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Dreamcast Retrospective Day 1: Crazy Taxi

9/9/09 will mark the tenth anniversary of the beloved but short-lived Dreamcast, which entered our hearts on 9/9/99.  As a tribute to this special console, Zestful Contemplation will be running nine days of nostalgia-tinted coverage of Sega’s last console.  Enjoy.

There is quite simply nothing like the original Crazy Taxi.

There have been plenty of imitators, mind you; the franchise’s own sequels, to name a couple, both of which sucked.

But the original Crazy Taxi is still something special.

That magical blend of horribly grating music by The Offspring, funky controls that handled unlike any other game or real-world car ever created, and repetitive gameplay made for an experience you just couldn’t put down.

Even if you probably wanted to.

We give things the label of “arcade style” today, but we’ve largely forgotten what it means.  Crazy Taxi was one of the last true “arcade style” games that epitomizes what it means to be designed as a quarter-sucking arcade machine.

The play sessions are short.  The gameplay is shallow.  There’s a distinct lack of varied modes of play.  Your reward for playing is a meaningless score based on your performance.  The high difficulty and cheap tricks to make you fail will tempt you to hurl your controller at the wall.

But you won’t be able to put the blasted thing down.

Crazy Taxi is addictive as hell.  You’ll want to put up with its many shortcomings just to get that one more customer, just to boost your score that little bit more.

A few more minutes of play and surely you can do better.  Just watch.

It’s a wonderful feeling.

We call games “arcade style” these days, sure.  Dual stick shooters, such as Geometry Wars, seem to be especially fond of the label.  The increasingly meaningless branding is slapped on a great number of XBLA games.

But they’re all just imitators.

Crazy Taxi is an honest to goodness arcade title, and one of the last of its breed at that.  Street Fighter IV, from the very franchise that helped to start the arcade boom in the first place, is now slinking onto consoles with far more recognition than its largely ignored and poorly distributed arcade counterpart.  Other franchises have long since given up on the arcade entirely.

Crazy Taxi was the real deal.

There wasn’t much to it, and it wasn’t the type of game that would hook you for hours and hours on end, but it was the type of game that you would never truly get tired of.  You could always pick it up for “just one more game”.  

Even all these years later, I can still fire it up, have a go, and feel as comfortable as ever.  The Offspring screaming, “Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!” at me on the title screen never fails to bring a smile to my face.  I may listen to the song in other contexts, but this is the one it feels like it was truly meant for.

Part of me yearns for another try at a sequel, or a remake of the original game, or a port with shinier graphics, or even just the plain old original slapped onto XBLA or PSN; anything to make the fun more accessible so I can get my taxi driving thrills without dragging out the dusty Dreamcast.

But truly wishing for such things is folly.  They go wrong far more often than they go right.  There’s something unique about the original Crazy Taxi that I just don’t think could be remade.  

The crappy graphics, terrible control, and repetition of both soundtrack and gameplay are all part of what the game was.  Changing any of that would throw off the blend and make the taste tepid and bitter.

Maybe it’s best to just let it be.  

Not everything needs to be recreated, dragged from the muck and polished up again in hopes of drawing in a new audience.  Sometimes that just serves to make the cracks on the surface all the more visible.  

I like my Crazy Taxi just like it is, damnit, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of it.

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