Tanuki Sunset Review

Tanuki Sunset is an arcade-style downhill skateboarding game, with a lo-fi aesthetic that borders on vaporwave, planted firmly between the 80s and 90s. The gameplay has many similarities to the endless runner genre, except that in this case, it would be endless skater. It was developed by Rewind Games and published by Digerati. This game knows how to make a good first impression thanks to an attractive art style, a chill soundtrack, and simple controls. Shredding down the first hill of the tutorial I had made up my mind, I knew I’d like this game, but first impressions are just that, first impressions, so read on to find out what I thought after spending some time carving some neon curves.

Tanuki Sunset stars a racoon, err… tanuki? Apparently, they are different species, and Tanukis are not as cute as raccoons. Anyways… Tanuki Sunset stars a longboarding tanuki, with an overprotective mother, who spends his days chilling in his local skate shop when he’s not on the asphalt slopes. Turns out there’s a competition in “Fish”, the big skateboard magazine, for the best photo going off the mega ramp at the end of the legendary trail. This is just the type of excuse you need to grab your board and shred.

Gameplay in Tanuki Sunset consists of you riding down randomly generated levels while maneuvering your way past obstacles such as traffic cones and cars, stuff you might expect, as well as a few off-the-wall hindrances such as crabs (the crustacean variety), and toxic sludge barrels. The basic controls are as simple as you might have imagined. The left joystick is used to move left and right in addition to controlling your velocity, although pressing forward never seemed to get me going as fast as I expected. The A button can be held to enter into a drift/power slide state, that lets you carve into the pavement, helping you get around the sharper turns. I must note that it takes a little while to get used to the power sliding in Tanuki Sunset, when I first started playing I found myself misjudging the exit of my slides and I would careen right off the edge of the level. It took a while, but once you get the hang of it drifting through the turns feels acceptable.

There are three levels in Tanuki Sunset, each with three stages. That might sound a little light, and it is. The developers have padded the play time by making each stage longer than it should be; some of the later stages (not levels) can take ten to fifteen minutes to complete. For an arcadey, fast-paced, chill-vibes-style game this is too much and borders on ridiculous. Each stage has roughly two checkpoints, which you will respawn at if you crash. This will happen a lot, and I mean A LOT. Having to restart back at the last checkpoint if you make one mistake is one of the reasons the stages take so long to complete. Each stage has a time of day theme – sunrise, sunset, and night – and each one takes place in a unique location. The art direction definitely stands out; however, the repetitive nature of the levels puts a major damper on things, as you see so many elements over and over again. 

True to its endless runner roots, Tanuki Sunset features an endless mode that allows you to ride off into the neverending sunset. This can be found on the arcade machine in the skate shop in between levels. I thought the inclusion of a skate shop was perfect, and what really makes it stand out is the fact that you can walk around freely in the shop as the Tanuki, don’t get too excited though as the shop is pretty small. Other activities in the shop include a deck salesperson that allows you to customize your skateboard and a clothing salesperson that allows you to customize your look. The currency required to purchase any of these items can be found while riding your skateboard; sadly, the game is rather stingy with how much it awards. 

The game also rewards you with… stickers, if you can complete certain feats within each stage. One of these feats is completing the stage without failing, and another is for beating the time record. I think I managed to earn two or three of the time trial stickers, but the time to beat on many of the stages is incredibly fast. I just don’t see how it’s possible to go that fast. I thought there might be some unlockables that increase your speed, but as far as I can tell there are none. The third sticker available in each stage is for beating the high score. Tanuki Sunset features a skill point-style system that awards points for doing tricks and other moves. Unfortunately, this point system is very shallow. There are only a handful of tricks you can do, such as grabs and spins when going off ramps, power-sliding, and getting points for riding close to obstacles or near the edge of the track (this one is appropriately named “Edge Lord”).

The best thing about Tanuki Sunset is the soundtrack, which matches the overall vibe perfectly. Each track melds with the gameplay exactly how you would expect and produces what borders on LoFi perfection. True to its 80s/90s aesthetic, when one track ends the game plays some cassette tape sounds to bridge the gap between songs. It definitely matches the game’s tone, but it has the unintended effect of reminding the player just how long and repetitive the levels are. When you notice that it’s going into the third or sometimes fourth song in a level, that is a red flag for an arcade-style game. I think they should have just stuck a song on a loop as you played each stage and saved the cassette sound effects for the endless-skater mode, or made shorter levels.

Conclusion

Tanuki Sunset started off as a free-to-play game, and like any good games “journalist” I tried it out before writing this review; while there are some major improvements in the expanded, for-purchase version, I can’t help but think that it should have just stayed as a free to play game. Transforming an endless runner-style game into one with semi-procedurally generated levels does not work in this case. The aesthetic might be off the charts and just your style, but the gameplay is a real bummer, not even a cute and furry main character could stop me from wanting to bail at the first chance I got.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Good
  • Appealing art style
  • Great soundtrack that fits with the aesthetic.
Bad
  • You see pretty much all the game has to offer in the first 30 minutes
  • This is a free to play game with a shiny coat of paint and a $15 price tag
  • Controls feel a little strange
  • Skate shop is cool, but all the purchasables are superficial
5.2
Average
Written by
I started my gaming odyssey playing 8-bit console and arcade games. My first Xbox was the 360 and I immediately fell in love with achievement hunting and the overall ecosystem. That love was cemented with my purchase of an Xbox One. I play a bit of everything, but I usually end up playing fast paced games that remind me of my days spent in dark, smoky arcades spending quarter after quarter, telling myself "one more try!". Gamertag: Morbid237.

Leave a Reply

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.