While the genre has been wildly successful in Japan for years,
horseracing simulations here in America have been few and far
between. Only Tecmo seems to be supporting the genre with any
consistency overseas, and that makes Gallop Racer 2003 by default
the best horseracing simulation this year. Luckily for fans of the
genre, itís one of the best ones yet.
The heart of the game lies in the Season Mode, which is as in-depth
for horseracing as Maddenís is in football. After creating a
jockey, the player will be taken through a short introductory
training course to get them familiar with the basics of
horseracing. Once training is complete, the player will then need
to acquire a starting horse to race and earn $$$ with. Once this is
done, the season mode plays out much like other sports games.
Horses can be trained to improve their attributes, raced to earn
money to purchase upgrades and new horses, and eventually retired to
mate and produce new racing offspring. If a horse has had a good
enough career, he/she may even get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Obviously selecting and training a horse is key to winning races,
and to this end each horse has a wide variety of attributes that
affect their performance in a race. These include speed, staying
power, stamina, power, temper, heart, and many others.
Additionally, each horse has itís own leg type, which determines
whether that horse prefers to lead the pack for most of the race,
trail in the back until the end, or fall somewhere in the middle.
Each horse also has a preference as to what kind of track it
prefers, whether it is turf or dirt.
As you can no doubt tell, the simulation aspect of raising,
breeding, and training horses far overshadows the actual racing
part. Thatís not to say that the actual racing isnít important
though, because obviously earning money is the key to building up a
winning stable of horses. Each race is broken up into three basic
parts: the start, middle and finish. Each part requires itís own
skills and tactics, and adequate performance in each is required to
have a good finish. If the horse is pushed too hard during the
middle stretch, itíll tire out quickly at the end stretch and fall
back quickly. Thus itís a constant battle to push the horse just
hard enough, without pushing so hard that the horse breaks down.
Graphically, Gallop Racer 2003 looks good enough for what it
is. The horses all look great, with many different body types and
styles. The menu layout is the typical Tecmo bland kiddy look, with
big colored bubbles to navigate through in a variety of bright
pastels. Each racetrack looks pretty good, and while itís all a
little dull looking thereís very little PS2 shimmer to deal with in
this yearís version. The weather effects are adequate, with some
decent rain and snow.
Soundwise, Gallop Racer 2003 is just slightly above average.
The quiet and peaceful soundtrack actually works well for this kind
of game, but it wonít exactly get your pulse racing when you hit the
track. The various horse sounds all sound realistic, as does the
crowd. Nothing to cheer about, but not bad either.
An incredibly deep simulation, with a ton of horses to choose
from and a myriad of attributes to consider.
The racing requires definite skill in order to be
successfulÖjust cracking away with the whip wonít cut it.
A peaceful and relaxing game, that still finds enough tense
moments in the actual racing.
Merely adequate soundtrack and effects.
Solid, but underwhelming graphically.
Gallop Racer 2003
is a deep horse simulation that will definitely please existing fans
of the genre, and perhaps even convert a few new ones as well. The
fact that itís the only game of its type out right now makes it a
must-buy for horseracing fans.