Shutokō Battle 2 (首都高バトル2)
Based on the popular Shutokō (which literally means “Tokyo, Expressway or Highway) driving series, in which you race on the infamous Tokyo Shuto Expressway's Bayshore Route using a tuned up mega car to battle against other illegal racers, Shutokō Battle was Genki’s final game for the Dreamcast and a real classy driving game. It was released towards the tail end of the system's lifespan and it really tells in the looks department. I particularly love the blur effects of the tail lights and the way the light reflects off of the cars. The resolution is also absolutely stunning, running at the systems optimal output (640x480), and overall I think you would be hard pressed to find a better looking DC game.
Unfortunately, while the game looks absolutely stunning there are some noticeable drops in frame rate when there are multiple cars on screen. It’s not as bad as say, the slowdown in Shenmue II but it is definitely noticeable which is a shame. As someone who has driven that route numerous times, the Shuto Expressway's Bayshore Route depicted in the game is extremely realistic, but due to the length of the route it requires the Dreamcast to constantly read and load the course ahead which at times amusingly leads to a sort of shaking sound coming from the system. Another issue you may have is that the game is always set at night and so the outline of the courses can be quite difficult to see during the daytime. Definitely, a game to close the curtains and play through during the evening.
Handling is smooth and the controller's analogue triggers provide an accurate way of braking and accelerating. Interestingly, there are non of the jerky control issues that found in Daytona 2001 which was actually made using this engine. The level of difficulty is well balanced and while initially you can only access the slower cars you can soon use the money raised during the battles to upgrade or buy new cars. It adds a kind of RPG element to the game as you battle rivals for cash which you can use to power up your cars. To keep the game balanced these power ups are only useful for certain parts of the course so it keeps you from having an all conquering super car and it’s fun to see which aspects are important for each area of the course. I particularly like the Daytona-esque rolling starts and the sensation of overtaking in the game. The game gives you a lot of freedom, you can choose which route to take and can turn off at different junctions on the expressway. The whole game really gives you the feeling of driving on the Tokyo Expressway.
Shutokō Battle 2 went largely unnoticed on its release in the West which was probably due to the game's relatively late release at the end of the Dreamcast's lifespan and didn't get the success it deserved. This is probably my favourite regular driving game on the system and would have been perfect if it wasn't for the somewhat off-putting framerate issues.