Nippon Marathon is the kind of game you get when you smush together local multiplayer party games with the classic Japanese gameshow Takeshi’s Castle. It is quite frankly one of the most nonsensical games out there, and is designed to be pure, undiluted, off-the-wall fun. The good news is that it does it with much aplomb, and with some Shiba Inus to.
Nippon Marathon is a race that has you competing against three other people/dog-headed monsters and trying to win amid a hail of fruit and chaos. It plays a bit like Micro Machines, which is a point of reference almost as outdated as the game itself. What I mean by this is that if you can get out ahead and everyone else falls too far behind, you gain points and they all lose them. This is only part of the battle though.
As well as actually winning the race, you’ll want to try and do it with style. You’ll earn popularity points for being chased by dogs or throwing a watermelon at your opponents. You’ll lose popularity if you spend too long holding onto a stinky mushroom. This all factors into your final score, so you can lose a race but still win overall if you lost with style.
If you choose to go for a full marathon you will also get teleported into strange side events. You can expect to have to find your way through a maze designed by a bunny boy or try and put together an award-winning speech mid-race. These things will drive up your popularity no end, helping you clinch victory from the jaws of defeat. They also help to break up the races nicely and make for entertaining little tangents whenever they appear. All of this variety comes together at the very end in one final score, and it is here that the winners and losers are decided, so it is a good idea to be a well-rounded player, rather than just a good athlete.
The only real problem with the game is that it isn’t all that good in single player, but then that isn’t what the game is all about. Despite being called a ‘Story mode’, you’re not going to get a compelling narrative and life affirming character interactions. This is a party game and should really only be played as such to get the most from it. Only with friends does this game truly shine, so try to have friends if you really want to play it.
Nippon Marathon is a game that is proud to be exactly what it is. There are no pretences or delusions of grandeur, just good clean fun. Playing with friends is sure to bring a fair few laughs as you rain watermelons down on your rivals. Just be prepared to be taken out by sudden barrels and hordes of cute dogs.
Version tested: Nintendo Switch – Also available for PS4, Xbox One & PC