Top Gear GT Championship Hands-On

Kemco's Gran Turismo-style GT racer for the Game Boy Advance will launch with the handheld on June 11. Read our hands-on impressions.

With the exception of Top Gear Daredevil on the PlayStation 2 and Top Gear 2 on the Genesis, Kemco's TG series has been exclusive to Nintendo hardware. Following suit is Kemco's Japanese GBA launch title, Top Gear GT Championship. While it's a stretch to call Top Gear GT the Game Boy Advance equivalent of Gran Turismo, it's option-heavy gameplay and 20 licensed cars are enough to appeal to the same group. This SNES Mode-7-style driving game will be ready for the North American launch of the Game Boy Advance on June 11.

The two primary gameplay modes in Top Gear GT are championship and quick race. The championship mode lets you enter the All Japan GT Championship and race with real drivers and cars. You begin by picking a team and a car and then head to the first race. You may take a free run to learn the track, qualify and move yourself farther up in the starting grid, or jump straight to the circuit. You are awarded series points based on your finish in each of the three-lap races. If you hold the most series points at the completion of the final race, you take home a trophy and earn some new tracks and cars to abuse. In the quick-race mode, you and three friends can link up your GBAs, choose from some of the game's licensed cars, and go head-to-head. If you're playing solo, you can jump to the single mode, where you can go one-on-one with the computer or set lap records in the time-attack mode. Top Gear GT also includes an intuitive track editor so you can create your own courses. The Japanese version features a mobile phone option that lets you play against other drivers online and send or receive tracks using a mobile phone, but this option will likely be cut from the North American edition.

Each car is rated on power, torque, and size. Before each race, there are a wealth of car attributes that can be tweaked to improve performance on each specific track. You may adjust the gear ratio, steering, braking power, tires, aerodynamics, and weight handicap. The only omission is the ability to upgrade your car with new parts. Adjusting your car for the demands of each course is essential to keeping pace with the five computer-controlled cars. There is a lot of bumping in the corners, and one wrong turn can drop you from first to last in a heartbeat. Driving is fairly simple--A is the gas and B is the brake. If you choose a manual transmission, the shoulder buttons shift gears. As you enter each turn, a sharp press of the brake will make your car enter a slide, which provides you with more control through the turn.

Visually, Top Gear GT looks incredible for the first hour or so. But eventually you realize that the same pile of tires and the same billboard advertisements keep flying by. It doesn't help that each lap around the gargantuan tracks takes several minutes to complete. Mode-7 rotation and scaling is used to create the illusion of 3D, and the result is an excellent sensation of speed. The only complaint is that you can't see very far ahead on the track. Thankfully, there's a course radar to help alert you to upcoming turns. The cars are incredibly detailed, right down to the sponsor stickers, and it's easy to tell an NSX from a Toyota Supra. The graphical representation of rain is also convincing, thanks to the water splashing around the vehicles.

While simulation elements are less abundant in Top Gear GT Championship than in Gran Turismo or the other GT driving game for the GBA, THQ's GT Advance Championship Racing, the game manages to achieve a nice balance between simulation and arcade-style gameplay. Top Gear GT Championship is currently scheduled to release with the launch of the Game Boy Advance on June 11.

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