“Racing Lagoon”

By JamesNavarro

In the mid- to late 1990s, Squaresoft was one of few companies that produced as much output. Squaresoft created original IPs at an unprecedented rate over the life of the PlayStation, particularly in their second life as Square-Enix. Squaresoft produced original games like Parasite Eve and Xenogears. They also made bold moves with established franchises, with very different entries for the SaGa or Mana series. Racing Lagoon is another title from that time when Squaresoft believed they could achieve anything and make it work.

Hitoshi Sasaki directed the game. He was also the game/graphic design for Bahamut Lagoon (another cross-breed RPG) released on the Super Famicom. The game’s designer is Tsukasa Fujita, who is well-known for his work on Final Fantasy Tactics. Akitoshi Kazu, who is best Central High School Football known for his work as director of the SaGa series, completes this bizarre cast of Squaresoft’s cult hit games. Motomu Toriyama wrote the bizarre script and later directed Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII.

Racing Lagoon high-speed racing RPG

Racing Lagoon can be described as a “high-speed racing RPG”. It is based on the aesthetic of the street racing manga/anime series Initial D. The music and the 1986 Toyota Corolla AE86 that the player starts with are direct comparisons. It begins with a stylish intro that takes you into 1999 Yokohama. Contrasting color palettes of dark and light greens or blues create a pseudo-neon haze that covers the pixellated Yokohama.

Racing Lagoon’s Images

Racing Lagoon’s images will appeal to those who love low-poly cityscapes and nostalgic for them. The car models are excellently done, and they are comparable to Gran Turismo 2 and Ridge Racer Type 4. Story segments are set on static backgrounds, with the CG characters acting over them. Although the game attempts to translate a manga-style art direction into CG models for characters, the characters end up looking awkward and ugly.

The story centers around Sho Akasaki who is a young street racer with Bay Lagoon Racing. He has amnesia and fights against rival gangs to become Japan’s Fastest Legend. While he also seeks to discover the truth behind his identity, the plot revolves around Sho. As the plot progresses, WONTEC, an evil corporation and a drug called DIABLO are added to the mix. The game’s narrative is very heavy, but the racing genre makes it easy for casual players to navigate the game.

Racing Lagoon is Divided

Racing Lagoon is divided into a series nights, with the player navigating around Yokohama, challenging other street racers and completing optional side events. The story can also be advanced by visiting locations across the overworld. This structure is quite innovative for its time. The entire non-racing action is held on an overworld map that you can freely drive around.