I can only imagine Horse racing video games as a niche genre, enjoyed by horsey people that live in the country and wear Jodphurs at every possible opportunity. The reality is, however, that the G1 Jockey series of horse racing games from Tecmo Koei is actually quite popular over in Japan. It was not until the game made an appearance on the Wii, utilising the ground-breaking motion controls, that the game gathered more interest in the West. This September we will see the latest entry in this series of games with a few changes. The first and most obvious change is that it has been renamed as Champion Jockey: G1 Jockey and Gallop Racer. We shall just call it Champion Jockey…
The other big change, which has been made possible by the launch of Kinect and Move, is that the game will not just be available on the Wii, but also the Xbox360 and PS3. Making full use of the motion control systems, Champion Jockey will see the player taking control not of the horses, but of the Jockeys themselves. If you just let your imagination run for a minute, you can imagine the hilarity that will come from standing in your living room and pretending to ride a horse at high speed, moving your arms back and forth in a riding motion and occasionally making use of a virtual whip to spank your virtual horses virtual bottom. It is funny to play, and even more hilarious to watch. But thinking that Champion Jockey is some kind of game that trades on making the player look daft would be doing the game a great disservice.
Champion Jockey is a very serious horse racing simulator and pretending to ride a virtual horse is only a small part of what is needed to become a master of this game. In fact, even the pretend riding requires a certain level of skill. It is all about rhythm, and that is before taking into account the stamina of your chosen horse and whether it performs best at the beginning of the race or the end. A good laugh it may be, but to get the most out of this game the player will need to put on their professional horse racing head.
Stat lovers will be pleased to hear that they will have plenty to look forward to with the various different horses in the game. Success on the course will rely as much on picking the right horse as riding like your life depended on it. The game will feature a variety of different tracks with different surfaces, all of which have been inspired by real-world tracks, both for standard flat races and steeplechases.
Where would a modern game be without some multiplayer action? In Champion Jockey, players will be able to compete with others online, or even at home using the split-screen mode.
Champion Jockey launches on September 2nd and whilst I still consider this genre to be somewhat niche, this game is surprisingly accessible considering the subject matter. Besides, who wouldn’t want to stand in their living room and ride a virtual horse – Can someone shut the curtains please!
Check out our interview with the Champion Jockey director, Yasumasa Koshikari.