The series follows Takumi, an indolent teenager who, after delivering tofu for his dad's business in the early hours of the morning, finds himself to be something of an expert in the art of drifting down mountain roads. This in turn leads to him and others racing each other on a variety of Japanese mountains – perfect video game fodder.
The main guts of the game is the Story Mode which sets up a series of races via some FMV clips and static CG images. There is no voice acting in either of these which is immediately jarring and something that instantly stands out when played today.
Graphically the game is good – not a surprise given that this is a late era PlayStation title - although not in the same league as other games of that time such as Ridge Racer Type 4 or Gran Turismo 2.
The music deserves a mention also. Anyone who has even a basic knowledge of Initial D will know that it is defined by not only fast paced drift racing, but an equally high energy Eurobeat soundtrack. Inexplicably, this is missing entirely from the game. The music used sets the atmosphere well, but fans will notice the change and will lament what feels like a missed opportunity to add to the authenticity of the game.
In addition to the Story Mode, there is a Free Run Mode where players can race alone in order to beat their personal best time and a Two Player Mode which gives the option to race against either a computer controlled opponent or a second human player via split screen. Practice Mode rounds out the gameplay modes and is essential for a pressure-free way of learning the intricacies of each course.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time with the PS2, PSP or PS3 version of the game in that it is an acquired taste. Given the drift based nature of the series, the handling of the cars is suitably 'floaty' and sure to frustrate some players, especially those more used to the simulation end of the racing genre. However those that take the time to grow accustomed to the handling will find that delicate acceleration, steering, and braking (as well as a detailed knowledge of each track) will allow them to tackle corners with relative ease – and look good whilst doing so. The replays at the end of each race become essential viewing once you have got a firm grasp on the handling model.
The racing is kept varied as there are both uphill and downhill versions of each course and at certain points elements such as wet courses are introduced which have a dramatic effect on the handling and ensure that players are kept on their toes.
One more aspect, sure to please anyone who played the Initial D games on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable, is that the collision detection is actually better in this game than in any of those that came after it. Bumping into a car is still a long way from what would be called natural in terms of look or feel, but it is more realistic than the game of pinball that later versions became.
In the end, Initial D on PlayStation will appeal to fans of the series and anyone with a love of retro racing games. Long term Initial D fans will bemoan the exclusion of the Eurobeat soundtrack, but will appreciate the instantly recognisable characters, cars and tracks.
- Authentic Initial D experience which will please fans.
- A rewarding handling model.
- Presentation is generally excellent.
- Lack of Eurobeat soundtrack.
- Handling will frustrate some players.
- No voice acting.