With driving games--specifically, street-racing games--being the most oft-developed genre on the PSP, it's nice when a developer tries to turn the trend on its head and do something a little different. Unfortunately, in the case of Konami and developer Genki's Street Supremacy, different did not amount to good. Known primarily for its work on the long-running Tokyo Xtreme Racer series, Genki has taken its inviolable franchise and shrunk it down for the purposes of handheld racing. Unfortunately, the shrinking process has managed to rob the already aging Xtreme Racing formula of the few remaining enjoyable components it had, and what you're left with is a patently tedious racer that revolves more around you skipping through menus and sitting through loading screens than it does actual racing. Not to mention that Street Supremacy includes quite possibly the most perplexing and seemingly broken ad-hoc multiplayer mode we've ever seen on the PSP.
The whole crux of the Tokyo Xtreme Racer series had been about you, a lone driver, cruising the various freeways of Tokyo, seeking out other like-minded racers to compete against. Typically you'd be able to free-roam around the highways, specifically seeking out opponents. You can't do that in Street Supremacy. The main story mode is called the team rumble mode. Here, you buy your first car, and sign up with one of several racing posses milling about the Tokyo freeway system. Once you've joined your clique, you're told by the leader of your team (or at least his car--you never actually talk to people in this game...just cars) that you've got to compete against other rival drivers to up your rep and help the team earn new territory.
In this respect, Street Supremacy is almost more like a street-racing strategy RPG than a pure racer. That sounds completely insane and kind of awesome on paper, but the way in which this all works out within the context of this game pretty much sucks away all the fun immediately. The process goes something like this: You're presented with a grid that shows all the different territories occupied by the different racing crews. You can travel to any one of them and race against the other racers in the area. Winning these races helps you earn cash for car upgrades, as well as experience to level up your ride. Every car has a level associated with it, and like in a typical RPG, if you try to go up against too high a level of an opponent, you'll get smoked handily. Once you've defeated all the racers in your chosen area that are within range of your current level, there's nothing else you can do that day, and your best bet is just to go back to the game's garage area, which consequently ends your racing day. After that, you go back, choose another area, repeat the process, and keep doing this until you've leveled all you can level.
Periodically, these various level-grinding races are broken up with ranking battles and team battles. Ranking battles are simply races you engage in to up your rank within your own team. Once you've beaten everyone else, you can then race the team leader. Beat him, and you can lead the squad. Team races are elimination bouts of five versus five, where the last team with racers left standing is declared the winner. The only way you can engage in a team battle is if the opposing team is weak enough. If their dominance rating is shown as weak, you can go after them, and if you win the team battle, your team takes over their territory.
Again, this all sounds kind of interesting in theory, but the actual racing in Street Supremacy is so markedly bad, that it completely negates any desire to continue on with this process. The races use the same sort of formula that the Tokyo Xtreme Racer games did. You and another racer each have something of a health bar that appears at the top of the screen. The racer who falls behind starts having their health drained as time goes on. The funny joke about this system is that it basically makes the vast majority of races take no longer than 30 seconds to a minute, tops. You either fall hopelessly behind, or start out somewhat behind, overtake your opponent, and then speed off, never to be caught again. All the courses in this game do have a finish line of sorts, but you'll only ever stay close enough to an opponent one out of every six dozen races or so. Couple this lame system with cars that handle turns about as well as a brick on wheels, and you're going to have next to no fun with this game's driving mechanics.
It doesn't help that the team rumble mode breaks up the action with an endless array of menus and loading screens. From the main hub area of the garage, you'll have to go to an area select menu, choose from one of two possible sections of your selected area, and then go to the free battle area, where you scout for potential opponents. Unfortunately, it takes about five to eight seconds for each potential opponent to load up within this menu, and it takes roughly 10 seconds in between each previous menu-area jump. When you do actually select a race, it takes in the neighborhood of 20 seconds for that race to load. So what you really end up doing is spending well over a minute of menu browsing and loading to get to a race that could potentially be over in half that time. Want to take a guess as to how long it takes for the game to load the menus back up after a race is over?
There also really isn't much else to Street Supremacy beyond the team battle mode. There's a basic time attack mode, as well as ad-hoc multiplayer. However, the ad-hoc multiplayer doesn't even work, or at least not the way it's advertised. It looks like it's just supposed to be a basic head-to-head race against a friend, but none of it works quite right. Essentially, everything goes crazy after you and your opponent are done selecting your cars. No matter what car you choose or they choose, you will always see a duplicate of the car you chose in your opponent's spot, and they'll see the same thing. Once you get the race going, if you look at the two screens side-by-side, the behaviors of the opponents on each screen will sort of look like they're mimicking the turns and moves of the real-life players, but after a while things will diverge to the point where it doesn't even look like the two of you are in the same race. Every single race we ran in multiplayer mode ended completely separate from one another. One player would win after 30 seconds, and the other would still be racing. Against whom? Beats us, because we never saw an opponent car again and ended up winning the race too, if only slightly belated in relation to when the other player won. What, exactly, is happening with this mode is beyond us. It's up to science to figure it out now, but all we know is that if you just want some decent head-to-head ad-hoc multiplayer racing, this mode is the polar opposite of that.
Street Supremacy is a pretty good-looking game that would look a lot better if it weren't so dark at all times. Obviously, this game takes place exclusively at night, so it should be at least somewhat dark. But everything in the game has such a drab, bland look to it that it can actually be kind of difficult to see what's going on in spots. Up close, the cars do look very nicely detailed. There's a solid number of licensed vehicles from manufacturers like Mitsubishi, Subaru, Mazda, and Toyota, and all of them are about on par with the kinds of car models you'd see in games like Midnight Club 3 and Need for Speed Most Wanted 5-1-0. It's just too bad that the environments aren't more pleasant to look at, and that there's really no damage modeling to speak of. There's very little audio of note in Street Supremacy, apart from some typical racing sound effects and innocuous background techno.
You can give Street Supremacy some measure of credit for trying to be a little different than all the other street racers on the PSP, but sadly, the game is ultimately a failure in spite of what it tries to do. The racing itself is just so utterly bland and uninteresting that whatever measure of uniqueness the team battle mode might have had to offer is completely wasted. Throw in the bizarrely broken multiplayer and irritating load times, and there's just not much to like about this game. If you want a street racer for your PSP, your options are vast and varied, so there's no excuse for settling on something as poorly made as Street Supremacy.