There is a once-great series called Tokyo Xtreme Racer. Dreamcast owners loved it; if every other racer on the planet hadn’t aped and improved it, we’d recommend eBaying a system for that alone. Problem is, every TXR since has been a pallid photocopy of the series' 2000 height, Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2. Now, though no one asked for a portable version, we’re saddled with Street Supremacy, which is definitely not among the best games for the PSP.
The street racing genre has gotten stale like the last donut of a stakeout, but Supremacy at least has its own tricks. Rather than using an open city, you’re forced to join a racing gang, then climb the ranks to lead it and eventually take over the city. In a nonsensical move, cars gain experience points and level up as in an RPG; you’ll want to race drivers of similar level, or get smoked.
So there’s a pinch of strategy as you gradually work to assimilate the city’s competing clubs. A grid showing who controls each section adds an almost military feel, and in between races you’ll do the old-fashioned street racer thing and buy new parts and cosmetic "upgrades" with cash earned on the street.
There is one problem.
Developer Genki cleverly tried to hide the six metric tons of stone that each car is towing by rendering them invisible. But rest assured, that weight is there. How else to explain the steering, which makes a Mack truck feel nimble, or the acceleration, which otherwise would require engines residing in a non-Euclidian plane where going faster feels like not moving at all. If that’s not clear enough, try this: the racing stinks on ice.
No matter what Street Supremacy tries, it can’t get away from the actual racing, which is more boring and lethargic than we thought possible. Furthermore, Genki has retained the one feature no other game could be bothered to steal: each car has a life gauge. That’s great in theory, since the gauge drops not only after collisions, but as a car falls behind in a race. In practice, that diminishing life bar renders most races less than a minute long. Unless you’re perfectly matched with another car (which is rare) you’ll either leave the other driver in the dust, or be left there yourself. After that, it’s only seconds before the straggler’s bar is gone and the race ends. That means you won’t even explore most of the roadways that have been implemented. Given how painful it is to drive, however, that’s probably a bonus.
The lousy racing also means that the reasonably attractive graphics go to waste, and that the only one of the middling engine sounds you’ll want to hear is your own, cooling down. At least the atrocious techno music is easily silenced. So too should be any similar effort from Genki, which really needs to learn how to drive.