Games for Lunch: Choro Q
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2004
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site
0:00 I don't know how GameStop expected me to resist a game whose box says "Intense Racing Action," "Robust RPG Adventure" and "$2.99 Used" on the back.
0:01 An extremely outdated CGI cut scene shows a bunch of tiny cars racing around a track with a bunch more cars sitting in the stands. The inspiration for Pixar's "Cars"? A bunch of different foreign words for "Freedom" appear over a montage of these tiny, tiny cars zipping around some interesting racing tracks. High energy cheesy guitar music precedes the title screen. Pretty standard PS2-era intro.
0:02 The title screen has some extremely happy music and a cars driving around a very tiny globe with happy, vibrant colored houses. It looks like MySims more than "INTENSE RACING ACTION."
0:04 I think this is the first racing game I've ever played with an "Auto Cruise" button.
0:05 Cartoon "Brrrrrrr!"s fill the screen when I set the controller vibration. I have a feeling I'm going to like this game.
0:06 On to "Q Story," where I'm asked to choose a garage. I can choose the one with the blue roof, the one with the pink roof and the one with the green roof. These are the least manly garages I have ever seen. They look like the bridges of Madison County more than auto garages.
0:07 "A quick question! Who are you?" Wow ... that's deep. Oh, it just wants to know my gender and birth month. That's part of who I am, for sure, but it doesn't really delve into the deepest depths of my soul.
0:08 "Which keychain do you like?" There's an Arc de Triomphe, a blue racecar and a teddy bear. Is "None" an option? No. No, it is not.
0:09 "What is your first body?" I can choose from six chassis, including a minivan, a few buggies and a purple three-wheeled monstrosity that's "seen all over Japan." OK, let's try that.
0:10 "Welcome to ChoroQ Island. A long time ago, the Grand Prix was held here." The young prince, the Emperor of the Races, competed. "But one day, something happened... After that incident, the Emperor of the Races hid from the public. And now 20 years have passed." What could have happened? I guess we'll never know?
0:11 Extremely whiny engine noise as we fade in to see a yellow F1 car racing with others. "Where am I?" says Norahike, who I can only assume is the yellow car. "I can't speed up. I won't make it!" He crashes and burns on a turn. I can tell they're going for high drama, but the tiny cute cars and tinny noises make it hard to take this too seriously.
0:12 It was all a dream ... Norahike is OK. "Norkia, what are you trying to tell me." Yeah ... and who's Norkia?
0:13 Anyway, my purple car pulls out of the garage and gets spun around by a blue coupe. "Hey ACE, it's me, Barat." (My name is ACE). Quote of the moment: "Too bad you're slower than a snail goin' backwards!" That's ... that's pretty slow!
0:14 HA! Barat asks me if I think we're going to race together in the Grand Prix. I say no. "What?! Hey!! You're supposed to tell me 'Yes.' Or else I can't continue with the game introduction!" I love a game that can make fun of itself.
0:15 Now I'm in control, riding around Brachy Town from a mostly overhead view. My car has quite a bit of zip, and a nice short turning radius. Nice!
0:16 Crashing into other cars does not create a fiery crash, but instead makes me talk to them. Duh!
0:17 I drive into "Obsuff's house" and say hello. He responds, "Who are you? Get out of here!" Seems realistic ... y'know, for a game with talking cars.
0:20 After getting the cold shoulder from a few more town residents, I'm desperate to get to the racing. But I can't figure out how! Oh, well ... I stumble into a coffee shop and get some free "Lamp Parts." Whoo?
0:21 Quote of the moment, from the post office: "Through rain or hail, we deliver your mail."
0:23 At the Brachy Town Bank I find I have 7000G. I could send money, but I've "no one to send stuff to." Drag.
0:26 Back in my garage, I can customize my ChoroQ with parts. Barat recommends tires and steering first. Off to the Internet Shop: "Shopping made easier." Oh, I have not registered with any shops. Well, that doesn't seem very easy, then.
0:28 Back in town, I hop over to Body Shop No. 1, where I can buy a bunch of different chassis. That's great, but I want TIRES!
0:29 In the paint shop, I waste 100G changing my purple monstrosity into a neon green monstrosity. Are we having fun yet?
0:31 Here we are: Parts Shop No. 1. This town is too sprawling for its own good. I buy some "Normal Tires 2" and "Quick Steering." I'm impressed with the available parts options ... I can upgrade everything from the CPU to the horns and hoods.
0:33 All right, back to the garage. Let's start a race! I can choose from Conzlart, Daniche, Gapecoche, Bidampalc and Outpalya islands. Who names this stuff?! Gapecotch seems the default, so I head off to the Level 2 Beginner's Cup to start. There are a bunch of other "anytime" and "seasonal" races too. Neat!
0:35 "To play a CD, install a car radio." Good advice!
0:37 "High Speed Oval" seems an incredible misnomer for this first race. This is the slowest-paced racing game in recent memory. I get left in the dust at the start but quickly jump up in the rankings with my brilliant "Hold the accelerator and hug the inside line" strategy. In the end, I finish second by a hair and get 1500G for my trouble. Man, I need a better engine but fast!
0:39 Both the "two-cylinder engine" and the turbocharger don't really seem to help my acceleration much. They upgrade it from awful to mediocre, I guess. Still, every bit helps.
0:41 I got a letter from Barat. He says there are some "chicks" in the northeast that'll take my money if I lose to them. "For real."
0:42 Quote of the moment, from the in-game monthly newspaper: "Peace is the Best! Gapecotch was peaceful last month and nothing occurred." No wonder the newspaper industry is dying.
0:43 With my new engine, I feel emboldened to take on the Level 4 "Fight Cup" on "Sky Highway S." It says this is "the perfect name for this course." Er...
0:46 Despite my new engine, I'm well outclassed in this race ... I'm about half a lap behind after one lap. Yeah, let's stop this before it gets worse. Barat tells me if I win the Holiday Cup and the Beginner's cup I can join a team. OK then!
0:50 I race what I think is a perfect line in the Level 3 Holiday Cup, but I still can't do any better than 9th place. I can't top 120 on my speedometer. It seems success is based almost entirely on how powerful your car is compared to the other cars. So, just like Gran Turismo then?
0:52 Wow, an actual exciting race in the Beginners Cup re-race. Barat passes me, then I pass him, then we're bumping down the straightaway towards the finish line. All the while he pops up with messages like "Ha ha, I passed you!" Or "Just stay behind me!" I finish second by a nose, mainly because Barat wisely boxes me out and stops me from passing him.
0:54 Quote of the moment, from Barat: "Yaaaa! So awesome!"
0:55 I finish first mainly by boxing out Barat and not letting him pass. I get the ChoroQ177 as a "Victory Prize!" Also: "It's now Feb." OK then!
0:58 Equipped with a brand-new four-speed manual transmission (and a higher top speed), I decide to take on the Holiday Cup again.
1:01 Now this is more like it! I'm zipping along at speeds up to 170 on my speedometer now, and what's more, it actually FEELS faster and more exciting than before. I'm power sliding around turns and I actually have to brake and downshift to stay in control. I struggle for a fourth-place finish, but I don't really mind since it's a lot more fun.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Despite a slow, confusing start, the extremely Japanese charm and super-cute racing action have ensnared me.