I have been playing Crazy Taxi on and off for twenty years. Just like any good arcade style game, it keeps me coming back. Also just like any good arcade game, I've never really mastered it. Sega always excelled at arcade games, and Crazy Taxi is one of the best of the lot. It first came home to the Dreamcast console. Given that I had a Dreamcast at the time, Crazy Taxi was an obvious purchase for me, and is still my preferred version of the game.
When it comes to genres, Crazy Taxi’s is hard to nail down. I wouldn’t really call it a racing game, but you are driving a car. You're a cabbie, and your goal is to pick up passengers, and drop them off as quick as you can, by any means possible. Your are timed, and when time runs out, the game is over. In addition, each passenger has a set time limit for getting them to their destination. You can earn more overall time by getting them to their destination faster than the limit. So the gameplay is a constant cycle of picking up a passenger, driving them to their destination, usually causing mayhem along the way, dropping them off, looking for a new passenger, and repeat. Wikipedia calls it a “score attack racing game”, which I suppose is fair enough.
I don't normally enjoy games that are timed, they tend to stress me out a little to be totally honest. However, I totally don't mind in this case. Maybe it's because it's an arcade game first and foremost, and you can earn more time. The home conversion of the game also has modes where you can play for a set limit (five or ten minutes) without the chance to earn more, but I rarely play these modes. They were good for learning the game and practicing, though.
One of my main complaints is with the arrow that points you to where you need to go. It follows the roads, but following the road isn’t always the fastest way to get to your destination. In addition, sometimes it’ll be pointing straight, and then snap to the left or right, indicating you should turn down some street. However, by the time you notice, you’ll have passed the street up. Sega actually has a patent on the navigation arrow, and is the reason a lot of games started using a waypoint marker instead.
The Dreamcast version is one of the best home conversions. First of all, it runs on very similar hardware to the arcade machine to begin with. Also, unlike some other home conversions of the game, it retains all the licensing from the arcade game. That is, it has licensed music from the bands The Offspring and Bad Religion, as well as all the licensed locations, like Pizza Hut. Given that I have actually played this game in the arcade, I like that it matches that version more. The PS2 and Gamecube ports have these licensing, but all of the ports afterwards are missing one or both of these aspects. The controls don't really suffer being transferred from steering wheel to controller, and in fact controller is my preferred way to play it.
The home version also has mini-games, in a mode they call the "Crazy Box". Each minigame is based around teaching you and utilizing one of the special moves of the game. Stuff like the "crazy drift" which lets you drift your car for much quicker turning, and the "crazy boost" which lets you gain a speed boost. These minigames get really tough, to the point where it almost feels like you're cheating pulling off some of the moves. It can be well worth it though, since there is an unlockable reward for beating all of them. Though it did take twenty years for me to gain the motivation to finally beat the Crazy Box mode, which was my main inspiration for writing this article. Probably not Dark Souls tough, but it's up there.
Also worth noting that the home version also has a secondary map to play on. Thus giving you more content to explore. I never really liked it as much as the arcade map, though.
Overall, if you want a fast paced arcade-style action game, you can't do much worse than Crazy Taxi. I especailly recommend the Dreamcast version. If you own a Dreamcast, you must buy this game.