I've had the game for a while and I finally got around to putting some proper time on it. The game is nearly completely missing from the Internet, Mobygames doesn't recognize its existence and GameFAQs has very little on it, not even a single user review.
Which is pretty weird, considering that a) it was released worldwide, b) it's by Konami and c) it's not a bad game. I'd say it's one of the Wii's better racing games, which I realize isn't saying much.
The game is an expanded port of the arcade game with the same name, part of Konami's GTI Club racing game series, where supermini cars race around cities around the world. In this game the races take place in France, UK, US, Italy and Japan. The game was also available as a downloadable title on the PSP but it's no longer available due to an expired license. The same fate has befallen the PS3 port of the first game which was available on PSN, so this Wii port is now the only way to play the series at home.
For some reason the port was structured to appear, at first glance, to be a collection of minigames. There are the normal race and time attack modes, but they're placed among other gameplay modes like Bomb Tag, Prize Grab, Coin Collecting, Car Football and Tomato Festival, where the goal is to hit other cars with tomatoes. It might've been better had these been clearly separated from the main modes.
As you play these events you gather Mileage, which basically act like experience points. Fairly often you unlock something new, from being allowed to choose a new car (there are 16 in total, all licensed), to opening new customization options to your cars, like hoods, spoilers, wheels, headlamps, color patterns and others. These are all only cosmetic. Every now and then you also get a chance to upgrade one of your current's vehicles stats, which are top speed, acceleration, handling and dash. Each stat maxes out at 5.
The game does cleverly help out when unlocking new cars. Instead of starting each new vehicle at 1-1-1-1 stats when you unlock it, it will be at the same level as your currently most maxed out car is, so you don't have to upgrade each car from scratch and will eventually start unlocking new vehicles already fully upgraded. Even better is that if you're playing with a fully upgraded car, the following upgrades are applied to the least upgraded car in the player's garage, so there's never a "wasted" upgrade. This is much appreciated.
The game is split into Arcade Mode and Quest Mode, though they aren't entirely separate. In Arcade Mode you can play all the various gameplay modes freely, while in Quest Mode you need to play the ones dictated by the game to unlock the next area's missions. You can even play these with friends. Each mission is also graded with medals, going Bronze-Silver-Gold-Platinum. Better grades also unlock more of those cosmetic car upgrades, and getting even Golds can get difficult fast.
The problem is that you need to play Quest Mode to unlock more tracks in the normal race and time attack modes. Finishing Beginner unlocks the Intermediate and Advanced courses as well as opening the Intermediate Quest Mode. Beating that only unlocked Advanced Quest Mode and I don't know if finishing it will unlock any more tracks, but I'm guessing not. It wasn't difficult nor did it take long, maybe only 30 minutes, to beat Beginner Quest Mode, but it was annoying to have important content locked away like that, especially behind gamemodes I don't want to play.
There's a lot of stuff to unlock, almost too much of it. At least most of the unlockables are just cosmetic, but the car upgrades are necessary, which is a bad thing in itself. It means that were I play to this game competitively against other people, I'd be forced to first grind the car to max level. Not that in practice this is much of an issue since nobody even seems to know the game exists. And again, it doesn't take terribly long, maybe an hour or so to get your first car to max level and after that every unlocked car starts fully upgraded.
If one cares about the cosmetic parts then there's certainly a lot to do in the game, and the unlockables do make quite a difference in the vehicle's look. But man, all this and I haven't said a word about the racing itself yet.
I think it's pretty fun. It's obviously a very arcade-y driving model, the cars go into easily controlled drifts and there's not much of a penalty to hitting walls, the car just kind of slides around them. Hitting civilian cars does slow you down considerably, though. The handling does feel very peculiar at times and it's hard to compare it to anything. There's also an interesting mechanic where driving partly on the curb or other specific surfaces speeds up your car even beyond the normal top speed. High-level play would involve figuring out the shortest path while also taking these areas into account. It's also possible to slipstream other racers for a speed boost.
The races take place in cities, which are kind of small but there's always lots of alternative paths and shortcuts through alleys, parking halls, parks and other places. The courses are very charming and have a lot personality to them thanks to this. The Intermediate difficulty tracks change the course layout every lap, which is pretty interesting. Advanced courses open the city up completely, allowing the racers to find their own path through the city.
Normal races are against three opponents with civilian traffic on the road and the time attack mode removes all those, so it's just the player and the track, like it should be. As a small negative there's no local leaderboards at all, tracking results was all done using the online rankings which have since been taken down. The course's best time is displayed after each time attack run, but that doesn't tell what vehicle was used.
Sadly the AI is mostly brainless. In actual races it's not much of a threat, I've never seen AI cars taking any shortcuts and in Advanced races they seemed to take almost the longest possible route. In other gameplay modes, especially Tomato Festival, it does put up a fight. The game really needs other human players to properly come alive.
I'm really not sure why GTI Club: Supermini Festa! is so unknown. Perhaps it fell through the cracks, perhaps nobody cared about racing games on the Wii other than Mario Kart, perhaps it's just too mediocre. It looks and plays decently enough, it supports 4-player local play and it doesn't force the player to use the Wiimote as a wheel as it includes support for the Nunchuck and Classic Controller as well. It was also possible to play multiplayer online, but that's no longer possible due to Nintendo closing down all Wii multiplayer servers a while back. The few comments online about the game say the multiplayer was really fun.
The game is fairly cheap to acquire nowadays so I could recommend people to pick it up. Despite the inital grind it's still a fun racer, especially if you find somebody to race with, or exchange time attack results with. I imagine the game's multiplayer, with all the players driving individual, customized cars, could've been quite the hoot.
(Review originally posted at the forums.)
GTI Club: Supermini Festa! (Wii) review (by Ghegs, August 27th, 2014.)