Another system, another Ridge Racer...
If you’ve just recently acquired your 3DS and are searching for the blockbuster game to pick up, you’re not alone. Aside from Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, it’s difficult to find another game in the bunch of release titles that’s enticing enough to shell out the $40 dollars for (a little bit more than its DS cousins’ software). And though launch lineups are never something that people rave about (many wait a year or longer before purchasing new hardware because of this fact), the exciting part of the launch is seeing a taste of what new technology can bring to the table. With the 3DS, its glasses free, stereoscopic 3D is sure enough to make even average games enjoyable due to the showcase of technology.
Ridge Racer has long been known for its pairing with console releases during each of the previous several generations. Though the series has only taken small steps of evolution in gameplay design over its 15 year lifetime (a strategy that works well for some games, i.e. Pokémon and not so well for others, i.e. Mario Party), Ridge Racer is still seen as a nice release title to test out the new hardware you’ve just spent your hard earned money on. Though I’ve never been the largest racing fan (I enjoy the genre but have typically enjoyed it mostly at the arcade or via Mario Kart & F-Zero), I must say that Ridge Racer was a little exciting to jump into for my first 3DS title. What I found out is that it sticks to its solid, formulaic gameplay while providing a strong early showcase of the 3DS’s 3D capabilities.
Arcade Racing By Design
If you’re familiar with recent Ridge Racer titles (I wasn’t in particular), you’ll understand that the series has not changed its style of gameplay much over the last several iterations (aside from the addition of nitrous in the PSP release). So, if you’ve played more than a few versions of this series, Ridge Racer 3D might not be too exciting for you as it’s really not much different than what you’ve experienced. From the controls and gameplay modes to the track selection, Ridge Racer 3D plays as a standard arcade racer that is sure not to create slobbering fans (such as those of the Gran Turismo series) but plays well enough to be enjoyable.
The game features four different categories of cars, which increase in speed as you progress further through the Grand Prix. Each category contains a wide variety of makes that have different overall properties. The emphasized change between cars is the drift type, ranging from mild, standard, dynamic, and special. This affects the overall strength of the drift and gives you an advantage if you are an expert drifter (the special and dynamic drifters tend to have higher max speeds). Different Nitrous kits can also be purchased and I enjoyed the variety of nitrous types (everything from different charge rates to different nitrous effects can be modified with certain kits.
What I didn’t like about the system, however, is that there are several different cars with similar speeds but different attributes that aren’t quantified in the menus. For instance, a specific truck and car have very similar speed and both have dynamic handling but the truck tends more towards acceleration while the car is better at handling (though there are no grades to each car’s abilities at either skill). This made me wish that there were other meters notifying you of the other attributes that are different between vehicles so that you can have a better understanding of the cars’ overall attributes.
The rather lengthy (though albeit a little repetitive) Grand Prix mode includes three different categories of Grand Prix, with over 40 tours in all. The only problem, however, is there are only about 20 race venues in all, so even though there is a lengthy amount of tours (each of which contains 4 races), most of them rehash the same races over and over (even if you play through them backwards, they’re not much different).
As for additional gameplay elements, one screams out for inclusion but was left from the party: online multiplayer. One of the things I’ve noticed about the 3DS is that Nintendo has finally created a system that does online gaming extremely well; the system is built t be brought with you and touts easy, seamless online multiplayer for most of its games. Ridge Racer 3D, however, contains no such option for online multiplayer and suffers because of it.
Aside from the 3D technology, Ridge Racer 3D does make use of another 3DS feature that is one of the staples of the new system: StreetPass. It isn’t as strong of a system as that seen in other games such as Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, but by using ghost data from your best records on certain courses, Ridge Racer 3D has the option of StreetPass duels that can net you more points if you win.
As you can probably imagine, some of the most impressive looking games on the 3DS will be ones that contain a giant depth of field within the screen. Thus, games such as PilotWings Resort or Star Fox 64: 3D (one of the most impressive 3D spectacles at E3) show off some really impressive 3D. So, racing games that can successfully pull off the effect can also showcase what the system has to offer and Ridge Racer 3D most certainly looks impressive. Though there are a few blurring issues (especially with the player icons that pop up above the competitor cars), the 3D is some of the best I’ve seen on the system.
Sure, the game may not be a blockbuster title like SSFIV: 3D Edition but it most certainly is equipped to show off the 3D in more impressive ways. As for graphics, it’s difficult to determine the overall strength of its graphics until more high quality games are released for the system. Some games can be better equipped to show off 3D than others but a game can have great 3D with average graphics. I will say, however, that there are hiccups in the game’s framerate that are quite noticeable once you reach the second mode of Grand-Prix (the third group of vehicles).
Musically, the game sticks to a pumping techno soundtrack that’s suitable for driving. That doesn’t mean that it’s particularly a great soundtrack, however, as many of the songs are repetitive and most are forgettable. When thinking of good soundtracks for racing games, I always tend to think back to F-Zero’s booming mix of guitars, techno, and incredibly composed tracks that are still memorable to me even at this day. As for the sound effects, everything is on-par with what you would expect out of a racing game. And as for the notorious female announcer that’s a trademark of the series, she’s still as loud and annoying as ever (though you have the option of turning her down or off if you so choose.
Finally, the menus are neither flashy nor quick to navigate (you have to go through 10 different menus before getting into a race when choosing Grand Prix). Since menus don’t move on to the next one instantaneously and actually take around 3-4 seconds to navigate, this can be a problem for on-the-go gameplay (This means if you want to play grand prix from the title menu, you have a minimum of 30-40 seconds before another 15 second loading time before you get to race).
However, the game does have the quick tour option which requires only 5 menus to navigate (2 for the tour type, 3 for the car/control options). I liked the idea of choosing a tour time-limit so the game can create a tour based upon the amount of time you have (between 3-30 minutes) so that if you’re on the go, you won’t have to put your 3DS to sleep mid-tour.