The Ridge Racer series last appeared on the console scene as a launch title for Sony’s PlayStation 3 and, some five years later, it makes its return as a gleaming highlight amidst the Nintendo 3DS launch line-up. Burning rubber, nitrous boosts and insane drifting, this is the Ridge Racer that you’ll know and love, yet further enhanced by an array of new features, a whole host of new vehicles and, of course, the introduction of revolutionary glasses-free stereoscopic 3D.
Within the game you will predominantly spend the majority of your time within the single-player Grand Prix mode, racing against increasingly challenging A.I. opponents as you negotiate your way around each of the large quantity of tracks available to you. Your participation here will reward you with the opportunity to unlock the full array of cars, or ‘Machines’ as the game refers to them, and gain points necessary to purchase them for your use. Such points are also able to be spent on a number of single-use upgrades prior to each race that will provide you with additional bonuses and acquire upgrades through maintaining leading positions in the races you partake in.
In addition to Grand Prix, other modes are offered: Quick Tour, where you race across four tracks automatically determined by parameters that you set, Standard Race, a single race where you choose a car of your choice and aim to best seven opponents, One-Make Race, where you race against seven opponents that all use the same make of car as you, or Time Attack.
Each is, of course, aimed at satisfying filling the varying quantities of time that you have to play the game – Quick Tour suited to that short half-an-hour bus journey, whilst Grand Prix being saved for when you’re looking to occupy yourself for a few hours at home. Regardless, whichever way you choose to spend your time with Ridge Racer 3D you’re sure to feel satisfied that you are getting your money’s worth, all further enhanced by an exuberant techno soundtrack that greatly adds to the experience.
The Nintendo 3DS’ unique StreetPass capabilities, quickly becoming the handheld’s very own jewel in the crown, are also utilised, encompassed by the inclusion of a specific StreetPass Duel mode. Here you’ll be able to race against other player’s Ghost data, acquired automatically by passing them on your travels. It’s welcome competition, the challenge here being from varyingly-skilled opponents rather than that purely offered by the A.I.
Handling is always to be of great importance in racing titles, and fortunately, Ridge Racer 3D doesn’t disappoint. The series has always revolved around the capability of drifting around even the widest of corners, and the player is able to do so in the majority of cases with the simplest of ease. It’s fast, furious and irresistibly addictive.
As always, the traditional Nitrous system that has appeared throughout the series’ history plays an important role in the game, allowing you to temporarily boost your car above and beyond its maximum speed. Within races, you’ll be able to employ a Single, Double or Triple Nitrous boost dependant on how many gauges you have filled, but the quantity of which freely chosen by the player with the L + R buttons acting as triggers.
When choosing your car, you’re able to play around with a number of customisation options and whilst there are the usual variance in Body Design and Finish a more fundamental decision lies in your choice of Nitrous Type. For instance, you can opt for the charge rate to be increased through using regular drifts, add a fourth nitrous gauge, or even choose to be able to employ the nitrous in one continual, lengthy boost. The introduction of being able to employ a Drift button allows such a core facet to become even more accessible, meaning that even those that struggled to get to grips with the game in the past shouldn’t shy away this time around.
Another mechanic that plays an important role in allowing you to gain the upper hand in speeding your way to pole position is that of the Slipstream. Maintaining a position directly behind a car leading in front of you will allow this build as you edge closer, finally allowing you to slingshot past as you continue to seek to achieve first place. You’ll have to be wary, however, as your rivals can equally utilise the same method to pass you, yet the announcer will make you aware of when this occurs.
In negotiating the dual-screen nature of the handheld system during races, Namco has made a concerted effort to remove clutter from the Nintendo 3DS’ 5:3 widescreen display to ensure you can enjoy as much of the stereoscopic 3D effect without distraction. You’ll find a course map, lap times and your position in relation to your opponents on the lower touchscreen, as well as the ability to freely switch between two camera views – Driver’s view and the Overhead cam.
Namco’s developmental talents have also managed to make the best use of the handheld’s 3D effect, although in perhaps predictable yet still impressive ways. Planes soar overhead, water splashes the screen as you navigate through flooded parts of the course, and confetti falls toward you as you speed your way past the finishing line. The added depth to the environments and cars is also particularly well implemented, and locking bumpers with a competitor sees sparks and shrapnel all serving to enhance the core gameplay experience beyond that previously seen on any system.
As a launch title, Ridge Racer 3D holds up particularly well graphically, with a lot of care and attention to detail visible across all of the tracks that you’ll find yourself racing around, from sweeping sunsets to snowy peaks. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the cars, which, although perfectly satisfactory, seem to lack the same polish with unattractive, jagged edges being one such gripe. As a racing game, I expected to be more astounded by the detail on the cars over that of the scenery that I’m whizzing past – I’m certain that the Nintendo 3DS is capable of being pushed far more, at least.
A further disappointment and a similarity found with other launch titles is that Ridge Racer 3D offers no support for online competitive multiplayer. With the improved connectivity of the handheld, and more importantly the now single-entry friend codes, the lack of such online functionality feels ever the more absent.
There is, however, a Versus game mode offered that utilises the abilities of Nintendo 3DS Local Play, allowing you to race with between 2-4 players. Here, one player acts as the host and players can choose between going head-to-head in Standard, One-Make and Team Battle races, with the latter dividing 3-4 players into two separate teams. That is if you have friends nearby to find time to meet up with and play against, which with even busier lifestyles these days seems a situation hard to come by.
Nevertheless, Ridge Racer 3D offers a robust package to those picking up a Nintendo 3DS at launch, and through the strength and depth of its single-player modes will provide countless hours of fun, with the core appeal of insane drifts and blistering speeds maintaining its appeal. Nitro at the ready, the Ridge Racer series makes a welcome return and you’ll certainly not want to miss out.