May 11, 2006

by: Brian Langlois

Hands-On: Namco's arcade horseback racer gallups onto Nintendo Wii. Place your bets!

That last 220 yards can be quite a stretch, especially when your horse is running out of steam. Soon you will be able to whip him back into shape using the Wii controller and “nunchuku” attachment. Final Furlong, Namco’s popular arcade horse-racing simulator, is moving to Nintendo Wii and is shaping up to be one heck of a race. Place your bets now!

Anyone who has played the arcade version knows there is a lot of bouncing involved. While you are not riding a mechanical horse this time, you do use the Wii controller to drive your horse toward the finish line. The trick is in swinging both halves of the controller simultaneously to snap the reins and motivate the horse to run. Though you may be inclined to jerk your hands wildly and ferociously, you really just want to manage to keep both of your hands even. This helps keep the horse’s stamina meter in the prime position, indicated by a green arrow. Driving your horse too hard might not benefit you in the long run as his stamina will decrease. You can also use the A button to whip the horse with your crop to get an extra burst of speed, though it doesn’t last long. Turning is handled a little differently than expected. If you whip with only one side of the controller the horse will turn in that direction. The turning was a little tricky, but anyone who has ridden a real horse can tell you they don’t always go where you want them to.

The game really does look very good with crisp, bright graphics. The horses look very lifelike and move fluidly. In fact, the horse animation is really well refined and a great addition to the realism of the game. You get a great wide view of the track as you chase your rivals' tails toward the finish line. There is a great sense of speed as well. Like many racing games, some detail is sacrificed for speed and fluidity and it really works here. Namco was smart to put the horsepower where it counts for this title, no pun intended.

Final Furlong is looking to be a rather fun game. It feels like you’re really at the race track on a sunny day and just won on a twenty to one long shot. There was no word of any multiplayer aspects, but it is a given that this game needs them. It could become a tremendous party game, especially if they implemented a betting system, points only of course. We hope to see more of this title in the near future and will bring you the coverage here on AMN.