Sunday, July 14, 2013

Enthusia Review

In 1997 one of the first console racing simulators, known as Gran Turismo, came out for the original PlayStation. The physics were, for the time, amazingly realistic, to the point where its tagline, "The Real Driving Simulator," didn't make people chuckle. From then on Polyphony Digital ruled the PlayStation's racing game world, but their throne was not uncontested. In 2005, the same year Gran Turismo 4 was released, a new game crashed into the scene from the likes of Konami. But unfortunately, not a single person noticed.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. You're looking at the cover for Enthusia, the greatest console racing simulator that nobody knew existed. This game does not have nearly the amount of cars and tracks that Gran Turismo 4 has, and Polyphony Digital easily outdid Konami in the graphics department, but what this game lacks in content and graphics, it easily makes up for in gameplay. There are a few major aspects I want to discuss, so I split this review as such.

Enthusia Life

Enthusia life is basically the name of the "career mode". It is very different in that instead of a monetary system like most other games in the genre, you have "enthu points". Enthu points are sortof like your health; if you collide with a wall or cars, go off course, etc., you lose Enthu points. If you lose all of your points, you have to miss the next race. You can also obtain experience points (calculated from your enthu points) which you use to upgrade your car or your driver (upgrading your driver allows you to hold more or gain more points). You obtain cars via a "lottery" of cars that you have beaten in a race. Overall it is a very unique system.

There was also speculation that the game was initially planned to have an actual story. This rumor is fueled by the intro sequence, which would be easier for me to show via a video than explanation.

Driving Revolution

Driving revolution is probably my favorite mode in this game. Konami is well known for their Dance Dance Revolution series, and they actually managed to incorporate similar gameplay mechanics into a racing game. I am not joking. In fact, to prove I am not joking, here is a video of one of the stages:

This game mode is an awesome twist on the license tests in the Gran Turismo series that is equally challenging and occasionally frustrating. There are these gates that you have to drive through (which may or may not be on the optimal racing line) and they have little bars that go up and down based on your speed. You have to match the correct speed when passing through these gates. You're given points for each gate based on how well you match the speed, docked points for missing gates or hitting barriers, and if you gain enough points you move on to the next stage. Utterly brilliant! I have spent countless hours in this game mode, particularly on the challenge level. The challenge level is unique (unique level in a unique mode in a unique game. uniqueception? We must go deeper...) because it has you complete 4 tests where it has the car going full throttle and you cannot use the brakes (though on two of them you do have access to the e-brake). These were a bitch to complete, but it felt so great once I beat them. I love this mode, and it alone makes the game worth it.


As much as I love Polyphony Digital's series, this game drives much better than Gran Turismo 4. GT4 has an issue where there is too much rear grip, which induces understeer (some drivers refer to it as "tight") in cars that don't actually have it. Enthusia essentially nailed the grip balance compared to other console racers of the era. The other thing that gives Enthusia an edge is the force feedback given to racing wheels. Force feedback in GT4 was poorly implemented. In the turns it felt fine, but at very high speed on straightaways the wheel simply rattled back and forth in a very unrealistic fashion. Konami did not do such a half-assed thing, and it really makes the driving experience so much better. It also actually penalizes you for driving like a dumbass. If you hit something or go off course, it knows and tells you "hey, you screwed up". In these days, damage was not a major feature to consider, but this was definitely a step forward.


I did say Enthusia lacked content. It did.  Compared to Gran Turismo 4's astonishing 722 cars, Enthusia makes you feel like a kid looking at a grown man's hotwheels collection when your mother only occasionally bought you one or two at the Target checkout line just to shut you up.
what an asshole. I would have played the shit out of those
However the catch is that a lot of Enthusia's cars are not in Gran Turismo 4, and these "exclusives" were some damn good icons. BMW M1, De Tomaso Pantera, Bugatti EB110...
Right. The game also lacks tracks, especially real ones, but the fantasy tracks that it has are pretty cool and are just as fun and interesting to drive as the competitor's offering, so there isn't too much problem there.

Final Thoughts

So what Konami did was create a damn good racing game engine, infused elements from RPGs and music games, did it really well, and not promote it hardly at all. The result is an amazing game that will never see a sequel (apparently a sequel was in the works at one time, but never actually came to fruition). That said, the masterminds were not suddenly lost. One of the physics developers from Konami has their name in the Gran Turismo 5 credits, which explains why there was so much improvement in that aspect over 4. I'm going to give this game a rating of 8.5/10. They nailed the physics and made the game very unique, but the lack of content and unappealing graphics compared to competitors brought the score down. This game really did not get the popularity it deserved, but it has become a bit of a cult classic, much like old Volkswagen Beetles and Reliant Robins are in the automotive world.

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