For our very first Spring pick of the year, we're back at the racing scene once more, with a Bandai Namco-fueled racing series that, unlike for Ridge Racer games and other minor racing titles, found its fortune on the arcade game rooms...
Lightning Dance Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune
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It has taken quite a while to get there, but the long-running Taiko no Tatsujin series can now bolster the inclusion of tracks from another Bandai Namco arcade hit of theirs: the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune (湾岸ミッドナイト マキシマムチューン) series. It's also the time for another lengthy background tale to tell, so fasten your seat belts and let the ride begin!
This is an arcade racing series of videogames which was originated from the Kodansha Award-winning (in 1999) manga series Wangan Midnight, penned by Michiharu Kusunoki (楠 みちはる) from 1990 to 2008. The story is set in the street race network concerning Tokyo's Shuto Expressway Bayshore Route (with 'Wangan' itself being the JP word for 'bayshore'), Japan's longest straight route. Near-end high school student Akio Asakura is one of the many competitors who aims to shine the best in the scene despite a low racing record, but his fate changes when he finds in a junkyard the scrapped body of a midnight blue-colored Nissan Fairlady Z (the JP market name for the S30 model). After a few researches on the discharged vehicle, Akio finds out that the highly-tuned car was thrashed due to the previous owner being afraid of its eerie backstory, with every other previous driver getting killed as if the car itself rejected its lead by spinning and crashing. Upon discovering the history of the nicknamed 'Devil Z' car, the young Akio proceeds to buy it in order to have another chance to claim its place as the top dog of the Wangan street racing circuit.
The characters and locations surrounding the world of the 48-volumes Wangan Midnight series (and its direct sequel, Wangan Midnight: C1 Runner) have inspired the production of a wide representation in other media means, from an Anime series by A.C.G.T to numerous movies (13 as of today) and, finally, to videogames. While the series's early gaming beginnings were handled by developer Genki Co., Ltd. with an early-2000 arcade game by the same name (which also got enhanced ports on PS2/PSP and a PS3 enhanced remake), the real deal for both fans of the manga run and the arcade racing scene was the inception of Bandai Namco's Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune in 2004, featuring multiple game modes in both offline and online settings, car customization features and Banapassport-linked save states in an ensemble that could compete with Sega's Initial D games (which -by the way- was also based around a racing manga story!). The WMMT franchise is still up and running to this day thanks to international versions and multiple sequels, with the latest installment being the currently-Asia-exclusive WMMT 5DX+. The wide majority of the series's music has been handled by renowned videogame composer Yuzo Koshiro (古代祐三), who also made the WMMT 5 track Lightning Dance that has been made playable in Taiko no Tatsujin gaming since the third Nintendo 3DS title.
With a chart that oozes of Rare Hero and Naked Glow Oni nostalgia, Kuboken (くぼけん) has crafterd a less note-heavy chart to handle, with some modern elements peppered in like dense 1/24 Don clusters and scrolling speed alterations (up to x3!) just to throw some curve balls at the unsuspecting 1st-time players. Curiously enough, this is also one of the few songs (together with tracks such as Kibun Jojou↑↑) whose Shin-Uchi score ceiling is exactly of 1 million points without the yellow drumroll!