Friday, June 6, 2014

Ridge Racer 3D

I'm megas late nyoro~n to this party, but then again I'm megas late nyoro~n to the 3DS party in general, so... let's begin.

My Ridge Racer background is as follows.  When I bought my PS2, I bought a copy of Ridge Racer 5 along with it.  I've pretty much beaten that game into the ground on all the difficulty levels.  Through the arcade at MAGFest, I've played Rave Racer, and generally done pretty well at it, though being an arcade game it's designed to be a lot harder.  When the PSP came out, I bought Ridge Racer for it and played it to death, maxing out the distance counter on the save.  And of course, now that I have a 3DS, obtaining a copy of Ridge Racer 3D was only a matter of time.

Why do I like Ridge Racer so much?  Well, I fall somewhere between the two extremes of racing game fandom.  From the simulator side of things, I want some elements of realism, namely some decent physics.  They don't have to be ultra-realistic, they just have to not be Auto Modellista.  From the arcade side of things, I just want to be able to hop into a car and race.  I don't generally like having to mess around with car setups, and while powerup racers a la Mario Kart are certainly fun, they throw skill out the window at times.  I find Ridge Racer to be the happy medium, with realistic graphics and cars, and easily accessible action that prioritizes skill over luck.

Being a portable Ridge Racer, I'm primarily going to compare it to the PSP version.  The two are very similar in some respects.  This post is based on my gameplay experience from the first 24% of the game (the game gives you a completion percentage lol).

Ridge Racer offers us the following gameplay modes:
  • Versus: Allows you to play wireless multiplayer with two to four players.
  • Grand Prix: The meat and potatoes of the gameplay, since it's where you'll unlock everything.  What's neat about it is that it has branching paths, so you can skip some events entirely and come back to them later if you so desire.
  • Quick Tour: Essentially the Custom Tour mode from the PSP version with a few extra options.  Choose your amount of time and the type of track you want to race, and the game will put together a sequence of tracks for you to race that will fill that amount of time.
  • Standard Race: Read: Single Race.  Pick a track and a car, race, have fun.
  • One-Make Race: This puts you up against opponents that are all using the same car as you.  I guess it's a test of your skill, I dunno.
  • Time Attack: This is where you're the only car on the track and are racing against the clock.  In general, playing Time Attack can help you figure out the best way to drive each track and where the best spots for nitrous are.
  • StreetPass Duel: You can race against ghost data from people you've streetpassed.  It also has a few preset ghosts that you can race against.
The nitrous feature from the PSP version is present here, and expanded upon.  If you drift fast enough, you can activate Ultimate Charge, which charges the nitrous gauge faster.  The amount of speed you have to carry into a drift to activate it is pretty ridiculous.  Fortunately, there are a plethora of options to fine-tune your nitrous to suit your play style, some of which are unlockable.

There is a new nitrous mechanic: if you save up multiple tanks of nitrous, you can engage a "double nitro" or a "triple nitro" for extra speed.  Generally speaking, single nitro is all you need to open a gap or maintain it, but double and triple nitros can be useful for overtaking when the AI decides to play hard to pass, or those last-ditch efforts to take 1st at the end of the last lap if your race was just that bad.

In addition to the nitrous feature, there's also a slipstream feature that grants you (or your opponents!) a temporary speed boost when driving directly behind someone.  This injects a bit of challenge where there was none before, as the AI will quite readily slipstream you and pass you.  In previous games, once you took a position it was yours unless you messed up, but now you'll actually have to fight for a position.  Good change, in my eyes.

The cars are what you could expect from a Ridge Racer game, namely takeoffs of modern cars, plastered with logos and names of various Namco games.  If you've played any other Ridge Racer game, the handling is exactly as you'd expect it to be.  Recovering from drifts still takes a bit of skill, car-dependent of course, but that's to be expected.

The graphics are amazing.  The stereoscopic 3D adds depth, which supposedly helps you time your corner entry better, but I haven't noticed that much of a difference compared to the PSP game.  The only time I've ever turned the stereoscopic 3D off was while watching a saved replay just to see the difference.  The difference is minute, but it feels more like a field of view difference than any kind of added depth.

Ridge Racer has always been about drifting your way around corners, and this version has a "n00b mode" of sorts: you can enable a "one-touch drift" button in the options.  Personally, I think the tried and true method of brake-steer-gas works way better than a drift button, but it's there if you want it, I guess.  This version also exhibits the same oddity as the PSP version: so long as you're drifting, you'll go around corners.  It doesn't matter if you're turned the correct way, or even if you're sideways.

As you play the single player modes, you'll earn points that you can use to buy cars, car upgrades, and nitrous options.  Also, before each race, you can use points to buy extra boosts for the race, such as nitrous tanks at the start of the race or a guaranteed fast start.  Personally, I won't ever be using these pre-race options.  I do wish that you could change your car's nitrous option between races, though, as some tracks are better suited to certain options than others.

If you've played any previous Ridge Racer game, you'll recognize the tracks immediately.  Also present are new track configurations at locations available in earlier games.

The music is pretty good.  Just like in the PSP version, it's organized into "discs", with a shuffle option.  Some old classics I've been enjoying since Ridge Racer 5 are still alive and kicking (mostly "Daredevil"), but there's some newer stuff too.  There is, however, a notable lack of the track with all the Namco arcade game sounds.

Overall, if you're a fan of Ridge Racer and have a 3DS, or you're simply a fan of racing games and want some portable action that isn't Mario Kart, Ridge Racer 3D will be right up your alley.

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