Double-S.T.E.A.L.: The Second Clash was never published outside of Japan, which is a crying shame when you consider its superiority to the first Double-S.T.E.A.L. AKA Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions.
The excessive visual effects were smartly toned down for this sequel and yet everything still looks pristine, with the developers achieving a smooth frame rate and rare native support for 720p. Second Clash has aged beautifully, which is great considering how much its combat racing premise has evolved.
Accompanying the gorgeous presentation are clearer mission objectives, intuitive vehicle statistics, and a handy autosave feature. The new Free Drive mode is the biggest addition as it finally allows players to drive around the city without time restrictions getting in the way.
Whilst speeding around and smashing into things is still huge fun, Free Drive encourages players to locate side missions dotted around the map. A new medal-based ranking system brings even more replay value, as do the many unlockable cars and secret vehicles that are assembled from collectible parts.
Chicago is the backdrop for this wacky new adventure. The main story reunites us with Madoka and Mei; the two Hong Kong policewomen out to stop a Yakuza boss from escaping custody and threatening the world with a plan reaching interstellar proportions!
A map of the city makes navigation easier and driving is a breeze thanks to the overhauled handling. It’s harder for players to accidentally spin their vehicle and even if they do, cars can now be righted after flipping over.
Colliding with traffic doesn’t sap momentum quite as badly as it used to. The increased speed is bolstered by rechargeable abilities that will typically send your vehicle dashing through traffic and pedestrians alike. A pulse-pounding soundtrack only adds to the delightfully turbulent mix.
There are clear cases where your vehicle selection matters now. In Wreckless you tended to only use a few different cars because of how biased the physics were towards acceleration. In Second Clash the heavier vehicles hit much harder and for some missions the bigger rides like the passenger bus and the returning tank become a real asset.
Second Clash is quite easy when compared to the original. It’s also quite short. Skilled drivers will complete the story quickly, although finding every side mission and getting every gold medal is much harder. Bunkasha Games added an Xbox Live leaderboard for online players back in the day, but the continued absence of a multiplayer mode is once again a big disappointment here.
Double-S.T.E.A.L.: The Second Clash is still a marvellous improvement; the sort of sequel where you can really see the developers building on player feedback. From what I’ve experienced so far, the Xbox doesn’t have many Japanese exclusives worth playing, but this thrilling racer is certainly a strong exception.