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Ridge Racer 3D (Nintendo 3DS) Review
Review by 
8.1/10 from 3 user ratings
 
Ridge Racer 3D is a good launch game. With a little more polish, it could've been a great launch game, but there's always the next system, I guess.


Fuglicious, but oddly pleasant.

A brief primer to the long-running series: Ridge Racer is a totally unrealistic racing franchise. Almost more arcade than racing. The series centers around a unique (and - it bears repeating - unrealistic) drift mechanic. In Ridge Racer, as in real life, braking is for losers. Any series of turns can be negotiated through drifting, since your car has an almost magnetic adhesion to the curves of the road. (Face backwards during a turn? Sure, why not!) The trick is to maximize your speed by only drifting when you have to. Ridge Racer 3DS is a bit more forgiving than the series norm, since collisions aren't penalized very heavily. It also prioritizes slipstreaming (driving behind other cars to take advantage of their airflow) and retains the drift-charged boost mechanic that was introduced a couple of entries ago. A simple, effective balance, although I would have liked for slipstreaming to charge the boost gauge, as well.

Let's get the rough stuff out of the way first. This game is... not attractive. Graphics whores, start looking for another John. (I hear that Ryu boy tips real nice.) Ridge Racer 3D has many of the flaws that were endemic to PS2 games - flickering, aliasing, etc. Only now they're in 3D, so they're even more distracting! The low resolution of the screen doesn't help matters. That's a hardware issue, but Namco probably should have worked around it by sprinkling fewer wire-thin lightpoles throughout the tracks. The framerate in this game is also uneven, especially in 3D mode. Especially ESPECIALLY when you're kicking up particles with multiple cars onscreen in 3D mode. I'm not sure that the 3D effect actually makes the game easier to play, but it feels novel and is handled fairly well. Namco takes advantage of the 3DS' distinguishing feature by flinging a variety of stuff at your screen: Confetti, sakura petals... Just those, I guess. But it's cool. And the gee-whiz appeal of the plane/helicopter flyovers that have always been a part of the series has been amped up to the 3rd power! Gimmicks notwithstanding, in first-person view, cranking the 3D slider all the way up provides a very impressive depth of field. Third-person is a little more limiting, probably due to the car itself being a very close focal point. I found anything more than the lowest 3D setting in third-person view to be quite distracting and somewhat brain-liquefying.


Every track in every racing game ever should have transparent tunnels through oceans.

Technical niggles aside, the overall art direction and neon color palette of the game are pleasant and inviting. Which, I suppose, means that the previous 7 games in the series were pleasant and inviting, since the content of Ridge Racer 3D is largely re-purposed from series entries past.

That's not a bad thing, mind you. Especially for a newcomer to the series (or a very forgetful person like me). It sure beats having ONE track (with alternate routes) in early Ridge games. Those alternate routes seem to be missing from this version, but we do have a healthy amount of tracks (plus Reverse versions) in their place. A fair trade-off, I suppose. The track design is solid and nicely varied, from short, simple, wide tracks to long, tight, twisty ones. And the Grand Prix progression is branching, so that if one particular cup is giving you trouble, you can usually opt for an alternate one.

Grand Prix, a huge, sprawling web of tracks, is the main mode of Ridge Racer 3D. Many of those tracks are repeated, but playing Ridge Racer to completion will certainly take you quite a bit of time. I think the key to enjoying the game is to consume it in bite-sized chunks. Then you will be able to better appreciate the gradual, almost RPG-esque progression of ever-faster cars and the ever-more-bastardly AI.

Although calling it "AI" might be incorrect. These are not simulated drivers. They are algorithms, plain and simple. Your passing technique is much more important than your overall time. You will be allowed to pass a certain amount of cars per lap (the rate of which depends on the length of the track). After you pass each car, it will pass you back. After a certain amount of back and forth, it will leave you alone and allow you to move on to the next step in the algorithm. Complete all of the steps in the algorithm before the end of the race and you win! This sounds like a bad thing, but oddly enough, it isn't. This weird, arcade-y mechanic is a big part of what keeps the single-player modes in Ridge Racer exciting. It's artificial, and occasionally maddening at the higher difficulties, but never as frustrating and arbitrary as, say, Mario Kart or as boring and perfunctory as, say, Gran Turismo.

As for the music... well, it exists. And there is a healthy amount of it. Most of it is inoffensive electronica, some if it is incredibly offensive electronica, and one track is badass thrash metal. I wish the whole soundtrack were thrash metal. Or that custom soundtracks were supported, I suppose, so we could just use our own thrash metal collections.

I also wish the in-game announcer (who can be silenced) a long, toasty stay in hell.


Yup, those tail lights are in 3D. And that is a fucking birdman.

A smattering of extra modes in Ridge Racer 3D provides even more ways to play through the same tracks. Namco have really taken re-purposing to an art form here. In addition to Grand Prix, the game boasts some decent time trial functionality (ghosts included), a mode that generates a cup based on the criteria you input, and a replay theater. StreetPass functionality sweetens the deal a little more. You can exchange ghosts, as well as build up a viral leaderboard through in-person encounters (a neat idea, but ultimately kind of a weird, inefficient workaround for online leaderboards). Multiplayer (which I didn't get a chance to try) supports up to four players and, sadly, is local and multi-cart only. A far cry from the amazingly robust single-cart multiplayer support in the otherwise shitty NST-developed Ridge Racer DS.


*insert caption here*

Ridge Racer 3D is a very solid, expansive launch game. Many small issues conspire to keep it from being a game for the ages, but when you're rocketing through a track and screaming around every corner in three dimensions, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Oh, and the opening 3D cinema is sweeeet. :)


But the tracks have 6-7 second load times and the interface is clunky. :(

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Posted: 04/22/11, 19:27:50  - Edited by 
 on: 04/24/11, 03:53:08    
 
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
 
-JKR- said:
Then at the end how do I get out?

Wait, what do you mean get out? If you steer into the curve, the car will straighten itself out automatically. Is that what you mean by "get out" of the drift?


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 03:09:09
@GameDadGrant

Yeah, I guess so.


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 03:21:27
Thanks again for the feedback, peeps. You make writing full-length reviews worthwhile!!

@Octorockin
Wipeout is one of the first games that I'm buying whenever I pick up a PSP/PS3. Love that series. Ridge Racer PSP was supposed to be very good, as well.

Anyway, even if you don't play 'racing games', you should give Ridge a shot, because you might enjoy it, anyway. I wanted to emphasize that for people who thought it was a sim, or something.

@roykoopa64
Yeah, the review issue is interesting. I think I'll probably do a thread about it. One interesting solution would be a short checklist and a score, followed by some more detailed back and forth with the readers. Sort of like defending your thesis, or something.


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 03:57:21
@Anand
It would make a great podcast topic.


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 04:01:51
Haha, it's in my list (with a possible expansion of "Do we still need gaming media in a connected world?"), along with a Metroid Prime debate and a discussion of whether traditional RPGs are/should be obsolete.


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 04:05:06  - Edited by 
 on: 04/24/11, 04:06:46
Thanks for the review! To be honest, this is the only game that really makes me want a 3DS. After seeing a 3D preview of DIRT on a Sony 3D TV I was blown away. The 3D effect works so well with racing games. When I finally upgrade to a 3DS I'll definitely consider this as one of my first games.


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 04:05:20
Hey, I saw that 3D PS3 demo reel! I got all excited, thinking I could try it out, but it was just video. Bleah.

I'm interested in home console 3D, as well. Those glasses are horrible, but then again, no sweet spot issues, right?

Ridge Racer 7 on PS3 was actually patched to be 3D. It would be fun to compare the games.


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 04:08:23
@Anand
Yeah the glasses do suck, but no sweet-spot to worry about? Sweeeeet.


Posted by 
 on: 04/24/11, 04:15:19
Couple more comments now that I've tried some of the advanced challenges. The Expert Cup is kind of a bitch at times. In some of the late challenges (particularly the face-offs), there is an almost Mario Kart 64 - esque level of rubber-banding. Like, if you let the guy in front of you get a bit too far ahead, he will just speed into the distance like a ray of light. You pretty much have to race perfectly to beat them. It's achievable, but I don't know if it's fun. Those are just the super-late challenges, though.

Also, there is an original rap track that plays over the credits (the full version of the song that plays over the opening video). So Japanese techno, with some dude rapping about Stereoscopic visuals over it. Pretty cool.


Posted by 
 on: 05/12/11, 21:48:03
@Anand
Yeah I finally played through the face-offs and they were a total bitch, but worth it, the cars you get are sweeeet, especially the Pac-Man and 8-bit Rally-X car. They look ridiculous but are the best vehicles in the game. The Pac-Man car (more like an F-Zero racer) even has it's own soundtrack, it comes with a 5-song disc!

Also, that rap song in the credits was hilarious, and kind of legitimately good too.


Posted by 
 on: 05/16/11, 04:30:04  - Edited by 
 on: 05/16/11, 04:30:54
I've been spending some more time with this game and have just finished the Basic Grand Prix (got 1st place on all races in all 18 events). This game is getting quite challenging, where sometimes I would just barely win by a fraction of a second as my rival and I would pass each other, back and forth, all the way to the finish line.

Anand said:
Your passing technique is much more important than your overall time.

So true, it's a weird game mechanic but it holds up nicely somehow.

I have to say, this game started off quite slowly (both literally and in terms of challenge), so I found it a bit boring. Cars were easy to unlock. And the tracks seem to repeat themselves a lot?

But now that I'm starting the Advanced Grand Prix, I love the intense speed. Not only that, but you really have to start using your nitrous strategically if you want to have any hopes of coming in first place.

I love the arcade feel and complete un-realism. The absurd drifting and use of slipstream. It's plain fun.

Anand said:
I also wish the in-game announcer (who can be silenced) a long, toasty stay in hell.

Oh, I had to turn off the voices because that lady announcer really started getting on my nerves!

Anyway, I will continue playing this game on and off in between other games. If there's one thing this game shows, it's that fast racing game with deep 3D is absolutely stunning. The visuals alone may not seem like much in still shots, but when they're flying at you in 3D, it's quite a visual treat, and one that hasn't exactly been copied a whole lot (yet) on the system.

Oh man I'd kill for F-Zero on 3DS...


Posted by 
 on: 08/04/12, 23:43:13
Haha, I can barely remember this game anymore, but I'll try to respond to your comments.

The beginning is definitely very slow. The later stages are crazy fast, but you've always got that weird magnetic adhesion to the driving line, so it's manageable. One thing I love about Ridge Racer (and any arcade racing game worth its salt) is that you can basically just HURL yourself into every turn and decide whether to power slide once you're turning. So you don't really HAVE to memorize the track, although it helps. This version is quite a bit less technical than the older games, though, because hitting the wall isn't penalized very heavily.

Is this your first Ridge Racer? I would actually recommend trying the older Ridge games, as well. They're very fun arcade racers, in their own way, and you could really feel your own skillz growing.

But, yeah, Ridge Racer 3DS is a pretty solid package. It seems like the tracks repeat themselves quite a bit, but there are actually a TON of overall tracks, compared to the series' traditional standard. Most (all?) are repeats, but its nice to have a bit of variety as you play through the hours and hours of cups. Speaking of which, I'm not sure if RR3DS will stand the test of time (I haven't gone back except to save my StreetPass data), but it made for an ideal launch game, because of the huge amount of content and the pick-up-and-play nature. Yep.

Did I already say that my alternate title for this review was RidgeD Racer 3D? HA! The 3D is cool, but I do wish that the framerate held up, since this series used to be renowned for its graphical polish. I am just salivating at the thought of a 3D, 60FPS F-Zero. I literally am salivating right now...

Anyway, Roy, my boy, if you think the game is challenging now, wait until you hit those Face-offs!


Posted by 
 on: 08/06/12, 23:53:40
Anand said:
Haha, I can barely remember this game anymore, but I'll try to respond to your comments.

I'm just glad to have jogged the old memory banks. You're staying quite lively for a 96-year-old!

Anand said:
Is this your first Ridge Racer? I would actually recommend trying the older Ridge games, as well. They're very fun arcade racers, in their own way, and you could really feel your own skillz growing.

This is my second one. I have Ridge Racer 64 and I played that game so much I wouldn't be surprised if I popped in my N64 cart and found a 100%'ed it (or close) save file. That game seriously impressed me back in the day, and I had such high hopes for NST after that.

Anand said:
Anyway, Roy, my boy, if you think the game is challenging now, wait until you hit those Face-offs!

Anand, my friend, your words encourage me greatly. Yikes! The challenge beckons me, I must press on...


Posted by 
 on: 08/07/12, 07:05:27
roykoopa64 said:
I'm just glad to have jogged the old memory banks. You're staying quite lively for a 96-year-old!
Good, clean livin', sonny!

roykoopa64 said:
This is my second one. I have Ridge Racer 64 and I played that game so much I wouldn't be surprised if I popped in my N64 cart and found a 100%'ed it (or close) save file. That game seriously impressed me back in the day, and I had such high hopes for NST after that.
Yeah, Ridge Racer 64 was great. It's too bad that RRDS was such a poor follow-up, mechanically speaking (great mulitplayer features, though). I interpret from your words that you no longer have high hopes for NST? They've done some good stuff (including, for my money, the best game on DSiWare)! The company seems mostly like a temporary post-graduation dormitory for Digipen students, though. Unless they get filched by Valve. I wonder how much of a relationship Nintendo still has with Digipen.


Posted by 
 on: 08/07/12, 17:47:28
@Anand

Oh yeah, I didn't mean to bad-mouth NST, they've definitely done great stuff over the years. I love Wave Race: Blue Storm, Bionic Commando: Elite Forces, 1080 Avalanche, and especially the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games.

Anand said:
They've done some good stuff (including, for my money, the best game on DSiWare)!

I wonder if you're referring to this.

Anyway, I guess what I meant to say is I had hoped they would go on and develop 'bigger' games that relied less on already established games and perhaps do more console stuff too. But honestly I'm happy with the role they've filled in.


Posted by 
 on: 08/07/12, 18:19:34
@roykoopa64
Of course! I kind of wish that NST had a bit more rope, as well (even though I didn't care much for Metroid Prime Hunters). They've had a lot more flexibility in the downloadable space. Haven't heard from them in a while, but they've definitely made some great DSiWare titles.

It would've been interesting to play Project Hammer.


Posted by 
 on: 08/07/12, 18:23:49
Anand said:
@GameDadGrantJust wait until the 3DS-exclusive Pokemon Grey!

Ha ha, remember when we all thought this was going to be a thing? lulz. You duped us again, Nintendo! You crazy, unpredictable bastards.


Posted by 
 on: 08/07/12, 22:36:17
Heads up!

You can buy this game used at Amazon for about $10! That includes shipping and also includes the case and manual! Several different sellers are selling the game at that price.


Im thinking about buying the game as well.

Sucks that there is no online mode.


Posted by 
 on: 08/08/12, 09:15:54
@GameDadGrant
This still seems a bit shortsighted, although I'm sure that Nintendo's 3D modeling slaves are still chained to their desks, toiling away on Pokemon 3DS.


Posted by 
 on: 08/08/12, 14:50:49  - Edited by 
 on: 08/08/12, 14:51:07
Great review. its a fun game. I bought it at launch and surprised at how good it was. Sold it once Mario Kart 7 was on the horizon. Though I enjoy racing games I keep more than 1 per system in my library.


Posted by 
 on: 08/09/12, 06:13:45  - Edited by 
 on: 08/09/12, 06:14:51
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