At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey Nintendo 3DS Namco Bandai Namco Bandai 1
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
None Click here to buy Ridge Racer 3D.

Ridge Racer 3D review

Ridge Racer. Riiiiiiidge Racer. Poor Kaz Hirai will probably not get away with that quote until Sony's infamous E3 2006 conference fades from memory. The man has come a long way since that event, possibly even set to become the next Sony CEO in a couple of years, but his over-enthusiasm for the PSone version of Ridge Racer running on a PSP continues to be his most quoted phrase.

His enthusiasm was well grounded, however, for the series that has spanned 18 years, and the animated title voice-over has become an iconic part of a well-loved brand. The racing genre, in particular the notion of "arcade racers", has moved on a lot since the days of the original. For a start, even so-called arcade racing games no longer appear, let alone debut, in the arcades. There's been a tendency to try to appeal to a youth audience or tack on paper-thin stories. Ridge Racer 3D continues to feature none of that nonsense, and remains true to the original's speciality of crazy drifting and high speed battles. Braking is something to consider only in emergencies.

Obviously we can't show you the screenshots in 3D

Obviously we can't show you the screenshots in 3D

The core gameplay is pretty much the same as we'd seen in the recent console versions, with nitro-based turbo boosts and slipstreaming adding to the fundamentals. Instead of introducing a new gimmick, these have simply been refined, with the turbos more customisable thanks to a range of options purchasable via in-game credits. The credits are earned through racing and time trials and can be used to pick up new cars and their variants, in addition to a few extras to help you compete, such as a "rocket start" to each race. The main progression, however, is based on victories, with the main Grand Prix mode requiring you to win a 4-race event before allowing you to progress. However, each of the three Grand Prix are non-linear, often providing multiple event options at each stage, so you can choose the track line-up you prefer.

The Basic Grand Prix will probably take you about 2-3 hours but with the right vehicle it's unlikely to prove much of a challenge to most people. It's an enjoyable section, good for learning the ropes of the game, but when you reach the aforementioned Grand Prix the training wheels come off. Speeds are regularly in excess of 300km/h, and races become more like a rhythm game as you prepare to engage drifting and turbos at the correct moments to ensure victory. The races flow well across each of the game's tracks, which act as a showcase for the series as a whole. There's many of the old favourites snuggled in here, some taking me right back to my first experience with the series over 15 years ago. However, there are no new tracks, emphasising that Ridge Racer 3D is less about being the next major iteration of the series, at least in terms of gameplay, and is instead more about compiling a "best of".

Power sliding remains an important part of the game

Power sliding remains an important part of the game

This does, however, ignore those important characters in the title, "3D", which make this version and this handheld console important. It's not the first version of Ridge Racer to feature 3D capabilities (that's the PS3 version of RR7), but it is the first to make them available to all users and thus woven into the game. As we've seen in other 3DS games, the extra dimension is put to use well in the menus, but it's when you take your car to the track that you begin to appreciate the benefits of Nintendo's hardware. Racing games make a good showcase for 3D because they can allow you to judge distances better, helping with cornering, and that remains true in Ridge Racer 3D. But the real benefit is seeing the cities come to life and getting absorbed in what’s around you. Bridges fly by your face, cars disappear into the screen, and corners feel almost alarmingly close as you powerslide past at insane speeds. The experience is good enough to justify purchase by even those who have seen the rest of the game many times before, and those new to the experience will get caught up in the wonder of high-speed 3D racing.

You can use images of your own face when racing over local WiFi

You can use images of your own face when racing over local WiFi

Possibly more notable than what has been added to Ridge Racer 3D is what's missing. All of the core gameplay, and even most of the visual sheen from the recent console editions is here, but there's no online functionality. Online racing, and in particular online leaderboards, have become a firm staple of the genre in recent years, including on the PSP versions, but it's worryingly absent here and in the 3DS launch line-up as a whole. Probably more concerning is that the major competition to Nintendo's handheld line probably comes from smartphones, who by their very nature include easy connectivity, and there are plenty of great online racing games on iOS and Android that Namco Bandai should be responding to. To be fair, the blame probably lies at Nintendo's feet; the company has, for quite some time now, been slow to adopt online functionality in games, and Namco Bandai may simply have not received the development support from the hardware maker.

Somewhat making up this oversight is the StreetPass feature, taking advantage of an in-built function of the 3DS that allows strangers to exchange data between devices simply by walking past each other on the street, or a games store or anywhere else they might happen to encounter the great 3DS wielding public. Just as long as each 3DS is on sleep mode. Ridge Racer 3D uses StreetPass to provide "ghosts", or recorded replays, to compete with in a special mode. One of your recorded race sessions is passed on to the person you 'StreetPassed', who then has to compete against your race time to earn points. And vice versa. This element is a good demonstration of the potential of the StreetPass feature, and by providing some leaderboard data in the exchange to, it slightly makes up for the lack of online leaderbard competition. The lack of online play is also slightly negated by the inclusion of races over local WiFi. Considering that Mario Kart DS did online racing back in 2005 though it does seem like a backwards step to only include offline racing, but at least the feature is there, whereas it is sadly absent in the otherwise excellent Pilotwings Resort.

Using your nitro at the right time is a key to success

Using your nitro at the right time is a key to success

With the 3D mode turned off Ridge Racer 3D is a perfectly enjoyable, if not particularly innovative, entry in the series with visuals that are on a par with the PSP editions. When the slider is moved up, and the extra dimension comes into play, Ridge Racer 3D looks special, and provides an absorbing experience that is enough to counter the lack of new features. The lack of online functionality is less forgivable, but StreetPass is some concession, and offers a glimpse of the potential for handheld racing games in the future.

Ratings

Overall Ridge Racer 3D is a great showcase title for the 3DS and an enjoyable racer in its own right. It's pretty much Ridge Racer as you'd expect it, so it won't win any converts, but fans of the series will be very happy. 8/10

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