Champion Jockey Hands-On Preview

By Darryl Kaye on August 22, 2011, 4:22PM EDT

Tecmo Koei have been making horse racing games for years, but in the West at least, they have never been all that popular. That was, until the advent of the Nintendo Wii. It changed everything for the Japanese company and to reflect that, the franchise was given a complete name change. What was previously know as the G1 Jockey franchise is now known as Champion Jockey: G1 Jockey and Gallop Racer.

Ignoring the sub-title, it's a much more appealing name, something Tecmo Koei hope will draw even more gamers to a genre that's flown under the radar for far too long.

It wasn't just chance that the genre suddenly took off though, no, it was a successful use of the Nintendo Wii 's motion controls, something the previous PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions lacked. This has been rectified with full support for PlayStation Move and Kinect support. It's a match made in heaven, as Champion Jockey tasks you with controlling the jockey, not the horse. This means that a lot of the gestures revolve around acting as if you're holding the reigns of a horse.

One thing Champion Jockey is not though, is a simple arcade game made for cheap laughs - that's just an aside. Under the bonnet, it's a very serious horse racing simulation game and from talking to the developers, it's very clear to see just how serious they are about it. Despite making the title for many years, the passion is still there for all to see and it shines through in the gameplay.

Knowledge of horse racing is of course a plus, as a lot of the game revolves around the relationship you have with your horse. You need to know firstly, what type of horse you're riding, but you will also need to keep track of their stamina to get the maximum out of your chosen steed. Each horse will have its own unique style, so just because you succeed with one type of horse, it doesn't mean you'll do well with another. For example, some horses are very strong towards the start of races, others are strong finishers - there's a whole load of stats for horse enthusiasts to drool over.

The game also features different types of tracks. While similar at its core, horsing racing in America, Europe and Japan is quite different in its implementation. To reflect this, different ground-types are available and in European courses, it's also possible to take part in steeplechase events.

There's also 4-player online multiplayer and 2-player offline split screen, and with a full-on breeding element, it's rather easy to see how this game can soak up quite a lot of time.

If you're a fan of horse racing, it's clear that Champion Jockey is a game you will want to at least check out. It's not physically possible to get the same kind of experience with any other game on the market. For other games, it may be a bit more of a hard sell.

Curious? Then make sure you check out the game when it releases on the 2nd of September for PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii.

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