Arriving just in time for the launch of the Nintendo 3DS is Namco Bandai’s latest entry into the venerable Ridge Racer series, titled, not surprisingly, Ridge Racer 3D. If you’ve read our review of the system, you know that we think many of the launch titles less than stellar – not bad, just less than stellar – and Ridge Racer 3D falls squarely into that category. Essentially, it’s like the majority of other Ridge Racer titles but, you know, in 3D – not eye-popping cars coming out of the screen 3D, but 3D.
First the bad. Where the game really falls flat is with its graphics, there simply isn’t enough going on in the background nor along the sides of the courses and, even if the cars themselves are pretty, very few other visuals are as fully realized. Don’t get us wrong, some backgrounds and environments look beautiful, but not all of them. Reflections which appear on your car are blocky and indistinct, and the majority of the buildings you whiz by on courses are little more than large rectangular shapes with smaller rectangular shapes standing in as windows. Pass a spectator stand on a course and confetti flies down—large rectangular bits of confetti—some of which, annoyingly, stick to your windshield (the 3D screen) as you race until they magically disappear. They don’t fall off or fly away, they just disappear, but as they don’t look real to begin with, you’d probably wish they weren’t there at all. Leaves which do the same thing look better, but still feels kind of gimmicky.
Then, and this really isn’t good, you’re probably going to want to play with the sound turned off. There are tons of music choices available and some of them are actually quite fun to listen to, but the woman who provides the “encouragement” as you’re racing is more than a little annoying. The problem isn’t simply that she repeats the same phrases over and over again (although she definitely does do that), it’s that the way she is everything is grating the first time out (not that the Ridge Racer franchise is really known for great commentary).
Where the game succeeds is with the sense of speed you get from most courses. Go fast enough and your tail lights get blur trails. And, while the game starts out on a far too easy difficulty level, play a few sets of courses in Grand Prix mode (the game’s main mode) and things start to ratchet up to the point where its enjoyable.
Ridge Racer 3D features a whole lot of unlockable and customizable (in terms of look) cars, and several different ways to race them. The game, as with all Ridge Racer titles, focuses heavily on drifting in and out of corners, and now not only is there the regular drift mode, but a one-button drift as well. Racing newcomers will definitely like the addition of this one-button mode which will begin a drift when you press the designated button and end the drift when you release it. Nitros are still present in the game too, and there are several different methods of setting your nitros depending on your race style.
There are also a lot of different courses. The goal each time is simple – go flat out in straightaways and drift into and out of corners. Keep going flat out, use your nitros appropriately, drift well, and use you opponents slipstream and you’ll do very well in the game early on. Planning an appropriate racing line into and out of corners becomes more important as you go, but Ridge Racer 3D isn’t one of those titles where you feel as though you need to stick to a line or even understand what one is in order to succeed. That is to say, this is arcade racing, not simulation.
The game also uses the new StreetPass system to download other players’ ghosts for you to race against. That is certainly interesting, but not really a reason to go out and buy the game or the system.
As with so many of the 3DS launch titles we’ve seen, and even the 3DS itself, we’re convinced that Ridge Racer 3D is a great start – it shows some great highs of what racing on the system can be all about, but it also has some significant issues. From the uneven graphics (which really do range from excellent to hugely disappointing) to the amount of time it takes to get the game to a significant level of difficulty, there are certainly things we look forward to seeing change in any follow-up that might get released down the line.
Ridge Racer 3D is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Suggestive Themes.