Loads of content, great sense of speed, and amazingly useful 3D effects
Core gameplay isn't for everybody and the announcer is best left off
The Ridge Racer series has always been something of a known quantity– it manages to find its way to just about every console and always delivers the same, drift heavy racing that defines the franchise. As a result the games are consistently decent, but never seem to evolve enough to attract gamers beyond its preexisting fanbase. On a personal note, the series has flown under my radar for years, only showing up when it was convenient to make a “Riiiiiiiiidge Raaaaaaacer!” joke, but that is more a comment on Kaz Hirai than the games.
With the release of Ridge Racer 3D for Nintendo 3DS, gamers who have forgotten about or simply no longer care for the series have a reason to give it a second glance. Namco really hasn’t changed anything with regard to the core gameplay, but the experience they have put together is well polished, utilizes 3D to great effect, and features a massive amount of content. Ladies and gentlemen, Ridge Racer is back!
For those of you who haven’t tried at least one Ridge Racer title over the years, the series is all about drifting, so the game is understandably arcadey and might not be the best fit for sim fans who love realistic physics and hardcore customization. Ridge Racer 3D is fast paced and doing well is all about maintaining speed and throwing your car into ridiculously epic drifts around hairpin turns at horribly unsafe speeds. These kinds of antics would destroy your car in Gran Turismo, but here they build up your boost gauge which is necessary for blowing past the competition. Once you get out of the corners, your best bet is to follow directly behind the competition, utilizing their slipstream to gain a small speed increase that is the best way for overtaking the competition while you wait for your boost gauge to refill. Drifting, boosting, and slipstreaming are ultimately what racing in Ridge Racer 3D revolves around, and while it is a simple formula, it proves to be quite enjoyable and mixes in with the rest of the package to create a more fulfilling experience.
The way the game is structured also gives you plenty of reason to keep playing; the basic tournament setup is nothing new, but the dozens of events to participate in and constant stream of rewards give you plenty of reason to come back. Finishing a Grand Prix event nets you points, news cars, upgrades, and the opportunity to enter other events. Points can be used to purchase new vehicles, upgrade older vehicles, or to buy one time use bonuses prior to a race, such as having a full boost gauge from the start. At first there isn’t too much to buy, but as you finish more and more events, the store starts to fill with an impressive array of vehicles and options for upgrading them. Of course, progressing also opens up the seemingly endless stream of new races that expands even further as you unlock faster classes of cars. Altogether, there is simply an incredible amount of content that is further expanded upon by the Quick Tour option, a nifty little feature that puts together a series of races based on how much time you want to kill, ranging from a quick three minutes up to 30.
Backing up the tried and true gameplay and copious amount of content is a deceptively impressive engine powering the game. Looking at still screen shots of Ridge Racer 3D is misleading, as the texture working is a little dull and the polygon count is rather unimpressive, but these are purposeful sacrifices in the interest of a greater good– fast and smooth gameplay. Ridge Racer 3D moves at an impressive speed without any noticeable slow down, and this is even with some very effective 3D going on. Aside from the occasional bit of confetti or flower petal coming at you, Ridge Racer 3D doesn’t bother with visual gimmicks, but instead shows how useful 3D can be in a racing game. Rather than popping everything out at you, the road ahead is pushed in, creating an amazing sense of depth that makes judging distance to corners and the opposition so much easier, and given the game’s focus on drifting this extra detail is extremely useful. At a standstill Ridge Racer 3D looks a generation behind, but once you get up to speed and turn the 3D effects all the way up, the game becomes an enthralling spectacle that provides yet another argument for the benefit of 3D.
It would be a terrible tragedy to forget to mention the game’s soundtrack. While I usually am not a fan of techno, I must admit that the wide selection of tracks included in Ridge Racer 3D is a surprisingly dynamic collection of well produced tunes that fit the game’s sensibilities quite well. Another nice addition is the option to choose which song you want to hear prior to racing. The rest of the audio leans more toward the mediocre, with the sound effects of revving engines and squealing tires being purely middle of the road and the announcer being more than a little annoying, though you can thankfully turn her off.
Lastly there is the multiplayer, which delivers the same great gameplay but is tragically limited to local play only. However, StreetPass is supported in the form of ghost data that is swapped between players that can then be challenged at your leisure as you try to best the times posted by those you’ve met.
Ridge Racer 3D has proven to be a bit of a surprise, I don’t think anybody expected it to be terrible but I certainly didn’t think I would get so much enjoyment out of a series that has never seemed to stand out against the competition. Of course the core gameplay remains largely unchanged and won’t be converting hardcore racing sim fans to its exuberant focus of drifts and boosting, but more casual fans and those who aren’t as familiar with the series should definitely try the game out. Once you get into the gameplay the rest of the game will continue to impress, from the great 3D effects to the seemingly endless array of races and cars to unlock and buy. Once all is said and done, Ridge Racer 3D is another solid entry in the launch lineup for 3DS and a testament for how the system can benefit such a well defined series and genre.