Reviewed: June 21, 2006
Released: May 2, 2006
Gallop Racer 2006 is a rather niche game for a niche genre. Many gamers enjoy various types of racing games, but horse racing, which is the main focus of the Gallop Racer series, is not for everyone. In fact, it's pretty much designed for horse racing enthusiasts, a type of person that I myself have never actually met. They are out there of course, and that is why the latest installment of this series, Gallop Racer 2006, is bound to be a big hit for a certain group of people, and more or less confusing and dull for the rest.
While it's true that I could never quite get into Gallop Racer 2006 (I admit it; I've always found horse racing to be about as dull as watching golf with my Grandpa nodding off in the chair next to me), it's still apparent to me that true fans of horse racing will most likely have a good time with this game. There is after all, a lot to do, so if you can't get enough of this horse racing stuff, you're in luck.
Gallop Racer 2006 boasts several different modes; Theme Park mode, Free Mode, Simulation Mode, and VS. Mode. Theme Park Mode is where most of the good stuff in the game takes place. You can earn titles by racing in various heats, breed horses in order to create your own custom horse, and lounge around in your swanky home, ogling all the cool trophies, titles and custom horses that you have bred.
The first thing I learned here, was that in order to review Gallop Racer 2006, I had to basically learn a whole new language. Like I said, I'm not particularly enthused with horse racing, so all of the terms that are used in racing the ponies were more than a little confusing for me. The horses all have different temperaments, performance issues, tendencies that can make or break a race, and how your jockey rides certain horses, can bring out the best and the worst of each individual horse. And there are a lot of horses to race. A LOT.
The list of horses with names like Ancient Squirt and Air Cancer stretch on and on and on, so if you have no earthly idea about which horse you would like to take for a ride, my advice is to randomly select one, find their strengths and weaknesses, discover which one meshes well with your preferred playing style, and never complain that Gallop Racer 2006 never gave you enough variety to choose from.
Each horse has different stats, such as speed, staying (which is how well the horse stays at top speed), stamina, breaking (how quickly the horse reaches its top speeds), power (how well the horse performs on rougher terrain), feel (how easily the horse shifts speed) fierce (the horse's apparent desire to be in front), tenacity (how well the horse can keep going even after its been exhausted), courage (how much your horse like strutting its stuff at major events), and response (how easy the horse is to control).
On top of these various stats, which range between 1 and 100, course aptitude, distance aptitude, leg (which is running style. See? I learned a thing or two from Gallop Racer 2006) and how much of an interval of time your horse needs to rest in between races all need to be paid attention to if you want to know how best to race each individual horse.
If the hordes and hordes of horses with bizarre names (Lemon Family and I became great friends, but Swallow Turkey and I were glad to part ways. With a name like that, I couldn't take him seriously, and he knew it) aren't enough, then you can also breed your own. Breeding is time consuming, as I'm sure it certainly is in real life. You may view each horse's pedigrees back four generations, which means viewing temperament patterns, special abilities, and warnings of any in-breeding.
Breeding horses costs points however, which are mainly won through placing in races and winning bets. (Yes, you can bet on the horses. This just wouldn't be a good horse racing game if there was no good old fashioned gambling to partake in.) So choose wisely and be meticulous about which horses you want to breed.
Free Mode allows you to just go race without worrying too much about titles, or trying to get your horse into the hall of fame. VS. Mode is pretty self explanatory, so if you've got other horse racing enthusiast friends, or are trying desperately to convert your friends, VS. Mode is where to start. Simulation Mode is what it sounds like, only not exactly as exciting as it may at first seem. Here, you can micromanage just about every aspect of Gallop Racer 2006.
The object here is to create your own race, complete with whatever horses and jockeys you want, whatever rank, sex, leg, handicaps, and more you would like to set, what track you want to race on, what date you want to race on, and what weather you would like to see the race in. Set betting odds, and approximately 36 hours and 17 minutes later, your dream race can be witnessed! And then...well, that's it.
At this point in my Gallop Racer 2006 experience, I realized that what may be missing for a lot of gamers in this game is the real racing experience. With the tons of micro-management and the special care that needs to be paid to statistics, the racing really seems lackluster.
After carefully breeding your own horses, studying individual horse stats, and finding the one and only horse for you from the endless list there is to choose from, you then get to basically whip your horse to make it go fast, show it your whip to make it go fast, flick the reigns to make it go fast, and try to keep the pace of your horse at a good speed so it doesn't get exhausted--for about three minutes.
It seems like quite a bit of work just for a few minutes of less than stellar racing. If you're looking for a racing game that's exciting and fun, and with horses, well, you may be a bit disappointed in what Gallop Racer 2006 has to offer. Only true lovers of horse racing who know the system inside and out, and love the statistics and micromanagement that plays such a big part in the sport, are going to have much fun with this game.
First off, let me just say that the most important visual aspect of Gallop Racer 2006 is obviously the horses, and the game does a pretty good job when it comes to their design. The horses are beautiful. The shine of their coats, the detail to their impressive muscles, the natural flick of their tails, the way their manes blow in the wind, the very realistic and individual gaits are all awesome. Of course, with so many horses to choose from, some designs appear to be repeated, but there is still quite a variety in coat color, hair color, and markings. The horses are graphically the best part of the game.
This is a good thing too, considering the rest of the graphics are pretty poor quality. In fact, the rest of the game more or less looks like a late PS One game. When the camera pans out before a race begins to reveal the stadium and the audience, the flaws are very obvious. The terrain is grainy, the audience is merely a sea of fuzzy dots, and the weather effects certainly don't add anything the atmosphere, except the apparent lack of attention that was paid to making the game look a bit sleeker.
To top it all off, there is a woman in the Theme Park mode who helps you get your feet wet when you first start out whose physical proportions are all off. I thought perhaps at first, this was done by developers on purpose, to give her a chibi or cartoonish appearance. I then realized that this made little sense, given the hyper-realistic horses, and the entire nature of the game that is obviously more appealing to adults. Her freakishly large head and stick body are just more examples of poor graphic quality.
The music in Gallop Racer 2006 is... odd. Imagine if you will, the opening screen, accompanied by a triumphant, hustle and bustle type orchestral theme that is typical of Olympic-style sports games. Okay, nothing wrong with that. A little unoriginal, but it's a moot point for the most part. Then, as you enter the selection screen, you hear a strange, sleazy tune start, which is vaguely reminiscent of the openings of some god awful 70's disco songs, and then slowly turns into laid back lounge music with what sounds like an Indian sitar playing over it. This is... okay, I suppose, but for a horse racing game? It seems a little bit out of place, but you do get used to it. At least it's not annoying, and it's original, if a bit odd.
Sound effects are almost zilch. Besides the sound of a whip hitting your horse's ample behind, thudding hooves, and commentator that says about four different phrases, there really isn't a whole lot to report. Where is the horse whinny? That's what I'd like to know. You'd think perhaps at least of few of these horses are the talkative type, but I didn't hear a one the whole time I played.
Given the endless array of horses to race, the extreme micromanagement through breeding and Simulation Mode, the many titles to earn, the many races to try out, a vs. mode, along with the very re-playable that is usually inherent in racing games, Gallop Racer 2006 really shines in the value department. The only problem is that this game is so niche, your average gamer isn't going to care about this game at all. In fact, it will seem downright boring, and the plethora of things offered to do will seem more like an annoyance than a plus. If you happen to be the niche gamer this game is intended for however, then Gallop Racer 2006 will keep you busy for a long, long time, and probably happily so too.
Horse racing isn't the most popular sport/hobby/addiction out there, but for those that are into it, it's exciting, fun and even fulfilling, just like any other sport/hobby/addiction. If you feel this way about horse racing, then Gallop Racer 2006 would be a good investment to feed your need for the ponies. However, if you don't feel that way about horse racing, then you'll probably want to skip this one, as it will be confusing and not much fun at all.
To each their own of course, but this game's developers probably could have put a bit more effort into Gallop Racer 2006 in order to make it more accessible for people who are curious, or just think the idea of a racing game with horses is cool. As someone who feels just like that, I can respect what Gallop Racer 2006 is about, but I'm a little disappointed too.