I feel like I plucked Kanjozoku Game レーサー (opens in new tab) out of a 2000s videogame store bargain bin. It’s an old-school arcade racing game that came out on Steam earlier this month for $6 (on sale for $4.49 right now), and it kind of rules, so long as your expectations remain in line with the tubs of banged-up cardboard boxes I’m recalling. It’s a cool time-killer that really ought to be purchased with crumpled up pocket bills, but a Steam Wallet will do.
Kanjozoku is a simple game: There isn’t much structure to it, and the controls aren’t complex, so no tutorial is needed. The races aren’t especially thrilling, to be honest, but Kanjozoku’s early-2000s Need for Speed and Midnight Club vibe and total devotion to car nerdery sells it for me.
In online mode, you can drive around a few basic tracks or a simple looping highway with other players, free driving or entering races. There’s no collision between players, which is a little disappointing, but probably for the best since they sometimes teleport from lag (I have no idea where the servers are or where the other players are, but there is text chat). You can collide with non-player cars on the highway level, although there’s no damage modeling; you just bounce off of them and carry on. (I wouldn’t want it any other way.)
Drifting is encouraged. I’m not a ’90s Osaka street racer, so I can’t say for sure, but on the spectrum of videogame car handling I imagine it’s somewhat closer to power sliding in Mario Kart than actual drifting. It’s not trivial—after some practice, I still tend to slide into walls—but it’s not a sim. You can switch between automatic and manual shifting, but you won’t find granular control options. (Or any other control options at all.)
I couldn’t find a way to directly play with friends, which is too bad. I couldn’t get the controller working on the main menu, either, so I have to switch to the mouse to use it. There’s no obvious way to rebind controls. And despite my Midnight Club comparison, don’t expect a big explorable city; it’s just some curvy roads to drive on.
But it’s $6, and I just like driving around in a classically boxy nighttime city, weaving through traffic to build a combo score. Plus, I was instantly sucked into the task of tweaking my starting Civic. It feels a little like the developer cares more about the cars themselves than racing them, and you gotta respect it. Using in-game yen earned from completing races, you can buy body modifications like new headlights, exhaust pipes, and bumpers. There are 20 engines to choose from, and eight engine upgrade categories. You can separately alter the front and rear camber of the wheels.
Zooming out, there are 19 car models to unlock, and they’re all what you’d expect to see in a ’90s or 2000s Osaka street race. I’m saving up for an Integra.
Discovering a $6 winner like Kanjozoku in an actual bin full of discounted games was, I think, slightly more thrilling than downloading one after noticing a few hundred “Very Positive” user reviews on Steam. But I took home way more stinkers in the 2000s, and the refund policy back then was “no.” Things are probably better on the whole these days.
There were around 300 people playing Kanjozoku when I tried it out today, and I had no problem queuing into races. The creator has already released several updates since Kanjozoku launched on Steam just a week ago, and the supportive comments I’ve seen from players are an encouraging sign. Here’s Kanjozoku’s Steam page (opens in new tab) if you want to check it out.