G1 Jockey Wii Wii
Published by: Koei
Developed by: Koei
Release Date: Out Now
If you own a Nintendo Wii you've probably been a little frustrated of late because there just hasn't been that many quality games released for the console. In fact, if you're like me, you've probably spent more time playing games you've downloaded from Nintendo's Virtual Console service. What better time then to release a game such as G1 Jockey Wii? The game has tons of depth, is completely engrossing and makes an excellent use of the console's unique control scheme. If you're at all interested in horse racing and own a Nintendo Wii this is definitely a game you should be playing.
Before going any further we should point out that G1 Jockey Wii is essentially the same game as G1 Jockey 4 that we reviewed last year on the PlayStation 2. Given the quality of G1 Jockey 4 this is certainly no bad thing but it's something worth knowing as you might be a little cheesed off if you were expecting a completely different game. G1 Jockey Wii offers a Story Mode, a Trial Mode (that offers both single-player and two-player split-screen races) and a Tutorial Mode. The Story Mode is where you're going to spend virtually all of your time with the game. G1 Jockey Wii is more of a simulation than an arcade racer so your first port of call should definitely be the Tutorial Mode which will not only explain all of the controls but also the various dials and other information you'll see on the HUD during a race.
As we've already mentioned, G1 Jockey Wii is more of a simulation and there are many things to consider. Each horse has a racing style. There are Front-Runners (horses who like to lead from beginning to end), Drop-In horses (who like to be close to the front and then break away near the end), Drop-Out horses have a greater spurt than Drop-In horses and therefore are able to break away from the centre or even the back of the pack and finally there are Hold-Up horses that like to shoot from the back to the front in the final stages of a race. Your potential gauge will fill quicker if you ride your horse in its preferred style and seeing as potential can be used to maintain your horses top speed after its stamina gauge has emptied, you're going to want it to be as full as possible. You also have to consider the horse's motivation gauge. A horse's motivation is its desire to run. When the marker in the gauge is green the horse is running as well as it can but by riding poorly, you'll eventually turn the marker red. Once the motivation marker has turned red your horse will simply not perform and you'll see your opponents speed past you so it's best to make sure the marker stays green for as long as possible. During the final stages of a race you also have to make sure you change the horse's leading leg as well (although you don't have this to worry about in steeplechase races but you do have to concern yourself with using the jump gauge correctly).
This all seems a heck of lot to keep an eye on and it is to begin with and when you consider you can fall if you don't time your jumps correctly and that it's easy to block an opponent's horse (and earn a suspension), it may seem a little overwhelming. Thankfully though, there are several options available to you when you choose to start a career. You can choose Easy, Normal or Hard difficulty levels, whether or not to enable Stewards' Enquiries (which can result in a suspension), you can choose whether to make falling from your horse in a steeplechase race mean you're disqualified from a race and probably injured for a few weeks, you can choose whether to have the ability to restart a race and you have the option to save at the paddocks between races at a meeting. In effect these options allow you to play with punishing realism or play in a forgiving environment that allows you to correct mistakes, which is essential if you're new to the series.
In the Story Mode, which is essentially a career mode, you'll begin by creating your jockey and then heading off for four mock races before joining the stables you've affiliated yourself with during the jockey creation process. At the beginning of the Story Mode you'll notice there are three characters that are to graduate with you. These characters will become your rivals (albeit in a friendly way) and during the game you'll have feedback on how they are doing and they will comment on how your performance is going. You can upset your relationship with these rivals by requesting horses they were due to ride. You'll notice that each jockey and trainer has a relationship icon that displays what they think of you and it is all well thought out.
The Story Mode progresses on a week by week basis. Each week you'll be able to negotiate for any available rides. If a trainer offers you a ride you can simply accept the ride but if you want a ride that was initially being offered to another jockey, you'll have to use some of your riding points (which are earned every week and you'll receive bonus riding points for doing well in races) to put in a request to have that ride for yourself. You'll lose the riding points regardless of whether your request is successful though. Other than the races you can also give three of the horses, you've managed to gain a ride for, a workout. This enables you to do some training in an effort to increase the horse's form before a race. From April in your first year you'll be able to train a new horse. You get to pick whether the horse will take part in flat or steeplechase races and then you'll pick the horse's parent and a new horse will be created taking on characteristics from the two parents you selected. For the first year you can't ride your horse in any races (you can in the second year though) and you'll just be doing various training exercises to improve the horse. The training exercises can be quite frustrating to begin with but, as with the rest of the game, if you put the effort in you'll be rewarded by having a really good horse to ride the following year. What I really like about the Story Mode is that it never plays the same way twice. Because of the relationships you build up with the trainers and because of the horses that you help train, not to mention how the AI jockeys perform differently each time, you always have a different experience when playing a new Story Mode game.
Several games have been bought to the Wii that have featured lacklustre control systems that fail to take advantage of the console's unique controls. Thankfully Koei have done a great job in not only making the controls work effectively but also making the controls feel more natural on the Wii than on the PlayStation 2 version of G1 Jockey 4. The game requires the use of the nunchuk attachment and offers three control schemes. Advanced allows you to use the Wii remote as a whip. You'll wave the remote to do a normal whip, lift the remote up and down to show the whip and swing the remote in a rotating fashion to perform a windmill whip. The nunchuk is tilted to the side to turn and lifted up in order to jump. If you want some of the motion-sensing controls but don't want to have to deal with moving the nunchuk as well as the remote you can opt for the Standard controls. Here you'll once again wave the remote to use the whip. You'll have to press the B button to show the whip and hold down the A button and wave the remote in order to perform the windmill whip. The analogue stick on the nunchuk to replaces all of the motion-sensing controls that the Advanced control scheme had. If you don't want to use any form of motion-sensing controls you can opt for the Simple control scheme which essentially relies on you pressing buttons and using the analogue stick to carry out all of the action. All of the control schemes work really well although my preference is for the Standard control scheme as it strikes a comfortable balance between the energetic Advanced and traditional Simple control schemes.
On the PlayStation 2 G1 Jockey 4 simply looked OK. G1 Jockey Wii looks pretty much the same as G1 Jockey 4 and given that this is on a more powerful console it has to be said that it's disappointing. The horses do look good but they don't animate as well as they could have. When you turn during a steeplechase race it kind of looks as if the horses are on rails. The slopes you'll encounter on a racecourse are far too angular and look completely unnatural. Much of the background you'll see on a racecourse looks bland and uninteresting. I do like the artwork that has been used for the characters you'll converse with although they are simply static 2D images. On the plus side, the frame rate is absolutely fine and the loading times are very fast, barely lasting a couple of seconds, which is very impressive.
G1 Jockey Wii is just as good for deaf gamers as G1 Jockey 4 was. All of the dialogue, from the trainers, rival jockeys, journalists etc., in the game is shown in text and you will need to press the X button in order to move the dialogue forward. During races the various gauges will show you all you need to know and the force feedback gives a nice tactile representation of the horse's movements. Should you or another jockey commit an infringement, the word 'enquiry' will appear to inform you that a Steward's Enquiry will take place after the race has been completed. The results of the enquiry are shown in text. The tutorials are all in text too meaning you'll have no problems in learning the controls and understanding the interface. If I have one criticism it's that the manual is rather light on information and could have been more informative.
Many games on the Nintendo Wii are aimed at casual gamers. G1 Jockey Wii is squarely aimed at those who are serious about their horse racing games. Time has to be invested in learning to ride the horse effectively. The time invested in learning how to do everything is richly rewarded however and the game will keep you busy for months on end as you play through the Story Mode. If you've already played G1 Jockey 4 then the game is difficult to recommend as it's practically the same game except for the control system and some of the conversations in the Story Mode. If you haven't played G1 Jockey 4 on the PlayStation 2 and are looking for a simulation style horse racing game then G1 Jockey Wii is simply a must.
G1 Jockey Wii is just as enjoyable and as rewarding as G1 Jockey 4 on the PlayStation 2 and comes highly recommended to those who are looking for a quality horse racing game. However, if you've played G1 Jockey 4 on the PlayStation 2 you'll pretty much feel like you're playing the same game, albeit with a superior control system.