Tanuki Sunset is a mild twist on the endless runner genre, with a super-casual approach to skating. It really doesn’t carry the polish of a AAA title, and you can finish the game in a handful of hours. That being said, if your goal is to take it easy and mess around in a light-hearted wacky world for a bit, this is exactly where you should be spending your time.
Tanuki Sunset follows the story of Tanuki, a skateboarding racoon with the desire to be the first of his species to ride the legendary road down to the Big Ramp. This mighty path leads all of the way from the top of Sunset Peaks, through Midnight City and down to the Sunrise Beach. It’s presumably an honoured rite of passage for young skateboarding animals to complete the trail. There is even a collection of not-so wacky characters that help you along on your journey.
The plot is simplistic and the game doesn’t go out of its way to get you invested in these characters. In this way, the story acts like a simple painted backdrop against which you can have fun skateboarding down an endless hill as a stylish racoon. Maybe it’s better that way. You might not get to learn a whole lot about the characters, but they sit comfortably in context. There’s a chilled-looking sloth named Bob who sells you board cosmetics and a long-haired youth called Chad who sells you clothes. You’re constantly getting phone calls from your worried mother, who always insists you wear a helmet. It is worth mentioning (no spoilers) that the ending is a little bizarre and seems to come out of nowhere.
Mechanics in Tanuki Sunset
The gameplay is exactly what you would expect from a variation of an endless runner game. You have a number of minimal controls you can use to navigate the road and do tricks. Each skating mechanic clearly has a purpose and a reason for existing. Each mechanic has at least one ‘obstacle’ that it addresses specifically. Some even have multiple. This is all well and good as it encourages you to play around with a more complicated gameplay experience when you feel like it.
The problem is that, because traversing them isn’t required to beat the game, they end up feeling like they’re not worth doing. This is especially true when you keep falling off during the unreasonably long stretch before the next checkpoint. The routes and obstacles are designed to add variety to the gameplay. However, when almost all of the obstacles are simple and optional, things become boring. It makes the stretch you have to complete feel even more long and tiresome. They do make an effort to alleviate this with the procedurally generated road changing from time to time, but it doesn’t fix the problem.
Obstacles in Tanuki Sunset
An example of a nothing-obstacle in Tanuki Sunset is the trash pile. Even if it completely blocks your way, it’s no problem. You have to burst through it to prevent it slowing you down, but even if you don’t, the only penalty is that you slow down. This might not be great for collecting points, but it does make the upcoming obstacles even easier to deal with. It isn’t exactly throwing you off the edge. As a counter example, one of the most interesting obstacles is that crabs will pinch and latch on to you if you skate too close to them. They wiggle around, making it harder to ride in a straight line, but they by no means cripple you. You have to drive very close to obstacles to knock them off, but their wiggling makes it harder to do safely.
It comes down to being a casual experience, which is actually what you want for a game like this. The gameplay design might not be massively fun to play, but it does achieve the very important goal of making you feel relaxed.
Graphics and Sound
Tanuki Sunset has an 80-90’s feel, which is awesome. Frankly, everyone should be using it. The outfits are great, because even though they are made up of simple elements, the colours, patterns and designs come together to create old school looks I hadn’t thought about in years. It’s clearly playing to nostalgia, but when it works so well, it’s hard to be mad.
The character animations are very clunky. Watching Tanuki walk on his back legs is kind of funny all on its own. When he crashes into a car and goes floating off into the sunset it’s downright hilarious. However it’s obvious that it’s due to the poor quality of his flailing animation. It’s an area of improvement that doesn’t really make or break a casual game though.
Surprisingly, there is no synthwave music in this game. What they have is a baffling mix-mash of tracks (eg. Bossa Nova and Lo-fi) that somehow actually compliment the tone is a nice way. It can comfortably play in the background if you happen to put down the game. This means you don’t feel the need to mute the PS5 like you might normally. One could go as far as to argue that the music makes the game, in the same way that music makes the DiRT franchise.
The sound effects are all great, and kept things light and engaging. This is especially true of the little crunchy noise you get when Tanuki rolls over a ‘bit’, the nacho-esque currency in the game. Grinding around a corner feels satisfying with the adaptive triggers, but when paired with the sound effect it’s even better.