Game of the Month for October 2012 is Wangan Midnight for the PS3. It sounds weird right? Odds are you’ve probably never even heard of it…
A bit of history…Wangan Midnight began as a Japanese comic back in 1990. The story is about Akio Asakura who races his turbocharged S30 240Z on the bayside Shuto Expressway in Tokyo. The Wangan (meaning bayshore in Japanese) is a long stretch of highway and racers battle at high speed while avoiding traffic to get the win. Akio’s car has a shocking history of killing it’s owners on the Wangan as it is highly modified and hard to control. Akio’s nemesis on the Wangan is a Surgeon who drives a black Porsche 911 Turbo known as “The Blackbird.” Ok, so it kinda sounds like Initial D right? Well, Wangan Midnight actually precedes Initial D by 5 years.
In the game, there is a pretty lengthy story mode that has you racing either one or two competitors on the Wangan. Each race is point-to-point rather than making laps on a track and you’ll have to pass your opponent within a limited amount of time. If you crash into walls or the other cars and trucks on the road, it will REALLY slow you down. It takes some skill to navigate through traffic and maintain your speed around corners while keeping your opponent at bay. You can try to force your opponent into a crash by timing your weaves around other cars. For your JDM nuts out there, some of the cars in traffic are Mitsubishi Galant VR4’s!
My favorite feature of the game is the engine temperature gauge which will rise if you’re too heavy on the throttle. If temps get critically high, your motor will blow and you’ll lose the race. The key is to carefully manage the pressure on the throttle to find the proper range of acceleration, top speed and engine temps…all while negotiating traffic and minding your opponent’s position. The game is really challenging, but it’s also a great deal of fun! You can also watch replays of your battle with the typical “TV style” replay camera angles.
The game incorporates a card-system to modify your car. As you play, you will unlock specific cards that modify the engine, tires, suspension and cooling system for specific cars. If you pick up a copy, you can use the link below to translate the cards into English so you know what card applies each mod to every car in the game. http://wmexpressway.net/index.php?showtopic=30266
While the story is in Japanese, you can infer a lot from the cut-scenes in between stages. You can find Wangan Midnight for the PS3 on ebay for about $30-$40 and while it’s not super-cheap, it is unique and I enjoy it every time!