Ver. 3? Well, let's just say it crushes that task. Initial D Street Stage is a perfectly accurate port of the arcade games many people spend money on, buying cards/cars, battling against other racers, and doing the main modes as well. I'll break this game down, explaining about the graphics, sound, gameplay/control, fun factor and any other extras.
First and foremost, the first thing I have to say about this game is the graphics. Never have I seen a handheld game produce awesome graphics that rival an arcade cabinet. Every single course is accurate straight down to every detail, and all of the cars look nicely modeled during races. The trees and some of the background setting can look a little bit 2D, but you won't even care about those little things as you speed and drift through the courses. Replays are also a sight for sore eyes when you see the camera angles zoning around your car whether you battled or did a time attack. The sense of speed is simply amazing as things fly by and rivals are passed.
The soundtrack of the game has the same songs from the ver.3, added with some new songs. The voice actors also reprise their roles as they speak their thoughts while the race you in Legend of the Street. The sound effects are also accurate and sounds exactly like the arcade.
The only small gripe that I had was the play control. It may feel a little bit weird when you first play the game using the little analog stick. But once you get to the medium-expert courses, you'll respect the sensitivity of the steering when you drift a corner. The controls can be re-mapped to the buttons that suit you, plus the sensitivity of the steering can be adjusted as well. Eventually, the controls will feel more comfortable as you progress throughout the game. Drifting will become 2nd nature, downshifting into corners will feel smooth, and it'll all sink in. Trust me, getting used to the controls will be rewarding, guaranteed.
As for how fun the game is, it's simply a blast and has the same feel as the Arcade Stage. The Legend of the Street will be a little bit frustrating when characters like Takumi (AE86), Kai (MR2), and Ryosuke kick your ass. But since you don't have to insert a dollar every time to re-race, feel free to continue trying or practice their home courses on Time Attack (located below legend of the street).
The one thing that slightly separates ver.3 from Street Stage is the card system. Every time you beat an opponent or create record times in Time Attack, you earn cards to unlock art, voice samples, more music, two movies, and most importantly, tuning parts. Collecting all 200 cards isn't an easy task and adds replay value on top of beating Legend of The Street to unlock The Bunta Challenge. Instead of having only one car, there's a garage menu open for adding more cars to use so you won't have to beat everything with one card just like how people do it in the arcade. Cars can be modified in this menu in the first option translated as Tuning. The 2nd option is to select any of the cars that are stored in your garage, the 3rd option is where you can go through manufactures and grab any vehicle you wish, and the 4th option is to delete any cars you don't need in your garage. The Project D home page (located two bars above Legend Of street, or one bar above the options menu) is where you can view all the extra things you've unlocked from collecting the cards. Your "Card Collection" option is located right above the home page so you can look at your cards and unlock all the extras you have. I just recently found out that this game is Ad-Hoc so you can battle anybody who has the game so you can move up in ranks, trade rare cards, trade records, or just battle for fun.
All in all, this is definitely something unique to play for PSP and I would also consider this as one of the main reasons to own for PSP, since a mod chip isn't required for portable handheld systems. If you're looking for a new racing game to play and want to own a Japanese racing game, definitely give this one a try. If you're a die-hard fan of the anime and/or play the arcade cabinet religiously, this is a must-own if you don't own a mod chip for your PS2 to play Special Stage and you'll definitely save lots of cash from playing it in the arcade. I recommend checking this game out...