|Industry||Computer and video game industry|
|Founded||October 16, 1990
February 26, 2008
|Key people||Hiroshi Hamagaki (President and CEO)|
Genki (元気) is a Japanese developer of computer and video games. It was founded in October 1990 by Hiroshi Hamagaki and Tomo Kimura, who left Sega to form the company. Genki is best known for its racing game titles.
In its early years, Genki dabbled in a few different genres, looking for its niche. On one end of the spectrum, there was Devilish, a game similar to Arkanoid that was released for Sega's Game Gear and Mega Drive systems in 1991. On the other end, there was Kileak: The DNA Imperative, a first-person mecha shooting game for the PlayStation which was released in 1995; it was panned by critics and consumers, although it did receive a sequel (Epidemic, which was similarly panned).
Although they did not know it at the time, Genki found its niche in 1994, with the release of Shutokō Battle '94 Keichii Tsuchiya Drift King for the Super Famicom -- the first in a long-running series of racing games. Shutokou Battle 2 followed one year later, in 1995, and was also for the Super Famicom.
Within the same year, Genki shifted towards developing 3D games, continuing the Shutokou Battle series with Wangan Dead Heat (known in western markets as "Highway 2000") on the Sega Saturn. Genki also produced major titles for both the PlayStation and Nintendo's N64 console in the following two years, including another Shutokou Battle game for the PlayStation (known in western markets as "Tokyo Highway Battle") and Multi-Racing Championship for the N64. They also developed Jade Cocoon for the PlayStation in 1998.
According to MobyGames, the company logo is a picture of Hiroshi Hamagaki, drawn by his son when he was 3 years old.
Continuing with the genre that is consistently the most rewarding for them, Genki continued the Shutokou Battle series, releasing a title for Sega's Dreamcast console in 1999, simply called "Shutokou Battle." This game was also exported to western markets, where it came to be known as "Tokyo Xtreme Racer" (U.S.) and "Tokyo Highway Challenge" (Europe).
The Dreamcast version of Shutokou Battle enjoyed much greater success than any of its predecessors, and was soon followed up by Shutokou Battle 2, also for the Dreamcast, and Shutokou Battle Zero for the PlayStation 2. By the time Shutokou Battle Zero came out in 2001, Genki was becoming well known among racing-game fans, particularly because of its series' relatively unique "free roam" and "SP" gameplay mechanics.
In 2002, Namco partnered with Genki to produce a game based on Michiharu Kusunoki's racing manga, Wangan Midnight. Namco developed the arcade version (based largely on Genki's gameplay mechanics), which was imported to the U.S., while Genki developed the Japan-only PlayStation 2 version. Namco continued its arcade game series with the release of Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune in 2004. Genki released the Japan-only home version for PlayStation 3 (with online mode) and PlayStation Portable in June and September 2007.
GRP: Genki Racing Project
In response to the success of their racing titles, particularly the Shutokou Battle series, Genki established a division dedicated to that genre in 2003 called the Genki Racing Project, or GRP. The GRP's first title was Shutokou Battle Online for Microsoft Windows, which tried to apply an MMO-like aspect to the existing gameplay of the series. The game and its update version were sold only in Japan but were playable from anywhere as free online trial versions (with free registration) were available for download on the game's website.
Less than two months later, the GRP released the touge-based drifting/racing game Kaido Battle, which was a rather stark departure from the Tokyo-highway-based Shutokou Battle series. Kaido Battle was followed by Kaido Battle 2: Chain Reaction in 2004 and Kaido Battle: Touge No Densetsu in 2005. All three titles were released for the PS2. Kaido Battle and Kaido Battle: Touge No Densetsu were both released in North America, under the titles Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift and Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift 2, respectively. By comparison, European markets received Kaido Battle 2: Chain Reaction and Kaido Battle: Touge No Densetsu, under the names Kaido Racer and Kaido Racer 2.
Among the various other adaptations of Shutokou Battle lies another unique title marketed as "Car Tuning RPG", called Racing Battle: C1 Grand Prix, which was released for the PS2 in 2005. Racing Battle departed from highway and mountain racing, focusing on real-life tracks such as Tsukuba Circuit, Suzuka Circuit, and TI Circuit.
In late 2006, Genki announced they would end the Shutokou Battle series, and eventually shut down the Genki Racing Project, as a part of the cost-cutting operation.