Sad as it is to report, Crazy Taxi just isn't very much fun anymore. Though they were once shining examples of over-the-top, wacky-as-heck arcade driving games, the original and its sequels have not been treated kindly by the years, a fact highlighted by Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars for the PSP. This release includes Dreamcast ports of both Crazy Taxi and its follow-up, Crazy Taxi 2, then tosses in a bit of ad-hoc multiplayer, and calls it a day. What it doesn't do is adjust the game in any way, shape, or form for modern times. The shallowness of the gameplay is likely to turn off anyone who isn't intensely nostalgic for all things Crazy Taxi. And even those folk will likely take umbrage with the sluggish gameplay and dodgy controls in this version.
Any card-carrying Sega fan already knows what to expect from these two games, but for the uninitiated, a brief synopsis. In both games, your goal is to take control of one of four different cabbies and drive around the city lickety-split, picking up customers and getting them to their desired location. That might not sound like much of a concept, but the thing that made the games so much fun back in the day was the jaunty, kooky nature of the gameplay, where driving like a maniac to fly over hills and narrowly avoid head-on collisions actually made your passengers happier and increased your score. Cars bounce off one another like they're made of rubber, and insane drifts take the place of proper steering. Likewise, big jumps litter every city block, and in Crazy Taxi 2, you can even use supercharged hydraulics to leap over any oncoming traffic. The game also imposed some rather stiff time limits for each passenger, lending to the immediacy and frantic pacing of it all.
For their time, these games were plenty of fun, but they don't really stand up especially well when you put them up against other arcade driving games. Part of the problem is that the core gameplay just isn't fun for more than very short bursts. Racing around the city and picking up passengers is amusing for a bit, but there's really nothing else to the main game. You either do it in arcade mode, where you get a very short amount of time and only earn time boosts from picking up more passengers, or you set specific minute limits for the game and play that way. Again, it's fun for a bit to race around and try to get as much cash as possible, but it's not something that will sustain your interest for long, especially when you take into account some of the frustrations of this specific release.
By and large, Fare Wars offers up solid ports of Crazy Taxi and Crazy Taxi 2, but there are some caveats. Crazy Taxi 2 always had worse handling than the original game, due largely to its overreliance on drifting, but in Fare Wars, neither game controls well at all. Drifting is a pain, and the turning radius on your cab seems decidedly lacking. Furthermore, there are times when you'll simply be driving along, and you start to turn in one direction, but then feel like your car is getting sucked in the opposing direction. It's tough to say if this is specifically a control quirk, or something else, as it always seems like you're getting sucked toward another car or piece of the scenery. This issue makes keeping a good handle on your car a severe pain when rounding tight corners or trying to veer away from oncoming traffic.
Another issue is that the sense of speed just isn't there in either game, but especially in Crazy Taxi 2. It's not just the frame rate, either--the games themselves are running markedly slower than the Dreamcast originals. You can tell because the timer clocks are counting down slower than real time. Otherwise, there aren't many differences between this version and the originals. Graphics and audio are pretty much identical, save for a few changes to the pop-punk soundtracks. Still, that slowness is a real killer.
If you get bored with the main game, there are some minigames and multiplayer modes to mess with. The minigames are the same ones from the original games, so you'll find yourself popping balloons with your car, doing big jumps for distance ratings, driving around narrow, rail-less courses while trying to avoid falling off the edge, and the like. Each of these games is at least mildly amusing, though a few of them are a touch on the overly difficult side. Multiplayer consists of some crummy single-system trade-off modes (time trials, and such), and ad-hoc play, where you and a friend can basically compete for fares. The one neat twist is that you can track down your opponent and ram to your heart's content, which sometimes causes his or her passenger to be lost. Otherwise, it's pretty much just the main game with a competing cabbie, which is actually more interesting than playing the main game alone. Too bad it's only for two players, and that it's not online.
Even though you can't call Crazy Taxi or Crazy Taxi 2 great games anymore, these games could still have made for a decent little handheld release if it weren't for Fare Wars' sluggishness and control issues. Fiends for Sega-brand nostalgia might still be able to take away a bit of enjoyment from simply being able to play Crazy Taxi and Crazy Taxi 2 on the go. Anybody who experiences the series for the first time playing Fare Wars will probably just wonder why this series was so popular in the first place.