Review: GT Advance Championship Racing (Game Boy Advance)

In this review, we go for the gold in the Game Boy Advance game GT Advance Championship Racing. We find out how well this racing game plays.

This game was released in 2001 and is the start of a small series.

There doesn’t really seem to be much of a storyline here, but you have a few different modes of play. You can try a practice run or a time attack. Both modes allow you to take on an already unlocked track in a car with whatever you happen to have unlocked at the time. Over top of this, there is Championship mode which is where you unlock everything in the game.

The game is divided into four classes: Beginner, Middle, High Speed, and Professional. Each class has 8 tracks to compete in. The goal for each track is to place in the top 3. If you want the best rewards (and better chance at standing a chance in later races), then you’ll want to get as many golds as possible.

If you finish in third place, you unlock he next track. Finishing second means you unlock the next track and unlock the part (if available) for upgrading your vehicle. Finishing first gets you all the previous rewards as well as a new car. Note that the professional class has no parts to unlock, so there is no difference between third and second there.

When you start, you have close to a dozen cars to choose from. If you find a car with decent stats at the beginning, chances are, you’ll stick with it to the very end. For me, the car of choice is the Silvia (PS13). From there, you’ll be able to unlock cars, but at best, the performance difference is so negligible, it’s almost just to show off a complete set of cars. The only thing you really gain is possibly finding a car that is slightly more suited to your driving style.

In each championship race, you’ll have 7 opponents (8 altogether). Most of the time, you start in dead last a fair bit back from the start line. Sometimes, you might start in 6th, but those races are short lived. The challenge isn’t that your opponents are fast, but rather, they have such a huge head start. For the lead car, this can range anywhere between a third of a lap ahead to nearly a full lap. As you climb the ranks, this deficit gradually becomes more and more of a challenge to overcome.

A huge advantage that you have is that your opponents generally don’t power slide. Instead, they slow down for a large portion of the turns and are slow to accelerate on the turns exits. This means that if you power slide through the turns well enough, you’ll quickly make up that lost ground one turn at a time. Straightaways don’t generally offer you much of an opportunity to make up ground. The only real exception is if you manage to slingshot your way out of the turns exit faster then your opponents. In that case, the momentum can carry you past your opponent on that stretch.

The game will throw some different types of tracks at you. You got your race tracks which feature your standard turns. There are “city” courses which largely feature hairpin turns. There are highway courses which feature a number of slower turns. Also, there is the occasional dirt track which also features slower turns. If you master the power sliding in this game, then dirt tracks can be especially fun because the loose terrain makes it easier to slide around at high speeds.

If you happen to turn too much, your car will spin out. So, beware of sliding your car too much in one direction or the other.

Occasionally, you’ll also have rainy conditions. This really just means wet road. As a result of these conditions, you’ll have less traction on the road. So, turning will be somewhat similar to dirt roads.

Beat the game and you’ll unlock an “extra” challenge. Complete it with all gold and you’ll unlock an additional “extra” challenge.

For me, this game is a bit of a mix between simulation racing and arcade. If you are into the arcade style of racing, you’ll probably struggle a little with mastering momentum and sliding around the course. If driving simulation racing games is more your style, then this game will probably have a fairly arcade style feel to it. Regardless, it’ll probably take a little bit of effort to get used to the driving style.

The game does manage to strike an interesting balance in difficulty. Sometimes, it takes two or three attempts to master the course and get that gold, but it’s not exactly impossible to win on the first attempt. It usually isn’t until the Professional class that things will start becoming rather difficult.

The unlocking system leaves a fair bit to be desired, though. I was honestly expecting that the game will eventually spit out an improved car part way through (at least by the end of the second class). As a result of the lacklustre performance of locked cars, it almost seemed pointless to try and unlock them.

The parts, at first, were nicely though through. Every so often, you’ll get a small upgrade to your car to help you tackle the better challenges. I thought for sure that there would be three parts for each class, but that isn’t the case. It’s like the developers gave up finishing this element of the game two thirds of the way through and said, “eh, good enough”. In some categories, there is only one car part upgrade you can even get. So, the part unlocking system feels rather incomplete – especially since you can’t unlock anything in the final class of the game which is a letdown.

As for the game length, it does border on being a bit on the short side. While the game boasts 32 tracks, most of these tracks house laps that can take less than 30 seconds to complete. So, you don’t actually get a massive racing game. Instead, some of these tracks seem like they were designed just to pump up the numbers so they can slap it on the side of the box.

Still, there is some enjoyment to be had here. It will keep you occupied for a few hours and beating the races does feel satisfying. Personally, though, I’m not sure this game has much in the way of replay value.

Generally speaking, this game has a number of things going for it. There is an interesting unlocking system in place that will keep you occupied for a while. You can tun your car to increase performance. Unfortunately, this unlocking system could use some work because you can very easily take a car you have from the beginning of the game and use it all the way through to the end. All the cars you unlock wind up being little more than collection building. Meanwhile, parts seem to suddenly disappear part way through, leaving the impression that this feature is incomplete. On a more positive note, this game does have a decent difficulty and learning curve.

Graphics is probably the games strongest feature. While you have the flat road surface, there are occasional features that you can see (rock formations, signs, etc.) from time to time. The cars, however, are 3D models which is an impressive feature for an early Game Boy Advance game. You generally are in a basic 3D environment after all of this. Additionally, this game does feature some basic visual effects as well. So, an excellent effort on this front.

Audio, however, is a different story. This system is capable of music that goes well beyond simple chip tunes. However, large portions of the music stick with music that matches the capabilities of Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. As a result, it winds up being a bit dated. A few tracks wind up being an exception, but there isn’t very many of them to be found here. Sound effects are OK, but are fairly basic. So, a bit substandard if you ask me.

Overall, this game does give players a very strong first impression. Reasonable difficulty curve, an unlocking system, and winnable races can definitely grab a players attention. Unfortunately, this game does have its flaws such as seemingly worthless car unlocks and an unfinished part system. Graphics are impressive thanks to basic 3D art being found here, but audio is quite dated. Still, this is a pretty solid game all around.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game. 6 Bronzes on the professional class. Scored gold on all the other races.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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