In the back alleys of the Steam Store the most obscure games are hidden and in one of those corners Drift Streets Japan can be found. Not only the game itself is a discovery, it also hides a online community of online street drifters. I mingled with these tuners so you don’t have to.
While the reviews on Steam are fairly positive the screenshots of the game are not that promising. Drift Streets Japan is a Unity game and while that does not necessarily imply crappy graphics, this race game definitely looks like it is from a previous decade. Graphics do however not make the game, at least not all of it.
Sprite Sakura Trees
Gameplay does matter and specifically handling in a game where you sit behind the steering wheel of various Japanese automobiles. Of course no official brands will lend their name to a small game like this, so it does not have the appropriate licences. Car fans will have no problem recognising a Toyota Supra or Skyline without the branding though. The handling of these cars is a bit peculiar. It is nowhere close being realistic, neither is it really easy.
Since there is no tutorial, intro or even a proper menu, you will have to figure things out for yourself. Getting a car is doable for most people, getting it across one of the long and winding roads with sprite sakura trees on the side is a lot more difficult. Actually it is nearly impossible before you go into your car’s tuning setup and adjust some sliders appropriately. This whole process of the first thirty minutes in game makes Drift Streets Japan feel like a debug version of Need for Speed Underground 2 and that’s exactly where its potential lies.
For the tuners, not the ricers
The game is very much an unfinished product and maybe that is precisely what it should be. It is like the developer of the drifty parts of NFSU took some early version of what he envisioned drifting should be in a game and put it up on the internet. Its a raw race game that feels like it should at least have a team of designers and producers work on it for a year, before it is even remotely ready to be published. That is not going to happen, because the one guy that is behind Drift Streets Japan seems to have pretty much vanished. That means looking through the bugs and bad graphics and just drift along in a tandem.
If you have ever wondered how it would be to ride along in a drift tandem like they do in Tokyo Drift and own at least one album of the Teriyaki Boyz, you might want to try this. This game is for the tuners, not the ricers. Mainly because nice visual options on your car are very limited and only hardware upgrades make a significant difference in driving around. That does not stop tens of players every evening from meeting up on virtual parking lots and drifting down the long and winding roads of Japan.
That is were this game goes beyond it clunkiness and basic look. The fact that you can meet in a parking lot, chat about car set ups before you drift down a mountain road, makes Drift Streets Japan feel like you are back in the nineties. Mainly because all the people online are there out of nostalgia for the old tuner scene and corresponding Need for Speed titles. It is great, but only for those who haven’t enjoyed a race game since Juiced or NFSU.
Drift Streets Japan is currently €2,99 on Steam.