Whenever a new piece of hardware hits the streets, a selection of racing games isn't too far behind. Traditionally known as a major supporter for every console and handheld property released to date, Namco Bandai wasted little time with Ridge Racer 3D, making its debut on the Nintendo 3DS.
Oddly, this entry bears a striking resemblance to previous installments released on consoles. This isn't the first time we've been served a can of recycled goods. Ridge Racer on PSP ring a bell? Fortunately, this edition is very solid and I am just a sucker for whatever racing projects Namco Bandai rolls out of the gate.
Ridge Racer 3D is composed of the very best of what the series has to offer.
Ridge Racer 3D is composed of the very best of what the series has to offer. Fans and newcomers alike can look forward to a robust variety of single-player modes including Grand Prix, Time Attack, Quick Tour and the traditional Standard Race. The Quick Tour, featured previously in the Ridge Racer 6 installment is about as close as you're going to get to World Tour. Your racing campaign is randomly generated based upon your desired length of play and course type. This is merely an appetizer to prepare you for the main course, found in Grand Prix Mode. There, you'll be challenged to successfully complete races (four per event) in qualifying positions to earn points and advance.
Point redemption will allow you to purchase new vehicles and nitrous kits for use during races. There's little harm if you choose to splurge early on; however, it's imperative those finances are managed more wisely as you progress. The initial set of courses will help you get a taste of how things flow before eventually shifting into tight hairpin curves, often one after another, that require near-expert drifting skills to stay ahead of the competition.
Strategic selection of your nitrous kit will play a factor as well. The standard type allows the ability to charge up to three nitrous gauges for later use, simultaneously or in spurts. Selecting Normal U offers an adjusted charge rate that's better suited for Ultimate Charging. Normal B is customized for gaining faster charge cycles during regular drifts, though less when Ultimate Charge is achieved.
While many racing games typically suffer from the rubber-band AI syndrome, Ridge Racer 3D manages to keep the experience balanced and tolerable. That's not to say the competition is a cakewalk, but it's unlikely that you get the sense that victory isn't within your grasp. Grand Prix has got a lot of meat to it too (read: it's extensive), so don't count on breezing through the campaign in one sitting either; that is of course, unless you've opted to forfeit any plans for the weekend. Depending on your expertise, the total playtime can range anywhere between six to ten hours.
Although I drive to work on a daily basis, it's been nearly five years since I've gone behind the digital wheel of a Ridge Racer production. Regardless of your personal experience, you'll be amazed how easy it is to pick up and play. Adopting the same mechanics that've worked well for the franchise in the past, the game handles like a dream - though some props should also be given to the 3DS analog pad.
My driving expertise was so impressive, the announcer was practically begging for tips. No, she really was. Back in the day, I used to get a kick out of all those voice-overs, but nowadays, it's terribly dated. Fortunately, there is the option to keep her muted indefinitely, allowing you to freely kick back and enjoy the rich selection of synthesized music.
Let's put aside sounds and gameplay for a sec, since I am sure you're all wondering where the cool factor weighs in with the 3D effect. A friend of mine recently put it best when describing the experience as a lot like playing in an animated View-Master. It's almost impossible to follow the action, even if you keep the handheld at arm's length. I expected that Namco Bandai would do something really clever, but instead, it came across to me as a cheap thrill; worse than what I experienced from M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender in 3D.
It's a good thing that you can disable the filter at anytime, or else you'd miss out on the graphic handiwork, which makes extensive use of light trails, animated scenery, environmental mapping, and motion blur effects. For obvious reasons, one shouldn't expect photorealism on a handheld (yet), but you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone else coming close to achieving better results at this point in time.
Ridge Racer 3D may have failed to introduce something fresh and exciting to the series, but I am sure we can all agree that this is certainly one of the most accessible, enjoyable Ridge Racer portable releases to date. When you take into account its current competition (which we'll be reviewing very shortly), there's little reason not to add this mobile edition to your library.