Gallop Racer 2006

Gallop Racer 2006

P-Bear can finally have his ponies.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 14, 2006
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Gallop Racer is an American marketing manager's nightmare; how can you possibly sell a game based on horse racing -- the sport of overweight deadbeats and even more overweight rich guys with money to blow -- to a crowd of gamers that will likely never, ever consider the game -- much less own a PS2 or be aware of the game's existence? In all honesty, we couldn't tell you. What we can tell you, after a day at the races, is that the game is absolutely worth checking out, if only to satisfy that curiosity.

That's not even the post-event hangover talking. Tecmo wisely carted a handful of editors down to Golden Gate Fields, the local race track here in the Bay Area, and gave us a baptism of fire. We made a few bets based on the odds, we toured the paddocks, met a jockey, watched a race right down on the finish line, and basically got some exposure to the sport.

Then we went up and started betting in earnest. Based purely on the name alone.

As it turns out, this was as good a method as any, because we not only finished the day up, we actually walked away with a deeper appreciation for how insane the names of horses are, and understood the basics of not only betting on the horses, but what goes into getting them across the finish line first. This is key, since playing Gallop Racer 2006 armed without this knowledge is nowhere near as entertaining. It's also what we're going to try to explain in this preview, though we warn you, there's a lot to take in.

GR's bread and butter is, of course, horse racing, and regardless of what mode you'll pick, you'll have to learn the ins and outs of how a jockey rides. Before you even tuck into the races, though, you have the ability to customize just about everything about them, including the jockey's name, age/sex, and face type (though, sadly, we couldn't see what the faces actually looked like), as well as naming the horse, choosing whether or not it's a foal or colt, and rank (which determines what races it can enter).

Tapping the shoulder buttons on this screen opens the floodgates for horse customization. The usual stuff you'd expect is here, like picking body color, independent hoof color, the uniform the jockey rides (though you can set your jockeys to always override this if you'd like), the horse's hood colors, if the ears are wrapped, if blinkers (blinders) are thrown on, and whether or not you want to use a shadow roll -- a sheepskin wrap that goes over the horse's nose to distract it and keep it looking forward. We haven't really noticed a difference in the horse's performance when these are most of the time because races still seem a little random, but the options are certainly there.

Tabbing over again to the stats lets you make very obvious and noticeable changes to the horse's speed, staying power, stamina, feel, fierceness, tenacity, courage, response, ability to break from the pack, overall power, and response to encouragement. You can goof around with turf or dirt affinities (though these can both be maxed out), play with the horse's favorite position on the track, the optimal distance they run at, leg type, how well they grow and intervals.

If you feel like adding a bit more strategy to the horse, you can also outfit it with particular abilities that kick on in certain situations. Make them fast out of the gate, a leader in the last corner, give them increased toughness, give them slow or face pace affinity, tweak whether they enjoy close races or the pack, and so on. Nearly every one of these boosts also has an opposite, that may at first seem detrimental to the horse (being delicate can't really a good thing, right?), but giving them a fondness for being behind or ahead of the pack could kick on a nice emergency boost.

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