Just as Genki furnished Tokyo Highway Battle for the debut of the Sony PlayStation, it's prepped a sequel for the launch of the Sega Dreamcast. In it, you cruise along the Tokyo freeway looking for cars to compete with. Once you spot a possible contender, you flash your lights to issue a challenge, and the race is on. And that's the point where Tokyo Xtreme Racer diverges from most other racing games out there.
Instead of driving on a number of courses against a volley of different cars at the same time, you compete in a series of short one-on-one races on two different stretches of the same turnpike. Your goal is to keep ahead of your rival on a stretch of road for longer than he leads you. Each driver has a meter that counts down whenever he's in second place; if it runs out, he loses. The farther one car is ahead of the other, the faster the trailing vehicle's meter counts down. Beyond that, TXR is similar to other racing games where you earn money by beating your opponents, which you then spend to beef up your ride or buy new cars, or in this case, so you can compete against faster and tougher members of the city's racing gangs.
Tokyo Xtreme Racer's break from the norm could be compelling, perhaps, if you were driving through the city streets instead of the highway, or if the game took a break from reality to invent additional and more interesting courses. As it stands, the game has only two monotonous loops to race on, and driving on them gets quite dull, even in two-player mode.
The graphics are the best thing about TXR, and even those are a bit of a mixed bag. The frame rate is fast, there's virtually no pop-up to speak of, and the trailer effect caused by the cars' taillights is nice, but the car models leave something to be desired, and the two courses are plain, have repeating features, and don't even offer up the mirrored, backward, or different weather variations that we've come to expect from driving games of all styles. The soundtrack is only average; it doesn't detract from the experience of playing, but it doesn't add to it either.
TXR's physics are unrealistic even by arcade racing-game standards. If you hit a divider head-on at 90 miles an hour, you bounce back a few feet like a large unbreakable box that always lands right side up, and you start back up with no discernable damage to the car. Sliding up against a wall will cough your speed back a bit and knock you towards the center again, but more like a plastic toy car than a real vehicle. Besides its arcade-style features, TXR provides a racing-sim aspect by letting you fiddle with your car's stats to change its performance, but there's far too little there to appeal to simulation aficionados, causing the game to fail on both sides. Fans of arcade-style racing games are advised to hold off for Ubi Soft's Speed Devils and Sega's own Sega Rally 2. This is not a must-have Dreamcast launch game.