SEGA’s port of the arcade title Crazy Taxi came about in 2000 during the middle of the Dreamcast’s life cycle, becoming enough of a success to spawn two sequels and a number of additional console ports throughout the rest of the Noughties. In the transition from arcade to console the game retained its iconic soundtrack – one that featured tracks by The Offspring and Bad Religion, among others – along with the bright, crayola-coloured graphics. SEGA binned the original steering wheel peripheral, added in a new city setting, and then essentially left the game alone to develop a fanbase beyond arcade venues.
Here we are ten years on and Crazy Taxi has moved on to the modern living room after being delivered to XBLA and PSN. In terms of its similarities, you still have the old recognisable set-up. You play as one of four possible taxi drivers, picking up fares and driving them to different locations as quickly as possible. Each customer will pay a flat fee, with the total sum depending on the distance you’ve had to travel and the moves you pulled on the road – that’s the crazy portion of your ride, trivia fans. The game is incredibly fast-paced. Bonuses are given out depending on how well you’ve performed various stunts, and these work toward your final grade given out at the end of the game. Basic drifting and acceleration moves will be taught to you in the tutorial, with acceleration, a standard boost move which essentially is the best tactic to have on-hand at any given time – a standard move that’s triggered by quickly going back and forth between Drive and Reverse.
For ten years the objective of the game has been about testing the limits of your reflex abilities. The controls aren’t necessarily difficult to learn – reverse with the accelerator floored to execute Crazy Stop, slide between oncoming traffic in a side-long swerve with Crazy Drift – but the challenge of mastering them under the constraints of time and speed is what makes the game more complex than a simple Fedex quest-styled driving simulator.
The game now comes in two flavours – Arcade and Original – with each mode essentially just adding different constraints to the normal gameplay. Original finds you working within a set time limit of 3, 5, or 10 minute sessions, while Arcade simply has you continuously driving passengers to their destination, extending your time with each fresh pick-up. There’s also a challenge mode called Crazy Box, which helps to introduce you to more complicated manoeuvres. Sixteen challenges are available in total; each one is only tens-of-seconds long, but they’re built to be repeated until the moves are perfected.
But despite being technically identical to the original, this new port has omitted some of the aspects that have kept the game in the nostalgic part of gamers’ hearts. It’s an unfortunate situation considering that nostalgia is the motor of this game – and arguably of any port based on a successful ’90s title. The market for Crazy Taxi will likely be made up of its already-existing fanbase who are looking to dust of a little piece of early 2000; sadly, licensing issues leave you pining for vintage Crazy Taxi, rather than experiencing it.
The much-loved soundtrack has been chucked away, and whether you like The Offspring or not, this was clearly a distinctive part of the game’s identity. In its place you’re given basic rock soundalikes in the background, which is a purely functional alternative. Similarly, the translation of the city might be visually the same, but somehow it feels overly sanitised. You’ll be missing the in-game adverts that were one of the most notable parts of the original setting. The KFCs, Pizza Huts and Levi stores were a significant part of the Crazy Taxi experience, and they were used as actual objective points in the game. Now these brands have been replaced with generic doppelgangers – like Pizza Place and FCS (Fried Chicken Shack).
The contemporary changes to the game include a leaderboard, four avatar awards and achievements based on earning C, B, A and S ranks on Arcade and Original city modes and by completing enough of the Crazy Box challenges. As with their re-release of Sonic Adventures, SEGA have given the old game a bit of an HD gloss to its graphics and addressed the complaint many players had about SA regarding the game’s display ratio on widescreen televisions. But the goal of a port whose appeal is laden in nostalgia is to bring that nostalgia on board, and unfortunately it’s very apparent what is missing in this game.