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G1 Jockey 2008 for the Nintendo Wii is a horse racing simulator by Japanese games developer Koei. The game is in its second incarnation on the Wii console, although it has been available previously on both PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles where multiple versions were released. There is also a version of the game available on PlayStation 3.
This latest version of G1 Jockey 2008 features support for the Wii Fit balance board to enhance player experience within the game.
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The game puts the player in the role of a young, upcoming jockey, and the player begins the game as a raw apprentice facing their final graduation. The goal of the game is to rise through the ranks of the sport to become champion jockey and a horse racing legend in the process.
This is done, not just by riding in and winning races but also by training your own horses for success on the track.
The game begins with the player choosing common options to create their in-game persona, such as their sex, riding colors and their affiliated stable for whom they will ride. Then it is off to graduation school to learn the trade.
The graduation school feature is essentially the tutorial for the game, where new players can learn the basic controls to control the horses and read the in-game meters for race-riding. Players familiar with the game from the previous release can skip the tutorials as the gameplay is exactly the same.
Once the player has completed all the tutorials (or skipped them!) they are given four mock races to try out in order to hone their new-found skills and get used to putting them into practice; after which the final graduation takes place and the game begins in earnest.
Essentially the game involves negotiating each week for horses to ride in races. This is done by accumulating and spending points – the more points a player accumulate, the better the chance of getting a ride in a race. However, to get points the player has to perform well in races for those trainers they ride for. At the beginning, players will mostly ride for their attached stable who will offer horses to ride at no cost. Performing well on these will soon see the player attracting the attention of other stables who will also begin to offer the player rides.
In between riding weeks, you’ll be able to visit the stables and practice on the horses you’re due to ride. Also, once you are given your own horse to train you’ll be introduced to a series of mini-games which can be used to build up your horse’s profile including their stamina, speed and running style. There is also the option to visit other stables, which can be handy to build up trust and reputation and enhance the player’s chances of picking up additional rides.
Undoubtedly the worst part of the game is the over-long and highly tedious 2D cut-scenes which frequently punctuate the game. These usually appear when a trainer, journalist, rival jockey or even an obsessed fan speaks to you and there’s no right to reply. There’s also a lot of reading involved which really goes nowhere fast and players will soon be skimming the text quickly. Unfortunately, there’s no way to bypass this feature, so be ready to hit the ‘A’ button repeatedly.
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Race riding is perhaps the hardest part of the game and the in-game displays certainly require the player’s concentration. On the screen there are four indicators which monitor the horse’s confidence, their accrued potential, their stamina and their preferred riding style.
The confidence monitor is the middle indicator and the yellow bar on the outer represents the horse’s speed. In the middle is a bouncing sphere which changes colour according to the horse’s mood. The player should aim to ride the horse so that the sphere remains green. If the sphere turns yellow, the horse begins to lose confidence; blue and the horse is ready to down tools and if it turns red then the horse will drop itself out and no amount of driving will get it interested again.
To the right is the horse’s potential meter. This meter fills up if the horse is happy through the race – the happier, the faster it fills and the potential is used at the end of the race to provide a finishing spurt to the line. If a horse is unhappy, potential will be used up much quicker. Also, once a horse runs out of stamina (shown on the left) then it will begin to use potential so make sure you save enough stamina at the business end of the race otherwise you’ll use up your potential before you need it!
Also in the stamina indicator, there is an indicator of which is the horse’s leading leg – this can be changed during the final drive to provide a small boost to potential which can be the difference between winning and losing.
Below the confidence meter are four arrows which indicate the horse’s preferred running style. The coloured arrows indicate where the player should try to position their horse through the race in order to gain the most potential. The left-hand arrow indicates that the horse likes to lead while the right-hand arrow indicates the horse likes to be held up and brought late into the race.
Understanding these meters in the race and how to influence them is crucial to a player’s success and once you’ve mastered reading them, race riding and winning becomes a whole lot simpler.
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The game requires the use of the nunchuk in order to play, which simulates the player’s reins while the remote simulates the player’s whip. There are several configurations of controls available in game, depending on the player’s preference. There is also support for the Wii balance board, which helps to enhance the player’s experience. Instead of tilting the Nunchuk forward to drive, you will instead need to rapidly flex and then straighten your knees in order to coax the horse forward.
To jump you need to straighten your legs to initiate your horse upwards at the correct time, and steering involves shifting your weight to your left and right legs. Leaning back will slow down the horse, while leaning forward will tell the horse to go faster.
If I’m honest, I found the novelty of the balance board to wear thin pretty quickly and using it was very tiring, although combined with a Wii Fit program, the game could be ideal for building stamina.
However, for this game the balance board was soon ditched for the favoured nunchuk and remote.
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Game Graphics & Sound
The graphics are at best average, although horse and jockey animations are well done. However, the textures are poor and lack detail, while the extremely bad 2-D cardboard cut-out figures which punctuate the game really drags the game down in this regard.
The sound which features throughout the game is fine, although limited to a few instances such as the horse’s hooves in the race and the whip-slapping. The music can become quite irritating after a time.
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G1 Jockey is without doubt a fun game to play, although I have a couple of small niggles with the game. Firstly, during the game, when the player uses the whip to drive their horse, there is no limit to the number of times the whip can be used. I don’t like this and in real life, especially in the UK, a jockey using the whip with the frequency allowed in G1 Jockey would never be allowed to ride.
Secondly, in the jumps races, if you meet a fence ‘wrong’ then you have no hope of staying in the saddle and the viewpoint when you do fall off is terrible.
Horse racing games, especially those which simulate actual race-riding have been few and far between and the G1 Jockey series is probably the definitive series in this niche. This incarnation of the game preserves that accolade and the game can be utterly addicting.
Players will either love it or hate it, but fans of horse racing should definitely give this title a try.