[REVIEW] Racing Lagoon – An Overlooked “Car-PG” Gem

What do you get when you combine RPG elements from what were one of the world’s most notorious RPG developers, Squaresoft.

Injected with a shit load of crystal meth and infused with the culture of Initial D?

You get quite possibly one of the greatest video games nobody’s ever heard of. Racing Lagoon.

Released all the way back in 1999 for the Playstation, Racing Lagoon or as I’d rather call it the “High Speed Racing RPG” was only available only in Square’s home country of Japan.

It was a rather unceremonious title, the game itself only raking in around 140,000 units sold, while the likes of its Final Fantasy cousins were flying off shelves by the millions.

By comparison, Racing Lagoon was a failure and it’s quite obvious to see why, RPG mechanics meshed together in a racing game? Back in 1999? The concept alone is extremely ambitious if not fundamentally flawed given how such a concept would actually work when combined.

There’s but only one other game I can think of that boils down to being a Racing RPG or “Car-PG”, unless of course you’d like to consider the “Tokyo Xtreme Racer” series as being an “RPG” but I don’t.

Square for whatever reason has always had this fascination with making racing games, be it Chocobo Racing released around the same timeframe as Racing Lagoon yet the former is remembered unlike the latter.

Squaresoft also developed a racing title for the Playstation 2 known as Driving Emotion… Type-S.

Racing Lagoon never got any notoriety back in its day even in its home nation of Japan, it only ever did get noticed after the dedicated autistic marvels of one individual dead set on showcasing Square’s forgotten gem to western audiences…. over twenty years later.

Autism fuels passion as they say, and Hilltop is surely an autistic artisan who may as well have given Racing Lagoon a second release to the west with a complete fans translation.

Racing Lagoon tells the story of a legendary racer from years past, the fastest, is about to be reborn. You play as Akasaki Sho(a), a young punk of team Bay Lagoon Racing making their debut in the world of street racing in an all out warfare between team BLR and the Honmoku Night Racers.

Following the prologue introductory race, won by your team leader, Ikki, the story quickly devolves into barbaric street racing gang shenanigans as right then after you’re contacted to meet up with Kenzo, another Bay Lagoon member at the local grave yard.

Only to discover upon getting there that Yuka, the soul damsel of Bay Lagoon Racing has been abducted by the Ishikawa brothers in retaliation for the Night Racers recent loss, seeking a revenge race with Ikki.

It’s quite obvious where Square got majority of their influence from when it comes to racing lagoon, given your starting vehicle is a panda 86 Levin eerily similar to a hit manga series with a massive cult following.

The staple of an RPG game would be that within time you’ll have acquired newer and better equipment to improve your stats, be it purchased, or acquired from random encounters, this is where Racing Lagoon excels with its RPG mechanics.

The overworld of Racing Lagoon is from a top down perspective as you’ll be instructed to traverse to specified locations to proceed with the story, around South Yokohama, just one of many locations you’ll be visiting throughout the game but you’re also encouraged if not sometimes instructed to just drive around aimlessly, visiting other locations and initiating vehicular combat.

Traversing the map you’ll be met with drivers flashing their lights, get caught in their beams and you’ll be sent straight into a random encounter race, typically lasting anywhere from 30 seconds or longer, winning these races nets you Reward Points (RP) which can be immediately redeemed to acquire any listed part from the defeated opponent.

Do be warned though, a loss can result in having one of your own beloved parts snatched away from you.

Because this is also where Square excels with Racing Lagoon and why I love it so, car customization is just so intricate, you can pilfer anything from these random encounters from mufflers aiding acceleration across specified RPM ranges, new ECU’s that add additional power and increases your rev range. Sway bars, tyres, turbo chargers, increased displacement, pistons both high comp and low.

Every single thing changes the characteristics of your car and fundamentally how you build it. But that’s not all, you can merely swipe individual chassis and car body from them as well, don’t fancy the levin? How about a truck, a limo, or maybe you just fancy yourself a “Cancer 2000”.

It’s these major changes that excite me the most, Car bodies add weight, increased weight obviously affects handling and acceleration, but so does the actual drive train which you utilize.

Throughout the game you’ll be presented against all sorts of opponents, from FWD, 4WD mid-engine and rear-engine, what chassis you use has the most greatest effect on handling, top speed and acceleration.

Like a proper RPG, god’s almighty wrath isn’t available to you from the start, there’s a fair bit of grinding involved not just to earn the RP required for such parts but also to level up things like your car body, chassis and engine. With each level these three attributes gain an extra slot to add that extra turbo or perhaps a bodykit.

But if you want my advice the starting body, the 86-Levin is quite possibly one of the better bodies in the entire game, so at least until you encounter a car you’d rather prefer I’d stick with that or swap to a Toyota Starlet at the start of the game to shave off a couple kilograms.

Racing Lagoon is presented in nightly chapters, with each chapter having vast amounts of extra side objectives for those who fancy lore and immersion to just a bit more racing to earn rare parts early or exclusive parts.

With new locations unlocked as you progress through the chapters, unofficial races will be open to you, completing them will net parts and yen which can be used to buy parts outright from specific locations.

But do be warned though, these unofficial races have many restrictions, some will require a specific drive terain, curb vehicle weight limits that need to be met, power restrictions from under 60 HP to over 800. Some unofficial races will require you to equip either a truck or bus body.

One big issue I have with Racing Lagoon will undoubtedly bite you in the ass as you’re nearing the end, all of these unofficial races and there’s fucking plenty of them MUST be completed in order to actually access the final race, Racing Lagoon on its lonesome, throughout all the chapters with spots of grinding, some exploration here and there will set you back tens of hours alone, being forced to do side objectives, essentially to complete the game first you must 100 percent it is bullshit in my eyes.

To know exactly what parts you’ll need, when and how to use them you’re probably going to need to resort to using a guide to progress through the game, I know I sure as shit did. Because when it comes to RPG games I’m essentially a virgin, there’s but a handful of RPG titles I’ve played prior to Racing Lagoon.

(Skyrim, Fallout NV, Risen 2 and Gothic).

And when it comes to RPG games I’ve actually completed you can narrow that down to just Risen 2 and Gothic, with the latter and the former I have next to zero recollection of given my age at the time, so when it comes to Racing Lagoon I’m basically going in blind.

I’m relatively young, these sorts of games predate me easily, though I do often have the same tendencies of Generation Zyklon in regards to basic bitch action games to keep myself attentive.

I still can’t exactly hold myself back when it comes to “skipping” or more rather speeding up the emulation during certain scenarios, the loading times which are typical for a PS1 game are tirelessly long, but at least it does sort of make up for it with nice loading screens.

I’m probably about as vanilla as you could possibly get, but that doesn’t mean that I dislike RPG games, for what it’s worth at least on the old Piranha Bytes side of things I’ve been enjoying my newfound RPG experience, with the original Gothic being one of the most esteemed games I’ve ever played.

But that does mean I’m still way outside of my comfort zone when it comes to Racing Lagoon “High Speed Racing RPG”.

Anyways, back to the story.

(enough with the spoilers)

You need to get Yuka back, to do so you must chase down and flash Keisuke who is driving around South Yokohama in an orange Integra, quite easy to spot granted that they have a massive red arrow above them.

Hunt down Keisuke, flash your lights repeatedly to initiate another stellar cutscene, once that’s over you can proceed in whooping his ass but not before another cutscene is triggered to see that Makoto, another Night Racers member having stepped in to assist with you in saving the girl and thus concluding the first night.

2nd Night – Revenge Race

By now you should have a moderate understanding of the games mechanics, random encounters and how to initiate them, earning RP and upgrading your vehicle and most importantly the handling of said vehicle because in Racing Lagoon the handbrake is your best friend.

Around the various bits of tight street racing action you can try a more wider line heading into the corners with a touch of engine braking to slow you down however the handbrake can basically just pivot your car allowing for cornering at much greater speeds, because if you merely touch the wall or your opponent you’re bounced right off as you lose a vast amount of your speed.

You can go into a race with a massively overpowered vehicle, it’s entirely for naught simply because you’ve managed to hit a barrier or two curbing your speed as a result.

So, the second chapter begins and you learn that the revenge race between Ikki and Akira is set to begin in a few short hours so you’re pretty much open for a big of exploration around South Yokohama before it does actually start.

However before you set about with a bit more exploration / grinding you’re interrupted only to be introduced to unofficial races, as previously mentioned you MUST complete these unofficial races in order to progress in the last chapter of the game so you may as well get as many of these over with if and when you encounter them.

Depending on the parts at your disposal, you’ll probably only be able to complete 3/4 of these unofficial races, with them at least for now requiring either a FR and FF chassis and weight limitations both above and below 1000 kg.

These unofficial races last a considerably longer time than your normal random encounters, with the FR sanction coming in at five laps, the main benefit to these unofficial races is the rewards of parts, mainly stickers I’m afraid and yen which can be used to buy solid parts at corresponding tuner shops.

Once that’s over with you’ll simply be thrusted to drive around South Yokohama blind, but another thing I love about Racing Lagoon is the encouragement to explore and visit new locations, much like the staple RPG title rather than sticking to the main plot if you do a bit of exploration the game will open itself up to you with more lore and more hilarious cutscenes.

For instance, after choosing to partake in the unofficial races during the second night you may proceed over to the docks, Night Racers territory, where you’ll be offered a friendly practice race between yourself, Makoto and Akira.

Whatever you decide to do, once completed and you’re finally free to roam around the first thing I’d probably consider doing is hunting down a Chevrolet Camaro or “Danger” and poaching its 3.8 liter V6 engine, regardless of whatever parts you’re running currently up until this points the Danger’s motor provides a serious horsepower bump.

Anyways to wrap up the night head on over to the graveyard where you’ll be greeted with a short cutscene with the two dickwads who kidnapped Yuka the night before, they quickly speed off and it’s time to start the “Revenge Race”.

Make your way back to the Bay Lagoon Wharf, the starting location of most nights, including this one and you’ll have yourself another quirky cutscene, but the race between Ikki and Akira can begin you are to first have a race with Makoto.

Now depending on whether or not you’ve taken up their offer at the docks and if you’ve salvaged the lumpy V6 from the Danger, you should make quick work of Makoto, you’re then dragged into a three lap race however before you can start that final lap the race is quickly interrupted with a spectacular cutscene that soon sets the tone for Racing Lagoon.

Eerie music begins to play as the night descends into chaos. Makoto has crashed! And what follows is a roller-coaster of emotions, and after that we can put the second night behind us.

3rd Night – Pieces of Dream

The third chapter is quite possibly the shortest, after reminiscing over what has taken place the night before you have but one objective. Find Ikki.

You’re dropped at the Bay Lagoon Wharf as per usual, but before doing anything I would advise that you partake in a few random encounters from the new tougher opponents driving around South Yokohama, by doing so you can easily snatch yourself up a Levin-MR chassis along with a small supercharger, turbo and low compression pistons to really give you a performance boost.

If you’re one for lore head on over to body shop and Ikki’s apartment for additional cutscenes and free parts, the Hospital, G.S (Game Save) station are other areas of interest, you can also travel back to the docks and race the two dickhead brothers to snipe yourself “Mysterious” Won-Tec parts.

But to really get the ball rolling you need to head towards the scene of the crash, just a bit further down from your starting location at the Bay Lagoon Wharf, after another cutscene Ikki will be hanging around besides the Graveyard you’ve been to during the first night.

Another cutscene plays and that’s all she wrote for night three.

4th Night – Star Fall Night

The fourth chapter is finally where things pick up for Racing Lagoon, the night starts out with Ikki bringing all Bay Lagoon members together for the first time since Makoto’s accident, he has an announcement to make.

Ikki mentions the Yokohama Grand Prix, wait what? Yes, the Yokohama GP. The world’s first STREET RACING grand prix, organized by our friends at Won-Tec.

But never mind that, Ikki mentions that there’s an upcoming qualifying round and that he himself already has a grid slot reserved so there’s only one slot available in the GP for a member of Team Bay Lagoon, what better way to see who shall also represent BLR than to have a race in NORTH Yokohama.

The cutscene ends but not before the members of Bay Lagoon Racing have a friendly practice race, which is fairly easy considering the outcome is scripted whether you win or lose.

After this you’re thrusted back at the Bay Lagoon Wharf but then a bunch of North Yokohama thugs invade to cause a ruckus for the street racers of South Yokohama, ideally what you aught to do once you’re above to move about South Yokohama is visit majority of the marked locations on your map and then finally hit the highways which are no longer “under construction” and head North.

Once you enter North Yokohama you’ll basically be forced to traverse to a specific location by the aforementioned thugs and then you’ll be forced to partake in a single drag race.

After the drag race, head on over to the Carshop Million marked on the map just directly south of your current location, upon exit you’ll be met with a cutscene.

After the cutscene plays there’s not much to do except do a bit of exploration to the marked points on your map, particularly with those who have a red arrow above them. From doing so you’ll meet up with Yuka and then Kenzo directly south who’ll show you the pain in the ass that is the love chicane.

It’s a rather tedious minigame, save states are more than just encouraged. You’ll have to traverse the chicane multiple times to progress but at the very least you’ll get a new part along with interacting with Kevin.

Ideally to pass the chicane you need to drive your car as close to the corners while maintaining speed, a few instances of reloading save states should have you getting full marks (5 pretty lady faces) eventually this will lead to a cutscene where you’ll get a pretty useful part. Engine Lube.

After that ordeal you can meet up with Kenzo east of your location for another cutscene, then it’s time to head to the most southernly point in the map, down by the docks. It’s at the docks where you’ll partake in multiple “Chicken Races” which is another minigame where save states are pretty much essential.

Chicken races are fairly simple, you and your opponent will drive down the docks maintaining throttle and the goal being to end up braking as late as physically possible without plunging into the sea, some of your opponents will undoubtedly brake at the very edge so don’t be afraid to use save states to same time retrying.

After all of the above is done you can head on back to South Yokohama via the same way that you came, but before you head back to the Bay Lagoon Wharf to park for the night I’d highly recommend heading down to the docks in South Yokohama to strike a challenge with Akira who upon beating it’s essential that you take his “Venus & Mars” twin turbochargers. They will provide a serious bump in power, and finally you can head back to the wharf and end the night.

But not before a rather dark and ominous cutscene plays depicting a disgruntled Kyoji, a fellow member of BLR pacing through the streets. Proclaiming to be “running out of time”, Kyoji is desperate for speed, he is desperate to qualify for the Yokohama GP.

5th Night – ODDS Against

Considering how we just unlocked a new area the previous night, rest assured that most of what we’ll be doing for the fifth night will be taking place here, especially considering we’ve yet to have the race to determine who’ll represent Bay Lagoon Racing for the upcoming Yokohama GP.

The night starts out with a call from Kenzo, he’s quite worried about fellow BLR member Kyoji, apparently he had a secretive meeting with Keisuke, considering the cutscene we’ve just had of Kyoji upon the end of Night 4 I wonder if this seclusive meeting had anything to do regarding the “mysterious” Won-Tec parts that are also fitted to Keisuke’s Integra.

You start off at the North Yokohama station, there’s plenty to do before the big deciding race, you can make your way over to Carshop Million for some Grenada off-road tyres to compete in the dirt trash Unofficial Races which I must express are a requirement.

Heading back towards the love chicane, you’ll run into Freddie but before anything does happen you bare witness the absolute joke that is Kenzo as he hilariously stalls during his second attempt, after saving his ass from further embarrassment you’ll both find yourselves at Noname Park.

And it’s here that Kenzo will spring a surprise to you through a cutscene, apparently Kyoji will now quit racing altogether after the Yokohama Grand Prix, something is certainly up with him.

You can then head on back to the location you were effectively forced to go to the previous night, from there you’ll witness Keisuke take off and then you’ll be offered to partake in another drag race, from winning I’d take his Buffalo turbocharger.

You can then commit into doing the unofficial drag races, this time the <200HP criteria is now unlocked.

Or you can head off back to the love chicane where this time you’ll get to compete against Freddie, achieve a perfect score of five pretty lady faces and Freddie will finally challenge you later on.

You can then wrap up the night by heading down to the docks, where you can either initiate the BLR race to determine who shall also represent the team at the Yokohama GP but you can instead initiate a few more chicken races and finally stick it to Freddie.

To actually beat Freddie requires a masterstroke of perfection….. or save states, after beating three of his goons successfully Freddie parks it on the bloody ragged edge of the pier without fail. But at the very least upon beating him you’ll be rewarded with the ability to snatch his Danger-V8 engine, which is guaranteed to provide a hefty performance boost once you start slapping pistons and turbochargers on her.

Another fine option would be to gather yourself a MT (Manual Transmission) and use it to abuse the chicken races as you cram down the pier in first.

Once dealing with Freddie and the Victory Road crew for now, proceed to initiate the race of the night with your fellow Bay Lagoon members, if Kyoji fails to pull off a victory here this will be his very last race.

Kyoji shows up late and looks almost dead inside, this is a very high stakes race not just for you but also for him it would seem, your single objective is simple. Win.

And win you shall. Equipped with the lumpy V8 salvaged from Freddie the two lap race may as well be scripted it’s so easy. Upon finishing the race the following cutscene however shares a dim light upon Kyoji’s mental state.

His will to race having been destroyed, his appearances of late certainly show that his mental state has also been broken, and thus the night ends in heartbreak.

6th Night – Night Before D

Set a couple of days later and just one last day before the Yokohama GP qualifiers are set to begin, the sixth night starts off in a rather somber tone with its opening cinematic.

Nobody has seen nor heard from Kyoji since his loss in the recent race to determine who’ll represent BLR at the qualifiers. Even if you head towards the South Yokohama “GS” you’ll notice that Kyoji hasn’t been showing up to work there since that night, the manager stated that he recently had a conversation with Keisuke regarding the upgrade of his trusty FC RX7. Strange. Very strange, I have a bad feeling about this.

Heading on down to Honmoku turf you’ll see that Keisuke is in fact challenging Akira, not just for representation in the Yokohama GP but also it would seem as leader of the Night Racers, what’s even more weird is that Keisuke is rolling in a brand new car, a Bosozoku tuned Cancer 3000. The very same we’ve already encountered in North Yokohama. Huh.

Akira wins the race in convincing fashion, as a cutscene plays believing that Keisuke wasn’t even trying to win…. what exactly is going on I wonder.

Night six basically boils down to a free night for you to spend some of your acclimated RP and or partake in new unofficial races which as previously mentioned are necessary to complete the game.

However before we end the night let’s first go to North Yokohama and visit the Landmark Tower just as we exit off the highway for a rather bizarre cutscene.

We cut to a hideously modified vehicle of sorts which thanks to its blue paintjob resembles that of Kyoji’s RX7, roaring through the streets of North Yokohama, just what the hell happened to Kyoji and more importantly what on earth has his FC transformed into?

Head on back to South Yokohama and Sho will mention that he cannot find Kyoji anywhere, perhaps you should head on back to the Bay Lagoon Wharf?

Upon doing so we get another dark and dreary cutscene, Kyoji is on the telephone and he has gone mad, talking about “the voice”. All of a sudden Kyoji drives on by in his now monsterized RX7.

He pulls over besides where Makoto had his accident, he looks almost zombified, almost lifeless. He blabbers on about “the voice” how it will “find you”, but most importantly he wants a race with us while he’s still the “friend we know” and thus initiates a two lap race around the Bay Lagoon circuit with a quite ominous blue tone evident.

Against Kyoji’s monster of an FC we’re no match, upon defeat we make the mention that Kyoji’s RX7 is a “MONSTER MACHINE” driven by a “CRAZY DRIVER”, he’s not acting at all like he used to as he drives off into the night leaving us alone. This certainly won’t be the last time we see Kyoji, however the night is complete and tomorrow brings the Yokohama GP.

Yokohama Grand-Prix: Qualifying Round

The qualifying round for the Yokohama Grand Prix is finally here, for this chapter you won’t be spending any time in either South or North Yokohama but instead you’re thrusted right into the action of a three lap race against other representatives of fellow street racing teams around the area, with only the top two progressing.

The race itself is quite easy, the most challenging aspect would probably be overtaking given how narrow the circuit actually is, winning the event should be straightforward given the sort of power you’d have at this point and obviously Akira would come second.

With your qualification secured you’d believe this to be a cause for celebration but you’d be wrong. A cutscene plays depicting two businessmen inside the Won-Tec building with a presentation of the Yokohama GP and how it’s leading to “greater results” than anticipated. Something sinister is certainly going down with Won-Tec and the Yokohama Grand Prix.

We then cut to a phone call from Yuka, something terrible has happened. Kyoji is dead. His monster of an RX-7 having crashed into the ocean along the Bay Lagoon Circuit we found him the night before.

There was no sign leading to foul play and neither any sign that Kyoji even tried to brake…. could he have killed himself?

What was supposed to be time of celebration quickly turned dark as we watch his modified RX-7 being pulled out of the sea.

Later that very same night, Makoto, who previously suffered a massive accident during the second night had succumbed to his injuries and died that very same night, and that concludes the Yokohama GP qualification round.

7th Night – Deep Rain

The seventh night is probably the shortest in the entire game, with it mainly consisting of a cutscene where all remaining members of team Bay Lagoon Racing are at the GS (Gas Station) just trying to comprehend what has transpired the previous night until a mysterious stranger appears in a black SW20, representing the Hakone Drift Dancers, Sho accepts his challenge in the pouring rain.

There’s quite literally nothing to do aside from visiting Spencer’s parts shop before going fourth with the challenge.

The race is hilariously easy, given that it takes place on South Yokohama’s highways it’s nothing but a pure straight line with some minor curves here and there, your outright power advantage will deem you victorious.

However after the race, the sketchy opponent then leaves a message for Ikki, telling him that “Miharu” is waiting for him in Hakone, Ikki can run but he cannot hide forever. What does he mean by this?

We jump to a cutscene of us discussing this with Ikki himself, curious he fills us in on the details, you see Ikki used to race in Hakone as we’re cut to a flashback race between him and Miharu. Ikki lost that bout, crowning Miharu as emperor of Hakone, following his defeat Ikki leaves Hakone for good.

While the night may be over Ikki tells us that we will be traveling to Hakone because Miharu knows more of the legendary racer ten years ago.

8th Night – The Undefeated

We find ourselves in the mountain pass of Hakone, filled with sharp steeping hairpins and turns we’ll certainly be giving the handbrake button a mighty mash moving forward.

During the end of the cutscene the bloke from the Hakone toll gate will inform you of the three differing roads leading to its summit, with the middle path being void of any racing whatsoever.

To progress you need to make your way to the top, but there are like always various side activities to complete on your way there such as Kenzo who finds himself in a spot of bother with a Drift Dancers member. Flashing your lights here will initiate a three way battle.

As you make your way up the mountainous paths and fancy yourself a bit of cheese, you should target “Backyard-SP” opponents to snatch not only their chassis but body as well, based on the Lotus Europa, its body and chassis are quite possibly the best in the entire game.

Once you’re all settled and familiar with the winding roads of Hakone, head on up to the most North West marked position on your map, Hashiriya’s Holyplace.

The arranged meeting point between team BLR and the Hokone Drift Dancers, Miharu then lays the challenge of an uphill team battle between the two crews followed by an all out downhill race between himself and Ikki.

Following the team battle which is easily blitzed, before the main event could get underway between Miharu and Ikki, we’re instead challenged by another Drift Dancers member as a precursive race.

Ikki and Miharu then get underway with Ikki getting revenge and winning the race, however the conversation held between the two is a little confusing and somewhat alarming. With Miharu proclaiming that Ikki left Hakone in search of the new “fastest legend” in Yokohama, the night ends but not before Miharu tells Ikki that someone named Manabu has gotten behind the wheel once again.

8th Midnight – Whisper From The Dark

This chapter is more or less an interlude of lore, having stayed in Hakone the previous night we’re instructed by Ikki to go and see the local Tuneshop Windy which is located at the highest point on the map.

Upon arriving you’ll encounter the owner, Kuniteru Takahashi who’ll insist that you race him and his Zeta 2400 (Fairlady Z) on the downhill before he’ll speak to you further.

After beating Takahashi, he’ll then bluntly say that you aught to come back with Ikki before you can progress further, weird.

Make your way back to the starting point for this chapter and go just a little bit south, there you’ll find Heaven’s Hill and Yuka where you’ll then be thrusted into quite the long conversation, about Kyoji’s accident as Yuka explains more on the story of Yokohama’s Fastest Legend with the depiction of a highly modified 300XZ appears, with those having gone against it winding up missing or dead, Yokohama’s Fastest Legend then disappeared.

Then what Yuka says is quite worrying, she lets us in on the secret that Won-Tec are apparently putting together a team of the absolute best drivers, and if Ikki were to win the Yokohama GP he would probably end up going professional. Yuka mentions that a black Won-Tec limousine had been parked outside Ikki’s apartment at one point in time.

The conversation ends and familiar eerie music begins to play, anxiety flowing through you as Yuka makes her way down the mountain, your mind clamoring that Yuka and Kenzo are in trouble, if you don’t act now you may never see them again, the same feeling had when we saw Kyoji right before his death.

But before we can act on anything, Manabu Oda appears in his Mitsubishi EVO, but there’s no time to chat now, we have to race down the mountain and save our friends.

But once we make our way down to the Hakone tollgate absolutely everything is fine, after a brief chat Kenzo agrees to take Yuka back to South Yokohama and then we can finally head back up the mountain to challenge Oda, but not before being sent into a race for blocking traffic.

After accepting Oda’s challenge the two of you begin to race uphill, but before the end Ikki appears to ruin the moment, after that the two of them have a little chat with Manabu asking Ikki whether or not he had found Yokohama’s Fastest Legend, his response? “No, my friends keep dying”.

Oda tells Ikki that he should leave Yokohama and come back to Hakone, but how could he? Ikki states he simply cannot leave because he hears “the voice”, similarly to what Kyoji had been shouting before his untimely demise.

After this, Ikki takes you to Tuneshop Windy where there’s a surprise awaiting you. Upon arriving at Tuneshop Windy, Ikki quickly makes his exit as you’re shown a proper GT racing car, this will be your ride in the Yokohama GP as Ikki is seemingly “attached” to his ride.

Kuniteru Takahashi then offers you to go out for a ride in his Zeta 2400, take the passenger option. The following cutscene finally begins to unravel the mystery that is Yokohama’s legend, Takahashi explains to you the story of the Fastest Lagend and their Zeta 3000.

The monstrous Zeta dark like the night with an unsettling bodykit, some say it was possessed by a demon. Kuniteru then tells you that the mysterious Zeta 3000 was in fact “Diablo Tuned”.

Those behind the wheel of the Diablo Tune Zeta 3000 have this sickly black aura to them, and every racer who have touched such black magic had ended up killed in freak accidents, like the Zeta dragged them down into the depths.

Then Takahashi explains that Ikki showed him a picture of an accident, a blue RX-7 that crashed into the ocean…. Kyoji’s SEVEN.

And make no mistake, Kyoji’s seven had been Diablo Tuned, the two of you park up as Takahashi explains that he built the GT racer which you’re to use in the upcoming Yokohama GP to take down the Diablo Tuned beasts, he states that there’s a good chance that a Diablo Tuned vehicle could be on the grid for the Grand Prix.

Takahashi then states if you were to win the Yokohama Grand Prix he will let you know everything. And thus this interlude night draws to a close.

Yokohama Grand Prix: Championship Round

This chapter opens up with a rather sinister cinematic cutscene, recalling a dream and the horrors of the last few nights, a subconscious desire for SPEED. The Yokohama GP is finally upon us, with old faces and new ones taking the state to determine just who is the fastest street racer… just who is the fastest legend?

The Yokohama Grand-Prix takes place over five laps on the same circuit as the qualification round, the vehicle given to you by Ikki and Takahashi should be undoubtedly slower than your current vehicle but even still it should still be more than quick enough for an easy first place, of which you aught to come either first or second to continue onwards.

With the Yokohama GP now over, and firmly won by team Bay Lagoon Racing, while the afterparty is raging onwards Sho seems lost in thought, he then begins to break down mentally as he hallucinates visions of Makoto and Kyoji as you then visualize a terrific accident.

Wrecked cars engulfed in flames, the diablo tuned Zeta just in the corner of the frame, Sho’s mental state is eroding as a subconscious voice and its desire for SPEED consumes him.

What was supposed to be a time for celebration for Bay Lagoon Racing then turns into a nightmare as Sho violently assaults Ikki and then storms off, driving down the K1 Highway at blazing speeds.

Eventually, you meet up with Ikki in Bay Lagoon, he wishes to race with you until the sun rises. However the race is interrupted just as you’re about to start your final lap, Ikki has crashed, his car totaled and bursting in flames. Not again.

Ikki then explains that the horrible voice is gone, he had started hearing it since Kyoji’s death, and no matter how fast he went the voice would not go away. Sho then visualizes the same flaming destruction from earlier, as you get a call from Yuka that Ikki had been rushed to hospital.

There’s no time to chat as we’re then interrupted by the voice, and there’s that Diablo tuned Zeta 3000. It refuses to answer most questions for now, however the voice does state that the voice is in fact ourselves, and that it is responsible for the deaths of both Makoto and Kyoji.

The night ends on a mind fuck.

9th Night – Endless Nightmare

From the ninth night onwards you’ve got access to all locations in Racing Lagoon, that includes South and North Yokohama, Hakone but also the C1 and Wangan highways, which can be accessed by heading South West of South Yokohama on the highway.

Anyways, we once again find ourselves at Bay Lagoon Wharf with the objective to figure out more regarding the voices inside, one suspect of which is Manabu Oda so we set off for Hakone.

But before that, for lore purposes you can head on over to Honmoku Wharf to race Shinsuke who’ll seemingly give you answers for the connection between Keisuke who now runs a Diablo Tuned vehicle with Won-Tec thugs and Kyoji before seemingly disappearing after this encounter or chapter.

While in Hakone, make your way up the mountain, but do be courteous to take the eastern road. You’ll spot a gaggle of Drift Dancers along with Akira making their way up and down the mountain flashing their lights, initiate the race and upon completion you and Akira will take a drive and have a little chat.

Nothing much comes from the conversation aside from the fact that Makoto had also heard “the voice”, Akira then heads back to Yokohama and promises to keep everyone safe while you and Ikki are gone, from here on out you two are now rivals.

You’ll be dropped off at Heaven’s Hill, Oda isn’t here unfortunately, so instead why don’t we head over to Tuneshop Windy instead. Kuniteru did mention that he’d let us in on what’s going on once we won the Yokohama GP.

Once at Tuneshop Windy you and Takahashi take the ropeway for him to tell you that there was in fact a Diablo Tuned vehicle in the Yokohama Grand Prix.

Head back to Heaven’s Hill and park, you’ll notice that Manabu and Miharu are racing up the mountain, following that cutscene both will be stationed at Hashiriya’s Holyplace. Meet up with them, but before we can speak to Oda, Miharu demands that we race him.

Once beating Miharu, we can’t get any answers from Manabu either until we beat him on the downhill, from beating Manabu the voice inside seemingly takes control. Manabu Oda then finally fills us in on some information, information that he wouldn’t tell Ikki.

Manabu is dying, he came back to Hakone to live out his final days breaking his limits, he tells us that to learn more we need to head north to the snowy mountains of Hokkaido. It’s there where we will uncover the truth about Diablo Tune, there is someone there waiting to give us the answers we desperately desire.

Following the interaction with Manabu, the voice inside rages as we once again instigate ourselves, the voice is once again reluctant to answer most questions but it too demands we head north.

And so we shall.

9th Midnight – Another Name For ANGEL

Another interlude chapter, this time we’re setting off on the C1 heading towards Hokkaido, however while on the C1 we’re stopped and coerced to a forced race with “Gamou” of the C1-Road Stars along the full C1 loop circuit, I’m honestly impressed with the quality of the full C1 circuit detailing on Racing Lagoon. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear that this was a Genki product.

After beating Gamou, Choji Todoroki, the former leader of the C1-Road Stars 10 years ago, deemed the fastest in Kanto arrives on the scene. Todoroki tells you more about the history of the Fastest Legend, how your racing style matches his.

And about how the fastest legend apparently died that night amongst the blazing inferno of metal and asphalt, Todoroki then initiates a single lap race around the C1 circuit, you versus him and his Mitsubishi Pajero. It’s about as exciting as you could imagine really.

The night ends once Choji is taken care of following another cutscene as you make your way north to Hokkaido.

10th Night – Pain Of Destiny

This chapter is quite possibly one of the shortest as it’s mostly just a collage of cinematic marvels, we’ve made our way to Hokkaido at the base of the mountain we must climb, we only have the options of buying parts and tuning our car, be sure to purchase / equip any snow tires.

We also have the option to farm some RP in very quick races but at this point it’s entirely unnecessary, so make way for the summit so we can finally get our answers from the mysterious mind behind Diablo Tune.

Upon reaching the summit lies a small cabin, there resides the mysterious man we’re desperate to get answers out of, the voice inside us seemingly takes control and is rather hostile towards the bearded man. However in the background the rumbling sound of Diablo cars can be heard, we were followed.

There’s not much time now for pleasantries, the mysterious man says that he was responsible for keeping us alive, he has waited ten years to see us again, for us to be healed of what they did to us.

The bearded man hands us a floppy disk with all we need to know contained on it, but we must escape.

And so the race down the mountain side begins, with exposed cliffsides at every other corner one small mistake means the end of us here. Across the finish line we seemingly white out across a ledge, above us is the mysterious man as familiar Won-Tec thugs shoot and kill the bearded man.

Once more the voice inside rages as we’re questioning ourselves yet again, what did the bearded man mean by keeping us alive, seeing us again. Why was he murdered? Yet again… no response.

And just like that we make our way back to Yokohama via the C1, until we are stopped by the one and only Diablo Zeta 3000 along with two other vehicles, two Won-Tec thugs by the names of John Truth and Forza Rush introduce themselves and demand the disk.

A limo appears and the disk is apprehended, we are then invited to the “Darkness GP” over at Redrenga Warehouse in South Yokohama. The night ends with more questions raised than answered.

11th Night – Revival Of The LEGEND

We start out on the C1 as we notice particular opponents with red arrows marked on them, it’s not exactly necessary to face them given how you’d be looking at three laps of the full C1 loop, but I’d still recommend for their parts alone, though I’m afraid the most challenge you’ll get out of them is hunting them down to start a race in the first place.

This chapter is one of the last you’ll use to complete a lot of the new unofficial races that are now available, and as painfully spoken earlier, the completion of such unofficial races aren’t a side objective but more rather mandatory if you wish to complete the story.

Newer races will be unlocked over the coming chapters but do understand that I will not be mentioning anything regarding unofficial locations in reference to requirement or location moving forward, I will be sticking strictly to the story.

Please seek the guide for tips on how to proceed with the aforementioned unofficial races.

Once you’re done completing as much of the unofficial races as you possibly can, it’s time to head over to the Regrenga Warehouse in South Yokohama, the meeting point for the Darkness Grand-Prix, but before we can start that you’ll be forced to race against Won-Tec’s Forza Rush, John Truth and Schneider in three laps on Spencer’s Test Course. Upon Completion the night will end.

Darkness Grand Prix

Before the start of the Darkness GP you will be encouraged to modify your vehicle, following that you’ll be thrusted into a five lap race around the Yokohama GP circuit against four other Diablo Tuned vehicles including the infamous Diablo Zeta 3000.

After the race which is easily won, you’ll be rewarded with the Aero-Diablo kit which is rather unique in terms of styling.

Following the race your memory begins to come back to you, the Diablo tuned Zeta 3000, along with what happened the night of the raging inferno ten years ago, the voice takes over. You’re brought out of your thoughts by Forza Rush and John Truth who say the contents of the disk that was taken from you can now be revealed.

But before that, the Zeta Diablo must be defeated. And so begins another three lap race between you and the Diablo Zeta 3000 across three more laps of the Yokohama GP circuit. Upon victory it’s recommended that you poach its unique Diablo paint.

With the voice in control after defeating Diablo, its driver steps out. It’s none other than Ikki? The voice inside tells us to remember, that we and it are one in the same. It was us who cause the terrific accident ten years ago, a violent being fueled by rage and speed.

We were the fastest legend and ten years ago it was us who senselessly killed the other drivers that night, we put an end to the war of Yokohama.

Upon this realization we quickly book it out of there in an instant.

We find ourselves blacked out inside an abandoned warehouse, we hear the rumbling sounds of engines and tyre squealing, it’s Gamou and Keisuke brandishing lead pipes. They make their way inside the building and proceed to wake us up, they proclaim that it’s time for the truth to be unveiled.

The warehouse we’re inside is where Diablo Tune had been fitted, however Gamou and Keisuke are pissed, they wish to erase us. But before they could try anything a swarm of Won-Tec limousines appear. It’s John Truth, Forza Rush and other Won-Tec goons.

We’re taken away, stashed inside their limousine, we recall a dream of a woman showering. We find ourselves inside a meeting room at Won-Tec headquarters with a projection being shown across the room.

The contents of the disk. Because it would seem we didn’t quite have the full idea of what “Diablo” was, for Won-Tec “D-Project” was merely a front for the company to experiment on its revolutionary new drug. Diablo.

Diablo in essence manipulates emotions, removing the fear and anxiety of those who use it. The removal of a driver’s emotions such as fear drastically improves their lap times… their SPEED.

However, Diablo has one massive drawback, in situations of elevated mental stress the drug will cause a driver to overreact. Causing countless fatalities.

We are then given a projection of Nenji Nanba, Kyoji’s brother. He had been administered Diablo and is the one responsible for coining the term “Diablo Tune”. With the aid of the Diablo drug and subsequent “Diablo Tuned” FB RX-7 he made himself known as the Fastest Rotary, until he fatally crashed on an ordinary street corner.

Won-Tec couldn’t let word be known of Diablo’s side effects, they needed more test subjects which could be disposed of without much care or thought, street racers.

Won-Tec had sent each and every one of its new test subjects out onto the streets of Yokohama in imperfect clones of the original Diablo Zeta 3000.

Yokohama’s “Fastest Legend” was nothing more than the discarded products of Won-Tec, one by one each new driver died in high speed incidents, however on a particular night the drivers escaped and what resulted was the infamous blazing wreck that caused countless fatalities killing each and every one of Diablo test subjects, a crematorium of fastest legends.

Won-Tec viewed further Diablo experiments were unviable, so they had shelved the project for ten years. Only one single driver survived the night of the crimson moon, one with the perfected concoction formula of Diablo. It was Sho.

Won-Tec had put us to sleep for ten whole years, we are their final hope of proving that Diablo had been a success. The voice inside us once again takes hold, as we find ourselves yet again questioning ourselves.

Last Night – The Long Good-Bye

We start off with a beaten and bruised Kenzo towing our car to the Won-Tec building in North Yokohama. Won-Tec’s thugs kidnapped everyone, they are to be used in Diablo experiments. We have to put an end to this. NOW.

After calling an ambulance for Kenzo we make way for South Yokohama, the last of the unofficial races have been unlocked at both Honmoku Wharf and Spencer’s Test Track. Complete them, we cannot progress any further until all unofficial races have been won.

After completing all unofficial races we can finally head on down to Bay Lagoon Wharf, the location where it all began will be the location where it’ll end. We cannot head back after this, so make sure you’re prepared.

Final Night – The End of Sweet Dream

Once again we’ve been taken away by Won-Tec enforcers, stashed away inside a limo. We recall a vivid dream of being “underwater”, void of sensation, conscious but unconscious. We awake to find ourselves stashed inside a laboratory, with Won-Tec’s president alongside Schneider speaking to us behind a one sided window.

It would seem that for the past ten years we have been sustained in a cryogenic stasis, Won-Tec’s “D-Sleep” program.

We seemingly black out after the voice takes control once again, our body moving on its own deep inside the bowls of the facility, looking around we find Keisuke, Gamou among other Won-Tec drivers face down in pools of blood, brains exposed after being beaten to death by an iron pipe. We killed them.

Traversing the facility further, stumbling upon a prison cell, used to house Won-Tec’s Diablo subjects, one speaks to us before quickly perishing. It’s all surreal.

Suddenly sirens fill the air, the entire building seemingly is going to self destruct, stumbling upon Akira and Yuka we need to get out of here.

Across three segments, we have just a minutes time to escape the soon to collapse Bay Lagoon Tower, around the tightest and most annoying set of turns in the entire game, but you’ll be fine if you can keep up with Akira.

Just as we’re about to make our escape, we tell Akira and Yuka to go on without us, we’ve got to go back and save Ikki.

We seemingly cut to a now destroyed Bay Lagoon Tower amidst the ruins, we find ourselves brandishing an iron pipe with Won-Tec’s presidential limo destroyed before us. For all the suffering he has caused, he must die, but before we can lay our hands on him, he’s shot dead from none other than Schneider.

Schneider then tells us of the man from the snowy mountains in Hokkaido, Satoru Kawashima, chief researcher of the D-Project.

Schneider plans to return to Europe with Diablo in hopes to continue its development, however rather than simply shoot us dead as well he wishes to play a little game, a game of chance.

A simple race for survival.

Amidst the burning ruins of the tower, we race against Schneider in his Diablo Tuned Porsche 911, we defeat him and he keeps his promise, given that on the very night that the War of Yokohama came to an end we were in fact an innocent bystander, not involved with the Diablo experiments.

We notice Ikki’s R30 Nissan Skyline, it’s Diablo Tuned, both Ikki and Aoi are inside. We recall the vivid memory of a woman in the shower, diablo pills placed on a table, Aoi then tells us a bit more backstory.

We are the original Fastest Legend, an ordinary racer faster than the Diablo Zetas. It would seem that Sho and Aoi were actually in a relationship ten years ago, she thought we died on the night of the crimson moon. We finally recall what happened that very night, the night the Diablo drivers escaped.

Waiting along the Yokohama highway, waiting for the Diablo Zeta, but what came were a swarm of Zetas instead. Gradually during the battle with the Diablo drivers, they then started to spin out and wreck one by one, with zero fear they careened towards the blazing wreck that lie ahead without hesitance.

Fueled by speed and rage, amidst the flaming wreck of Diablo Zetas, we brutally murdered the drivers, they were defiling street racing.

The roar of Ikki’s Diablo Tuned R30 puts us back in reality, Ikki is fighting to cleanse himself of the Diablo drug, how else to cure him than with a race? The “race” doesn’t go very far before Ikki seemingly comes to a halt, suddenly Aoi takes the drivers seat while Ikki lay lumped over in the passenger seat.

Aoi must be stopped so we take chase, but once again we don’t get much further before coming to halt right before plunging into the ocean depths. Everything seems okay, Aoi and a wounded Ikki are out of the Diablo R30 as they share an embrace.

To wrap it all up we once again debate with ourselves, our former self, he demands a race, us against the “Fastest Legend” in his Black Zeta 3000. Granted that the fastest legend’s car is capable of more than 300 kp/h the odds aren’t particularly in your favor.

Win or lose, the credits begin to roll as we get a compilation of the aftermath, Ikki coming out of hospital, Sho and Yuka driving off in the Black Zeta 3000 with Akira now being a member of Bay Lagoon Racing.

Conclusion:

Needless to say, I love this game. I love everything about it, from the perfect blend of RPG elements working seamlessly with the racing genre to the jazzy synth music which hits hard with the creepy vibes of Racing Lagoon.

The handling of the cars in question is like a harmonious ballet between the accelerator and handbrake, by no means is the handling itself remotely good, it’s challenging but in a sort of good way. By using the handbrake at the right moment you’re seemingly capable to bend the laws of physics being able to corner at much greater speeds, to achieve a perfect turn provides immense satisfaction.

Car customization is even more varied than the games of today, both in terms of physical appearance and mechanical changes.

Varying aero kits that you’ll encounter through your playthrough will undoubtedly completely change the appearance of all vehicles featured in Racing Lagoon, many different types of stickers and paint jobs are also available as well.

The mysteries of Diablo tuning and the crazy disfigured results of using the Diablo-Aerokit with each vehicle present in the game from small Daihatsu kei cars to massive busses. It’s encapsulating.

Everything is interchangeable, mechanically wise you’ll more than notice the differences in handling, how power is applied when you start changing individual parts on a car, body modifications make it so you can convert that Mitsubishi EVO to run in a mid-ship configuration, or how about a rear engine mount for your Toyota AE86.

Engine modifications from mufflers to turbos, cams and supercharges all change how and when the power is derived from an individual engine, the overall combined weight of your chassis, engine and body all come into play as well. Even modifications that don’t necessarily add BHP such as engine lubricant and lighter flywheels will have a noticeable change on how quickly power is extracted from an engine. It’s all very sophisticated and perfectly themed for an RPG Racer.

I’ll say it again, I love this game. Somebody who hasn’t really spared much thought over roleplaying games throughout their entire life, here I am, a young adult simply being hooked by an obscure video game for the original Playstation that actually predates me.

But it’s not all love and adoration, there’s plenty wrong with Racing Lagoon as well, for one thing the performance scaling simply goes out of whack after around the sixth night. By that point more than likely you’d have enough “power” to push you through to the end, if not you will by the next few nights.

By around the ninth chapter the power of your opponents simply pale in comparison which I find simply not good enough, Racing Lagoon at the very start is quite challenging, your old 86 shitbox just doesn’t have the power to compete but then suddenly you begin to swap in new motors and the HP bumps simply do not stop.

Aside from that, I’m all for an RPG game to encourage exploration, Racing Lagoon does so quite nicely, for those who love additional lore content from exploration it’s perfect. However I simply do not like being forced to do side objectives to complete the main story, Racing Lagoon forces you to complete every single unofficial race presented throughout the entire game, challenges that require sophisticated setups and lots of individual parts gathering.

Especially by late game how you’re powerful enough to simply breeze past any remote “challenge” it’s ridiculous how the game forces you to jump through hoops right at the very end.

But it’s the story that makes it for me, first time round I didn’t quite understand it, the second time however…. I still don’t know what the fuck is going on.

Racing Lagoon starts out humble, street punks doing typical street racing, that then quickly devolves to kidnapping, death and despair, a corporate plot, sci-fi mechanics, murder, tragedy, dual personalities, drugs and more death.

All of this bundled in an innocent looking little Racing JRPG. Everything about it is simply authentic 90’s crazy bullshit, the game itself being so hard to actually comprehend I’ve gotten carried away with this “review” which is more or less an entire playthrough because it pains me so that such a game like this never actually made it to the west, how the likes of Final Fantasy is so prominent while Racing Lagoon seemingly got buried.

Racing Lagoon as a game is authentically Japanese, and by that either nuclear weapons don’t exist or quite simply two nukes wasn’t enough.

For me personally, to play a game such as this is quite a stretch, even more so in playing a single title twice, now I can just as easily give some arbitrary score for Racing Lagoon: High Speed Racing RPG but a barbaric number / opinion from someone like myself means absolute jack shit in the minds of others.

It’s not just about sharing the opinions of a particular product but more or less showing it to you in a way for you to make judgement for yourself, by all means if such a game has interested you, please play it. But if you’re iffy on the subject of playing something like this at least I have some satisfaction of showing you as much of it as I possibly can.

Sharing this game, be it start to finish to as many people as possible is what Racing Lagoon truly deserves because for me it is certainly one of the greatest mindfucks, let alone video games that I’ve ever come across.