An arcade game, produced and developed by Sega and Sega Rosso, respectively. Initial D: Arcade Stage is based on the extremely popular Japanese street racing anime Initial D, and was released in mid-2002. I've not seen many racing arcade games that feature anything other than Formula One or NASCAR-style cars, so this Gran Turismo-like racer is a real treat.

Gameplay is mostly straightforward -- you select your car from a selection of six real Japanese automakers (Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Honda and Nissan), your transmission style (manual or automatic), and lastly, the mode which you want to play -- Story Mode (or, "real racing"), featuring characters, cars and courses from the anime, or Time Attack, which lets you tackle a course alone (recommended to get the feel of a track). Once you make your selections, you can get your race on. You can race almost every character from the anime at one point, from racing newbie Itsuki in his Corolla Levin to drift ninja Ryosuke Takahashi in an FCRX-7 -- and even the main character of the series, Takumi Fujiwara. Depending on the machine, you might also be able to go mano e mano with another human player.

Sounds just like any other racing game? Well, the thing about Initial D is that all the courses are winding mountain roads with short straightaways and lots of sharp turns -- therefore, the car with the most power will not always win (consequently proven by Takumi Fujiwara's 150 horsepower AE86 in the anime, as he trounces Mazda RX-7s and Nissan Skylines with upwards of 300 hp). The key to winning is to use a racing technique called drift. Basically, you want to go into a corner at a high speed, and "slide" your car through it so that you're pointing the direction you want to exit the corner at. This is appreciably tough in real life, but simplified for obvious reasons in the game.

An interesting feature of the Initial D arcade game is the use of special cards that keep track of your progress in the game's different modes, similar to the removable memory card media used in console systems such as the PlayStation 2 (for a little extra money, of course). Your name, car, and transmission are also saved to the card, so when you make your selections, keep in mind they're permanent. Cards also have a limited number of saves -- something like 50.

A list of cars in Initial D: Arcade Stage.

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