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PSP Review: Ridge Racer

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For a series that has stayed so close to its roots, “Ridge Racer” has done pretty well for itself. Each entry is usually immensely playable by even the most inexperienced gamer out there, blending a line between both arcade and simulation that can keep both sides happy. The PSP premiere of the series is a spectacular, all-out assault on your senses, a perfect showcase for a new system to make it seem like a purchase was worthwhile. To top it all off, it plays insanely well too.

Getting back to its roots is pretty evident right from the start with the simple title of “Ridge Racer.” Though 24 courses line the game, a nice chunk are updates from other entries in the series, including “Seaside Route 765,” the single course that launched the franchise. You’ll race each of these brilliantly conceived tracks through the usual array of game modes, solo players getting everything they want with the World Tour.

After an impressive introduction, these players begin a series of races, known as tours. After each successful run, you’ll not only unlock new challenges, but cars, courses, and other upgrades. Once everything has been done here (which will take some time and effort thanks to some pretty solid AI), there’s still the time attack, Wi-Fi, and Ad Hoc modes to go through which in theory, extend the life of the game infinitely.

The key to the series has always been the control. This edition has this portion down pat. In fact, this is arguably the best controlling game of the series. Drifting is not only crucial to conquering the game, but simple and an absolute blast to perform. You can look like a pro the first time you play. It also has an ulterior motive as well. Every second you drift earns nitrous, a simple yet game-changing edition that really separate this version from its predecessors.

You can have up to three tanks at any given time. Each blast lasts for quite some time, usually enough to take you through any straight aways. Those with a bit more skill can use them while drifting. The faster you’re going when drifting, the quicker you earn the needed bonus. Pulling this off properly means you never really waste any of the nitros. Entire races can come down to one simple tank, giving each race a shot of adrenaline and tension since you never know just how much the opponent(s) have in stock.

If you’ve grown up with this series, it might be interesting to note that the PSP’s d-pad is actually more effective here. The analog nub has some sensitivity to it, but this series is made on its insanely sharp cornering. The digital control seems far more suited to this, and as mentioned, if you lived on the first game on the PS One, then this is definitely the way to play.

Aided by the miracle that is the PSP screen, “Ridge Racer” is a graphical marvel. Yes, there are some complaints to be had (like occasionally blurry and repeating textures), these usually only pop-up during replays however. In the game, the sense of speed is fantastic and drifting is a nauseating experience. The resolution is a sight to behold and in the series trademark style, each course is littered with details. Nothing beats having a plane glide right next to you while careening through a tunnel. Look for some gorgeous lighting, reflective surfaces, and a solid frame rate to make this package complete.

Usually left with techno, the music in “Ridge Racer” usually appealed to only those who enjoyed that style. Not so here. That little UMD pumps out some varied tunes, suited for any situation and fully selectable before each match. The seemingly necessary announcer is here (who sounds an awful lot like Chris Rock) doesn’t have much to say thankfully. His comments are brief, even helpful occasionally.

To show you just how complete a racing package this is, Namco included a fully playable version of their classic “Rally X” during the initial boot sequence. As if you already don’t have enough time to play games, they go and pull this. Even without that little feature, “Ridge Racer” becomes one of the easiest pick-up-and-play racers ever made. It has enough going for it to make it worthy of a purchase alongside that new console, regardless of how late into its life you finally have a chance to own the system.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.