Retro Hanashi: Metropolis Street Racer (MSR) (Dreamcast)

“A truly wonderful experience for those willing to travel back in time and think differently about how they race.”

Modern day price range and availability:

Luckily, MSR is relatively easy to find online, but prices vary considerably. These days, you can find it for as little as ten dollars up to about 30, with the average price floating around 24 dollars. Your local game store might have it in stock; check online or call before you make the trip.

MSR for the Dreamcast: A Mesmerizing Jewel

I’m starting our Retro Hanashi corner with Metropolis Street Racer for a very good reason. When you pick up MSR, you might have certain expectations: it’s clearly a racing game; there are some very snazzy cars on the cover, so you might be collecting them all; and you get to race in three impeccably detailed cities around the world. But MSR is an unusual game, and it can give you a shock if you expect a run-of-the-mill racing experience from it. And that is what makes it so phenomenal: it breaks the mold and hands you a one-of-a-kind experience, like so many other Dreamcast games.

MSR, a game that knows how to set the mood, in a neat homemade case.

MSR is a street racing game that revolves around the concept of “Kudos.” You are rewarded Kudos not for how fast you drive, but “how you drive fast.” In English, that means that you have to drive clean, smart, and stylish — stay in the lines, avoid hitting traffic or rivals, and, most importantly, squeeze drifts and fancy turns wherever you can to rack up extra Kudos. Collecting Kudos allows you to unlock new challenges in single player, and beating said challenges unlocks new cars for you. You must beat a car’s specific challenge to add it to your garage, and afterward you can choose details like color and window tint.

Your garage begins with three slots, so you only keep three of the cars you earn, although later your garage expands to store up to six. For the most part, new cars drive better than old ones, so what you’ll be doing is keeping the cars that you perform well with while discarding those that are too sluggish or stiff. I find myself keeping cars that pulled through particularly hard challenges.

What I find so compelling about playing MSR is actually the difficulty of the challenges. Some can be quite grueling, and will certainly test your patience if you’re the hasty type. However, you will find yourself wanting to try again and again, not only because of the smooth gameplay, nor for the beautiful graphics and true-to-life time of day mechanics, but because of how these factors are pulled together by the game’s soundtrack. Only in MSR can I feel like I’m cruising along a dark city street, relaxing while watching rich colors swirl by landmarks in London, Tokyo, and San Francisco, with smooth jazz or dreamy techno playing. Why should I care if I’ve failed that hot lap seven times? I got to drive through Westminster with TJ Davis on the radio! Super cool!

The disk is cool, too!

Moving back to gameplay, MSR has over twenty chapters and is stuffed with dozens of individual challenges, of which only a few per chapter are full-on street races. The other challenges include hot laps, one-on-one duels, time attacks, and more. The interesting bit is, it isn’t only about completing the challenge you’re given. In MSR, Kudos is everything. You might ace that lap, but do it without style, and you’ll lose out on potential Kudos. If you’re two and a half laps into a street race and see that you’re losing, you can’t retry without exiting and forfeiting fifty of your hard-earned Kudos! Yes, Kudos is actually detracted from your collection if you quit or fail, but what does that tell the player? You keep trying until the last second, and challenge yourself at every moment. You feel immense satisfaction upon placing first, or even second or third, because you know you drifted oh-so-elegantly around that turn, gifting you plenty Kudos. If the challenge is too hard, you can leave it until you find a better car, or you can change the challenge parameters until you feel you can beat it. MSR hands you a mixture of flexibility, difficulty, and fun wrapped in a unique soundtrack backed by Sonic R’s Richard Jacques and TJ Davis. It’s a truly wonderful experience for those willing to travel back in time and think differently about how they race.

There is more to MSR than brilliant mood, however. Practice outside the chapters to hone your skills, and compete against your ghost in time attack. Enjoy split-screen multiplayer with a friend for a competitive take, and if you don’t care for the country tunes in San Francisco, just change your CD to play whatever you like, or nothing at all. Play a Joker card if you dare, to double your Kudos wins… or losses! Indeed, MSR is one of the best-rounded games I’ve played, and I proudly count it among my favorites.

Back when games pushed the limit and created experiences that were totally unique… MSR is what Retro Hanashi is all about.

It is honestly impossible to exaggerate when praising Metropolis Street Racer. To the group of impassioned developers working at Bizarre Creations over two decades ago: you deserve the highest Kudos! I may not have played the Dreamcast during its prime, but on behalf of all of your fans from the past and present, I thank you for this masterpiece!

That wraps it up for today’s Retro Hanashi. Thanks for reading, and…

See you later!