Play it on: PlayStation
Current goal: Meet lots of friendly cars and win the World Grand Prix
Ever been decades late to the party in discovering that your favorite movie got a sequel you’d never heard of? I had a similar experience this week, albeit sort of in reverse, and with a game.
Choro Q is a long-running Japanese toyline featuring appealing, super-deformed renditions of real-world cars, which zoom forward if you wind ‘em up. In the late ‘90s the franchise started getting tons of Takara-produced video games for Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, and most of all Sony’s PlayStation. Most are simplistic racers that let you slowly upgrade your chibi car until it actually becomes drivable. Choro Q games tend to have just barely tolerable driving physics—and framerates to match—so for all their cute charm, they’re a bit of an acquired taste.
Enter a little PlayStation 2 game called Choro Q HG2. In 2002 Conspiracy Entertainment, rest its soul, published it in the States as Road Trip, and it’s one of the single best offbeat game discoveries I’ve ever made. Neither the driving model nor graphics were great, but this particular Choro game shook up the series formula by becoming a full-on CarPG, complete with a vast open world to explore, sentient vehicles spouting charismatic, barely localized dialogue, and a steady stream of quests, minigames, and generally odd surprises.
My running belief has been that Road Trip was the best of the PS2’s four-game HG subseries, and also the first of the RPG-like Choro Q games. Turns out that no, the latter distinction goes to 1999’s Choro Q Wonderful! for PlayStation, which I just learned got an English fan translation last Christmas. Road Trip, but on OG PlayStation? That’s my kinda giftmas present.
Several hours in, it’s pretty much what I hoped: smaller in scale and as janky as you’d expect from a 32-bit Choro Q, but also rife with irresistibly guileless dialogue like, “So beautiful. You got 38 fireworks and 2 Qcoins,” and “Ice cream~ Ice cream~ ♥” (that character’s an ice cream truck, you see). Are the races fun? They’re…tolerable! But mostly I’m having a ball exploring each self-contained city, chatting up the oddball natives, and finally seeing where this “CarPG” madness actually began. Wonderful! — Alexandra Hall
And that wraps up Kotaku’s weekend selections for September 8, 2023. What games are you playing this weekend?