LifeisXbox’s Tanuki Sunset review | Tanuki Sunset is an Endless Runner type of game, minus the endless. You play as a cool raccoon on a skateboard (are you sold yet?) going down roads at breakneck speeds while accompanied by lo-fi beats and pretty visuals (how about now?)
I compare it to an endless runner because it has many similarities with the genre that is so popular on mobile: your character moves on its own (you can adjust your speed though) and you dodge incoming obstacles and try to stay alive. But here, you actually have a story goal: getting your picture taken to be on the cover of FISH magazine! Better ramp up your skills and keep that nose down, so you reach your goals without too many accidents… (Spoiler: there will be lots and lots of accidents)
What is it like?
Tanuki Sunset is one of those games that heavily rely on your reaction speed. As the player you simply need to survive on the way down, but you can collect bits to purchase cosmetics in the store, or do tricks to rack up your score. Most of it is just you swerving through obstacles and taking turns *juuuust* right. But nothing can illustrate the gameplay as well as a video, so here is just that:
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by Digerati, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Visuals | Tanuki Sunset has a nice visual aesthetic going on with the different zones each bringing their own vibes, from 80’s neon outlines to a Japanese “land of the rising sun” look found in one of the trials. The overall design of the game is the main reason I felt drawn to check it out in the first place. And I was also happily surprised to find a photomode in the game that let me inspect some of the locations at my own pace.
- Lo-fi beats | Tanuki comes packed with a walkman strapped to his hip and he sure has a good taste in music. I found the included music fitting the overall vibe the game was going for perfectly with lo-fi beats and synthwave tunes.
- Collecting bits | No matter if you’re playing the main story, the trials or the endless run, you can always collects bits on each track. Perform a trick over blue circling ones and you’ll even get a nice amount of them and best of all: even if you perish, you get to keep them all so at least you make some amount of progress in the game even if you fail time and time again.
- Outfits | And what do you use those bitties on? You buy gear for Tanuki! Either outfits to dress him up and getting him looking really stylish, or planks & wheels for your skateboard. It’s a nice motivation to keep on playing the game, but sadly some of the items were too expensive and buying everything is tied to the grindiest achievement of the game.
- Randomly generated | While the Trials give you the same track every time to try and get a top speed or highscore on, the main story tracks are somewhat randomly generated. I like how this keeps the game from getting stale, but at the same time it also makes it impossible to train for harder parts and you’ll need some amount of luck to get through them if you’re struggling with the controls like I was.
- Funny side-characters | In the game’s hub you can talk to a sloth shopkeeper or pet a crown-wearing dog, but the most interesting encounters are Steven Seagull and kit the tiny raccoon. You have to race Steven to the finish or try and keep little Kit safe on your back, which added a nice extra layer on top of the existing gameplay, but sadly when you fail, they don’t respawn in that particular run, making the game even more grindy because you’d have to restart the entire zone to encounter them again and try to get their achievement. I would have vastly preferred just being allowed to retry their challenge right after failing it.
- Highscores | Tanuki Sunset keeps track of your performance in all its modes with even a Trial run where you can beat the other characters, like your mom (yes really). But it’s a bit silly that there is almost no incentive to and that you also can’t compare your scores to those of your friends. I always gave preference to simply surviving, even if that meant slowing down to a crawl, simply because I saw no real motivation in getting a faster time or higher score.
What we Disliked
- Controls | One of the most important elements to a game like this is that the controls feel just right and that you feel like you only have yourself to blame for failing a run, giving you just enough courage to try again. Sadly, that wasn’t the case in Tanuki’s Sunset and I often felt like a turn was too sharp and near impossible to correct, even though the game lets you power steer by holding down the A button or using the triggers. To eliminate the possibility that this was “just me sucking at the game” I also asked my wife and two friends to give it a try and they were about ready to throw in the towel after 3 attempts and feeling like they couldn’t accurately steer Tanuki where he needed to go.
- Long distance between checkpoints | So we’ve established that the game is hard to control and that you need some amount of persistence to keep pushing on. My biggest complaint in this is the lack of checkpoints and the huge distance between them. The linear minimap on your right that keeps track of how far until the next one makes it look like the next checkpoint is only a few hundred meters away, but in reality the road is pretty long, and it’s infuriating to fail each time when it looks like you were getting close. I think a lot of players ragequit the game altogether because I was the first in the world to get the achievement for beating the 2nd and 3rd world, indicating that most of my fellow reviewers didn’t manage to stick it out until the end.
- Story | I’m not expecting a blockbuster thriller in games like these, in fact I don’t think they need a story at all and the simple “I want to be on the cover of FISH magazine” was enough exposition to drive the main character, but then the ending took some weird motivational and spiritual undertones that I felt were completely unnecessary and even made me roll my eyes a few times.
How long to beat the story | ~1.5 hours (perfect run)
How long to achieve 1000G | ~10 hours or more
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.