Review by KyoraStryker
Pure Horsepower Collides with Portability
I consider myself an avid racing game enthusiast. I love to pick up new racing titles and see what they're like, all the while comparing them to other racing titles that are similar to the one in question, as well as comparing the realism factor to something you'd see in an actual race.
That being said, I felt the need to pick up Ridge Racer 3D for my 3DS and give it a go. Granted, I've never played a Ridge Racer title in my countless years of gaming - so I truthfully have little basis for comparison when it comes to comparable differences between it and other games in the franchise. I can, however, compare them to other racing titles I've played in the past, and that's exactly what I intend to do with this review.
Ridge Racer is a title that is a combination of both on-the-track and street-racing settings that offer a unique style of gameplay. Your objective is simple: start at the beginner-level tier of racing and work your way up to competing with the best the game has to offer. As your experience with the game increases, you get the added benefit of acquiring faster vehicles and facing tougher opposition.
As previously stated, I grabbed this title due to my desire to play racing-based titles. Upon playing this game, I'm thoroughly disappointed, which will be discussed in detail within this review. Take a moment to grab a soda from the fridge; this is going to be a long one. Take note that this game holds true with almost every other racing game I've played, in the sense that it does not have a story line. Therefore, this review will not have a synopsis on a game element that does not exist.
The general elements that compose the gameplay in Ridge Racer is everything you'd expect from a racing title. Race cars against your opposition, win races, generate income (currency, credits, points, etc), buy better cars; lather, rinse, repeat. This game isn't an exception. When you start out playing the grand prix, you'll be limited to a single car to use, but you'll find that just after a few short races, you'll be able to purchase better, more powerful vehicles to give you the advantage over your opponents. What brings this game to light is the fact that instead of doing a simple circuit race, you're practically forced to include drifting into your racing style to allow you to navigate turns. The races seem nothing more than your typical rally race, using asphalt instead of off-road conditions. The turns are just as technical as those you would find in a rally race, therefore it becomes imperative to learn how to slow down as you approach a turn and manipulate your throttle to break your vehicle into a drift to power through the turn. With the game having an E+10 rating, it's generally designed for the younger gaming generation, though I'm not surprised if seasoned gamers from past generations (such as myself) were to pick up this title. Because of the games expected audience, I'm willing to bet that even children might have difficulty grasping the concept. Take note that this isn't an attempt to bash anyone or insult anyone's intelligence, I'm merely saying that the concept of drifting around corners is something a slightly older audience would be better suited to handle.
Let's take a step in another direction. The AI whilst playing is absurd. The AI in this game was poorly developed - you'll get bashed into a lot by them and suffer a hindrance on your performance, all the while it appears that the AI didn't lose out on anything. In addition, you'll find the AI rubber-banding with you (that is, you'll zoom past them, only to find that they're right on your tail and pass you just as easily as you passed them, with you not changing anything about your racing tactics - straightaways are the best example), which is just cheap and frustrating. The speeds in which you travel are unrealistic as well. I mean, come on. I know it's a game (like we all say about movies, right Hollywood?), but there's absolutely no way you're taking a hairpin corner at nearly 200 miles per hour. Say what you will, but it just isn't going to happen. Not only that, but I have oftentimes found myself using nitrous (which gives a substantial speed increase) to clinch the next position, only to find that my opponent is still pulling away from me, without using nitrous of their own. Furthermore, when you start a race, you're always at the back of the pack, regardless of your performance based on the previous race. What makes this issue worse is that every other racer starts nearly a second and a half ahead of you, meaning that the lead racer is a full ten seconds ahead of you. Really, Namco? There are much better ways to increase the difficulty without making it blatantly obvious that you're being cheap with your AI.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have the graphics department. And I must say that it's definitely a huge step in the right direction. The graphics produced on the 3DS are great. Even without playing the game without 3D capabilities, you'll find that even though the detail decreases (naturally, the game was designed to be played in 3D), it still offers plenty to catch the eye. Tons of decals on the vehicles, and plenty for the eye to absorb in the scenery in 2D only leaves much to be expected in 3D. Fortunately, the game in 3D is no disappointment. Everything becomes so vivid, so clear, and gives an astonishing sense of depth in between what you're seeing and what's in front of you, such as an opponent's vehicle. In addition, the frame rate holds solid and the 3DS does a great job producing such fluid movements without hindering the frame rate.
Although I have no major qualms about the graphics, I think they can be a little better. The detail in the scenery can be a bit better, such as drawing out windows on some of the more distant buildings or making the brick road in some of the courses to stand out a little more to show potential imperfections. It's the small things that matter - if a little more time was spent in detail for the graphics, the experience would be much better.
I'm extremely impressed with the audio score in this game. There is a multitude of different techno-like songs to choose from while you race and they were composed with sheer excellence. With a total of 30 different background music scores to choose from, you'll definitely get a wide variety of music while playing. In addition, you're able to select your favorite tune, play a random song (not the song that was programed to play on the map you're racing on), or disable the BGM completely, based on your preferences. The songs do loop, but the editing was expertly done, making you think that it's all one really long track.
My chief complaint is the ridiculously annoying commentators during races. There are two commentators: a male voice that will comment on the number of laps you have remaining, and the (much, MUCH more annoying) female voice, that will comment on absolutely everything. That's no exaggeration either. She'll comment on your driving tactics, nitrous levels, current position (after you cross the start-finish line) on subsequent laps, and even on your faults. Fortunately, relief can be obtained by toggling the voice volume down in the audio options. Based on my research, this is a recurring theme in other Ridge Racer games; it's a surprise that the issue hasn't been addressed yet...
Replay Value: 6/10
The plethora of gameplay modes allows for a multitude of different ways to play besides playing the standard grand prix. However, even within the grand prix mode, you'll be able to play through any event you've unlocked, thus allowing you to set faster times (faster than what can be set in time attack mode, surprisingly) on the tracks and even improve your race result on maps in events you didn't do so well on.
In addition to the multitude of gameplay modes, you can continue increasing your number of points to acquire new vehicles and upgrade the nitrous systems in those you've already purchased. Points can be acquired throughout almost (if not all) game modes, and points acquired in one mode transfer over to another. Therefore, if you obtain x number of points in one mode and y number of points in another, they'll add together. So feel free to take a break from Grand Prix and try out the Time Attack mode, though the points awarded are significantly different.
For a launch title on the 3DS platform, it's not a bad game at all - if you can look past its flaws, you'll most likely get some degree of enjoyment out of it. It has decent gameplay factors, a good replay value, and great audio and graphics. If you're looking for something to keep you occupied on your 3DS while the platform gets up to speed, feel free to pick this one up, but keep in mind that you may get frustrated beyond what is reasonably acceptable from time to time.
Replay Value: 6/10
Total: 24/40, simplified to 6/10
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Ridge Racer 3D (US, 03/22/11)
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