E3 2011 Impressions: Champion Jockey (Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii)

Is there a more niche genre in America than the horse racing genre? My wife loves horses and horse racing so many years ago I got her into horse racing video games. We’ve been fans of the Gallop Racer and G1 Jockey series for some time now, despite the fact that not many of the games get released in America, and when they do it’s usually in limited quantities that don’t sell very well. Now that Tecmo and Koei have merged they are releasing Champion Jockey, a merger of the two developers horse racing titles.

I was shocked to see it at E3 and playable. I decided to try it out for the Nintendo Wii to see how the motion controls worked and ended up having a really odd demonstration from a scantily clad booth babe. She showed me that you are supposed to hold the nunchuck and remote in both hands in front of you then work them back and forth in the kind of rhythm that you might see while horseback riding. Then near the end of the race she showed me how to use the remote like a whip to make the horse dash to the finish.

There are places I’d probably have to pay for a demonstration like that.

About the game though it looks great, and had demo booths available for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 systems. The Wii graphics were noticeably worse, as someone who has played a lot of the PS2 versions of the prior G1 and Gallop Racer games it was on par with that. The other two systems had much nicer graphics. The game should be immediately accessible for fans of either of the two major horse race games.

The demo had a list of horses, you could choose which to race. Each horse had a ton of stats about the distance it was used to racing, what part of the pack in was most comfortable in, if it was a fast starter or liked to dash at the end, and so on. Just a ton of information on each horse is available. The game had two a more advanced control type, which should be expected for fans of G1 Jockey, and there was a more simplified control scheme to use as well.

I had a chance to ask a representative a few questions, and to my understanding it is getting a fourth quarter American release, there will be online play, split screen racing, and I was told that there would be a split screen career mode as well. Like most of these type of games some of the most rewarding aspect is actually breeding, raising, and then racing a horse of your own and building a whole stable of horses. The fact sheet provided after the fact did confirm the game will be compatible with Kinect and Move as well as with normal controls, and will also offer things like fence jumping, stepplechases, and up to four players online.

I don’t know how well the series will do in America on the current generation of systems, but hopefully Champion Jockey will help grow the genre here. At least I hope so, because otherwise I’m going to have trouble finding online games to join.

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