Crazy Taxi (Sega Dreamcast) – Retro Game Review

Crazy Taxi - Sega Dreamcast Retro Game Review

Crazy Taxi – Sega Dreamcast Retro Game Review
Crazy Taxi is a quirky driving game developed by Hitmaker and published by Sega in 1999. Crazy Taxi was extremely successful in its initial arcade release, and Sega got to thinking that they would be wise to release it on their new Dreamcast home console, as well.  The game saw release on the Dreamcast in 2000, and thanks to the hardware in the Dreamcast being very similar to the arcade version of the game’s Naomi hardware, it was a perfect port. In Crazy Taxi you play the role of a taxi driver in a world where there are no traffic violations, and raw speed is the name of the game. Drive around and pick up customers in your taxi, weave through traffic, and get them to their destination as fast as possible, rinse, repeat. That’s what crazy taxi is all about.  The game is a race against the clock, which is constantly ticking down. Every time you pick up a customer, they add time to your clock. The trick to the game is to get customers to their destination as fast as possible, so that you have some of the time that customer gave you left over for the next ride. Good players can actually make the time on the clock go up over time, rather than down. Customers are colour coded depending on how far away their destination is and how much they will pay you. Red is closest, and least money, then orange, yellow, and green, which are the furthest fares. You get bonus money for brushes with disaster such as catching air or passing another vehicle too closely.  Crazy Taxi has over 250 unique passengers scattered about the game-world, all looking to get somewhere as fast as possible.  If you don’t get a passenger to the destination fast enough, he or she will jump out of your speeding taxi in frustration. Ouch! Road rash!

Crazy Taxi proved wildly popular on the Sega Dreamcast home console, and has since seen release, along with its sequels, on PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, PC, Gameboy advance, and the Xbox consoles. Crazy Taxi’s producer, Kenji Kanno, wanted to make a different kind of game where the length of play could potentially be limitless, if the player were sufficiently skilled. He wanted to create something different, where a high skill level really changed the way the game was played, and how long it lasted. 

Crazy Taxi Sega Dreamcast

Crazy Taxi Sega Dreamcast
Crazy Taxi sold phenomenally well on Dreamcast and was one of the best selling games on the console, selling nearly 750,000 units in North America in the year 2000, which, considering the Dreamcast’s tiny install base, was a very high attach rate. It was one of the first truly open world driving games which would eventually grow to include legendary titles such as Grand Theft Auto 3 and Watch Dogs.

The music in Crazy Taxi was what really made the game shine, and was very edgy.  The audio tracks were a hand picked selection from punk bands “Bad Religion” and “The Offspring”. Gameplay was extremely arcadey feeling, and there were no vehicle physics or any hint of realism like what is seen in modern day driving games. Controls consisted of gas, reverse, brake, boost, and hand brake. Good players knew to brake and drive in reverse at the same time to stop faster, and used the boost and hand break constantly. The world had a variety of twisting and straight roads, suburban and urban areas, flat land and hills. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Crazy Taxi at the time of its release was its graphical fidelity. The world was more detailed than what was typically seen in driving games of the time. Buildings and storefronts had a high level of detail including names for the businesses. Some of these businesses were real-world companies, such as KFC and Tower Records. Windows had curtains and drapes, roofs were tiled or flat. The amount of variety in the buildings and road surfaces, some of which included light rail tracks, really lent itself to what, at the time, felt like a great detail of graphical fidelity and realism. The world is lush and vibrant. There are numerous different plants, shrubs, bushes, and flowers, and even the palm trees have a sort of wilted brown section at the bottom, just like in real life.

Crazy Taxi Jumps

Crazy Taxi on the Sega Dreamcast – Them jumps though
Crazi Taxis driveable cars, which are all taxis, vary from a 1970s muscle car to a 60’s cruiser to what looks like the classic New York City yellow taxi. All of them are convertibles, although its impossible to bring the roof up in-game.  The handling of the vehicles in Crazy Taxi could perhaps best be described as very loose and un-realistic. You can do crazy tail-slides with the hand break and you can easily be travelling at 100 miles per hour and slide into a 3-point turn. It’s fun, ridiculous, and extremely high adrenaline, but driving-sim enthusiasts will be disappointed by this sort of handling. There are four selectable drivers, each with their own car body style. Perhaps most telling of the fact that this is a 90’s game is that two of the four selectable characters are men with their shirts fully unbuttoned, and only one character is female. The rest of the cars in the game range from 1970’s and 80’s vehicles to contemporary 90’s vehicles. Many of them look like real-world cars, though there are no branded vehicles in the game.

There have been a total of five Crazy Taxi games; Crazy Taxi, Crazy Taxi 2, Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller, Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride, Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars, and Crazy Taxi: City Rush. However none of the sequels have review scores as high as the original game.  Sega has attempted to push Crazy Taxi beyond video games,  including a strange game where the player rolls a token down a sloped surface and tried to strike passengers with it, and two attempts at a feature film. Richard Donner was set to direct one of those films, which was set to release in 2003, but the film projects were quietly shelved.  The original Crazy Taxi game lives in the cherished memories of Dreamcast owners, and continues to be played on home consoles to this day, even having been made available free on Xbox Games With Gold in February of 2018. It is an excellent game and a very enjoyable one, and a great break-neck speed trip down memory lane, where passengers wait on the sidewalk for a 200 mile per hour taxi ride to Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is an excellent game which I highly recommend.  

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