Fast cars, beautiful women, and a city where drift racing is completely legal. If these things sound appealing then Drift Girls is a must. Your racer in the game retired from the pro circuit and now spends his days street racing while meeting gorgeous anime girls. With more than 30 girls to encounter, Drift Girls is just as much of a dating sim as it is a racing game.
Right off the bat the game impressed me with how polished it is. Despite being free to play, it has the look and feel of a premium title. In fact, take away all the in-app purchases and the game wouldn’t look out of place on a handheld game console like the Playstation Vita. Your time in the game is split evenly between improving your car and improving your relationship with the various women you meet. The game features a nice selection of cars that are split into six different star levels. In addition to using parts such as turbos, brakes, engines and suspension to boost the stats of vehicles you can also “sacrifice” extra cars to upgrade your primary one. Cars can even be merged once certain criteria are met, which nets you a new, higher-tiered, car.
When it comes to racing you have a choice between ordinary races, spread across 14 episodes, as well as World Tour and Weekly Races. Each of the 14 episodes features five different tracks as well as a “boss” to beat. Completing the races earns you random rewards like coins, cash and date tickets, while Time Attack and Part Races also occasionally appear. As Drift Girls is a free to play title it makes use of a fuel system where each race requires a set amount of fuel to take part. When you run out of fuel you either have to wait until it is recharged or fill up the tank using real cash. Fuel is quite expensive, but fortunately recharges quite quickly and barrels of the stuff can be earned simply from playing, so it never feels too unfair. The World Tour and Weekly Races pit you against other online players and, unlike the ordinary races, don’t require any fuel. Instead they make use of a ticket system, which once again can either be purchased using real cash if you run out of your daily allotted amount. Finally, there are the Event Races, which function like side stories to the main storyline, but require certain criteria in order to take part.
When it comes to the racing part of the game the focus is very much on the drifting. Your car is basically on rails, so input is restricted to pressing and holding down the right button when drifting. Drift sections are clearly marked by lines on the road and it is your job to time your button presses as accurately as possible. The accuracy of your drifts are timed right down to the millisecond and classified as either a miss, bad, good, great or, if you are really lucky, CRAZY. The better you time your drifts the faster you increase the nitro meter, which provides you with a temporary speed boost when triggered. The nitros are best used going into or out of a drift, but completing a race without using nitros earns you some extra coins. At the start of each race you can also earn a speed boost by keeping your rev counter in the sweet spot.
The other major part of the game is the dating and with a total of 32 women to meet there is no lack of variety. The girls all have different backgrounds, from a skater, traffic cop, tourist and mechanic to a law student, professor, chef, and even a member of the mafia. Of course, not all of them are available right from the start, so you will have to play your cards right and win plenty of races to get their phone numbers. Once you have earned a girl’s phone number you can take her out on dates to locations, such as the park, theater, aquarium, zoo, theme park or the mall. Some locations, like the VIP club, Casino and terrace restaurant require special “tickets” which can be bought or earned as rewards. The point of the dating is to increase the fondness of the girls as they provide you with stat boosts when selected as a passenger during races. Due to the amount of girls and locations the dating aspect of the game is actually quite fun and doesn’t feel like it was just tacked on as fan service. The girls are obviously all very easy on the eyes and can be showered with gifts and accessories to raise their affection even more. Sometimes you’ll have to answer questions correctly during dates to improve the quality of the date, but watch out as girls can start to sulk under certain conditions. These conditions depend on the girl, but can be anything from dating other girls too many times, to racing against lower level opponents too much. When a girl is sulking, she provides no stat boost and won’t provide you with daily coin rewards either until you get back in her good books.
Each girl has a fondness bar, which is split into four levels. Reach level two and she can accompany you on races, while at level three her stats increase. Reach level four and her stats not only increases further, but she can go on an overnight date with you and can also be dressed up in uniforms. The overnight dates are pretty tame compared to what you would find in your average visual novel, but some of the conversations are quite humorous. Girls can have their stats boosted even further by making use of the exceed limit feature. Fulfill certain criteria, such as racing with the girl a certain amount of times, dating her a set amount of times or achieving a specific rank with her the required amount of times and you can use coins to activate her exceed limit. This boosts her stats, unlocks new exceed limit requirements and gives her a new, empty fondness bar to refill.
Visually the game looks great and the well-drawn, animated backgrounds for the dating scenes put a lot of full-fledged visual novels to shame. The actual races also look great, with detailed cars, varied tracks and plenty of detail. You can even customize the paint, decals and license plate of your vehicles, provided you have the right coupons. The audio is also very good and the game not only features some great tunes, but plenty of speech as well. The standard of the voice acting is very high, but just watch out as the girls sound VERY excited during drifts. When playing this game in public muting the volume or wearing some headphones is pretty much a must unless you want people to think that you are busy watching porn!
Thanks to the simple controls the game is very easy to play, but it has a surprising amount of depth. The performance of your car is broken down into linear speed, linear acceleration, corner speed and corner acceleration, so to perform well you actually need to pay attention to these stats. Although real cash can be used to upgrade the performance of your cars it is actually possible to get very far without spending anything. The game features regular events and daily rewards, which makes it easy to amass plenty of coins and in-game cash. The races are also entertaining enough that grinding them for items, mastery and coins doesn’t feel like a chore. About my only complaint is the fact that the button to activate nitros is only on the left side of the screen, which makes it tricky to use when holding down the left drift button. Also, when buying certain items from in-game cash shop, the contents are randomized, which makes buying them a bit of a gamble. Lastly, the game can only be played while your device is online, which is a bit frustrating when you have a poor connection or have to work with data charges.
Overall, I really enjoyed Drift Girls and have played the game virtually every day for the past two months since its launch! The fact that the cars are on rails will probably disappoint players looking for a true racing experience, but makes the game much easier to control on a touch screen. Anyone unwilling to drop some cash on this game will have to put up with some grinding, but all things considered the in-app purchases in Drift Girls never feels like a cash grab. There is still a lot that can be said about Drift Girls, but as the game is free to play the best way to find out if it is something that will appeal to you is to try it out yourself.