The Ridge Racer series of arcade driving games has been around for an eternity it seems. With the series reboot promised in Ridge Racer Unbounded, it seems strange that this 3DS launch title would be so firmly rooted in the past. Still, in Ridge Racer 3D players have a selection of game modes to choose from to improve their driving skills. These include Grand Prix, Quick Tour, Standard Race, One Maker Race, Time attack and StreetPass Duel.
Grand Prix comprises of a series of races and players are required to finish each race within the qualifying position to be rewarded allotted points and proceed to the next race. Players will go on to unlock new machines and nitrous kits which can then be purchased. In the first Grand Prix race players have to finish within the top three for races one and two, and then within the top two for race three, enabling them to proceed to the final race. They then have to finish first in race four to complete the race event.
The environments were pleasant, if a little disappointing in 3D as most of the structures and buildings in the distance were still only seen in 2D form and seemed slightly lacking in quality. The Sunset Drive and Ocean Front Cruise Way tracks take the driving experience along beautiful palm tree tracks which have luxurious tropical waters and stunning sunsets, and other times the scenery will change to racing around snow covered mountains with ski lifts and snowmen in the distance. Each track takes you on a new journey with the opportunity to try out new machines. My driving career began with a Type S, R and Z, and each of the machines were adequate enough to test out my driving skills. Earn enough points be finishing in the best place and purchase more muscle machines or high performance imports.
Most of the race tracks are aimed at both amateur and experienced drivers, with shortcuts to be found and some really impressive jumps. As with any driving game, the more time you spend on a given track, the more you come to know it and can squeeze those extra few seconds from your lap times.
My early driving time was spent mostly in the Terrazi Starnose, which is a Type Z machine. You may not recognise the make or model, which is because all of the cars in the Ridge Racer games are fictional, but loosely based on real world cars. There are a series of nitrous types available in the game, including standard, normal, flex nitrous, quad nitrous, hi nitrous and extended nitrous.
The controls are quite simple to handle as the circle pad or D-pad are used to steer your machine, while the B button is held down to accelerate and the A button to brake. Both shoulder buttons are used for the single, double and triple nitrous by simply tapping the buttons for the required amount. At first I tried steering with the D-pad, but felt it wasn’t as precise as I had hoped for and later down the line changed to using the circle pad, which gave me a better sense of precision and control. Drifting makes your machine slide sideways around a corner without sacrificing RPM’s, and is a key part of this game. Two views are available for the driver to choose from which include camera mode, which shows the track from the drivers position and the overhead cam which is located slightly above and behind the vehicle.
The local multiplayer mode allows gamers to play against other players in standard, One-Make race or team battle, while either joining or hosting a race. However, the complete absence of any online racing seems strange in this day and age, and is sorely missed in this game. StreetPass Duel tries to make up for this omission by allowing players to exchange ghost data, which can then be raced against. It’s a nice idea, but doesn’t really make up for the lack of online multiplayer.
As the player progresses, they will unlock new types of vehicles, with higher speeds and far more power, and find new tracks. It is all a lot of fun, but feels incredibly dated now and suffers in the light of the other 3DS racing launch title. One aspect of the game that I found very annoying was the forever nagging commentator in the background who relentlessly tells you tells you that your driving skills are making her sick, and her over enjoyment when she announces ‘you’re in a slipstream’. Turning the sound off is an option that I considered, but the music in the game is actually quite good. Hard choices must be made.
Ridge Racer 3D certainly opened my eyes to racing games on the handheld, a genre that I had previously avoided like the plague. Using the circle pad, the game handles really well, and slipping into a well-timed drift is as enjoyable as ever. But the game just feels old, especially in comparison with the other 3DS racing launch title, and the lack of proper online play leaves a gaping hole. Fans of the series will get their kicks from the familiar tracks, cars and handling, but Ridge Racer 3D is only the second best 3DS racing title so far.
There are some really nice effects with the 3D turned on, such as water spray, petals floating onto the windscreen and the helicopter hovering above the track. But the scenery only came across as 2D for the most part, which was disappointing. Also driving in 3D takes a certain amount of getting used to, with perspective being changed, and due to the fast moving nature of the game, the feelings of queasiness that are apparent with 3DS gaming, seem to come on a lot quicker. For most of my Ridge Racing gaming, 3D was turned off.