Review – ChoroQ

Developed by Atlus
Published by Takara
Released 11.14.04

Choro Race
Win this race to unlock secret driver Lindsey Lohan.

ChoroQ caught my attention because it claimed to be a racing RPG, a genre I didn’t know existed, much less one I had any experience with. I figured, even if all I got out of the ten bucks it cost was another obscure game for the collection and a few minutes of distraction, it would be a worthwhile purchase. Disclosure: my experience with pure racing games is limited to a ton of time spent with Gran Turismo 3 and a de minimus amount of time spent on a few other, minor titles (not counting the Mario Karts of course). Gran Turismo 3 was a great game, and this was apparent to a novice in the genre such as myself, because of the depth of the gameplay, and the level of customization. The realism probably figured in somewhere, but since I don’t know (or care) about car racing I’m not sure that was even apparent to me. I like to think I can recognize quality games even in unfamiliar genres, so maybe that’s it. I tend to come at the numerous racing-RPG games more from the RPG side of things. This is somewhat unfortunate, since apparently ChoroQ is but one in a series of games, and the one with the most focus on racing as opposed to character interaction, plot, and all the other things that make a game an RPG.

My first impression of ChoroQ is that it was quirky enough to be cool, but just not a very good game, no matter how you slice it. My aim in continuing to play was basically having enough experience with the game to be justified in writing a bad review. Eventually the game did begin to grow on me though. One of the novel gimmicks is that you do not drive a car in this game. Rather you are a car. You don’t speak to other drivers, you speak to other cars (somewhat rarely, although it does happen). Also unlike traditional RPG’s, you do not gain levels by fighting. In fact you don’t really gain levels at all. You improve yourself simply by placing high enough in races to acquire money which affords you new and better parts for your car/self (self-car?). Not a bad system, but not really enough to qualify the game as an RPG, since several other racing games have this feature. What makes the game an RPG is the fact that there are other characters with whom you must interact on your way to becoming the heroic champion of the Gran Prix. Despite the fact the game strays so far from traditional RPG’s in so many other ways, the game sticks to the book here and makes the characters completely clichéd. There is the old coot that was once champion and sees promise in you, the “tough kid” who gives you a hard time about beating his younger brother in a race, and the rest of the ensemble. Flat and boring. Characters basically serve to advance the superficial plot, which exists because it’s the only way to get certain upgrades for the car.

Read as you've driven
A crop planting mini-game. It’s like Harvest Moon in a car.

The game includes the staple side missions. Frequently, these take the form of “bring X to character Y” but occasionally they turn out to be a somewhat interesting minigame. Planting and harvesting crops comes to mind. The minigames lack depth, but provide opportunities to break the game up a little and score some quick cash. Good enough.

As this is a racing game at heart, the racing system probably warrants some mention. Races are generally very short, which is good since in my mind they basically serve as cash machines that you have to wait a few minutes to access (the outcome is occasionally in doubt so there is something to play for I suppose). The races are varied across a few axes. Some are off-road and some are on tracks. Some have a variety of different surfaces including track, mud, water (you need to purchase propellers for yourcarself) snow, etc. They vary in length and difficulty. Then they let you do the same courses, but make them slightly longer or at night. The bottom line is always that you will be able to beat the race you are stuck on after purchasing a new transmission or whatever was holding you back. This is ultimately an empty victory since, while it is satisfying to finally destroy opponents that had been beating you, you really only win because your car improved rather than your strategy or ability. The cars handle like the toy cars they are. The races lack any kind of real depth or difficulty. Basically hold the gas the whole time and if you are fast enough you win.

Watching, then thinking about later
The wise old car discussing the future with the young naive car. It beats Cats.

There is a system in place whereby you must join a team at a certain point in the game. Doing this allows access to certain new upgrades, and allows you into a few new races. You have a choice of three teams, and the one with the toughest qualifiers has the best upgrades. Not much to this. It is essential that you join a team, but I can not imagine too many players will really care which one they join.

After a few hundred words of complaining about this game, it is only fair to mention that it is oddly engrossing. This may be the inner RPG nut in me who can not rest while the acceleration bar is not yet full, but for whatever reason I do keep coming back to the game. There is a desire to have the absolute best car, with the best everything, if for no other reason than that the game tantalizes you by letting you see parts you are not yet close to being able to afford very early on (Twin ten-cylinder engines for $300,000? Let’s see, I have $400…). A final recommendation? I’d say ChoroQ is below average in terms of graphics, gameplay, plot, character development, and many other qualities important to the driving RPG genre, but it has a certain cache value born of being almost the only game in its genre.

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